Revised February 20, 2017
Despite some misleading chatter to the contrary, SEO is not dead, and keywords still matter. What is true is that search engines have improved their semantic capabilities, meaning they look for the meaning in each block of text rather than just specific phrases. That is, search engine algorithms understand that words like “car,” “motor vehicle” and “automobile” are synonyms. And of course, keyword stuffing, as an SEO tactic, is long dead.
But keywords (more precisely, keyword phrases) still matter in the sense they reveal searcher intent. A query like “best time of year to plant a maple tree” is informational, while “best place to buy a maple tree” is transactional. A nursery that understands the importance of content marketing and SEO may very well want to optimize content on its site for both types of queries—but they will be different pieces of content.
And those may not actually even be the best phrases for the nursery to target; there may be just slightly different phrases that are better, in terms of their combination of high search volume and low organic and/or paid search competition. That’s where keyword research comes in.