The Aboutness of Keywords

Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]


Understanding how we speak has never been more important than in the last few years. This is especially true in search. From the rise of voice searches to improved algorithms designed to understand our intent, we look to improve how we search online.

Therefore, in search we look to the aboutness of a keyword to identify how phrases and words relate to the meaning of what we search online. This article looks to explore how you can use this aboutness to improve your search rankings.

Understanding the aboutness of keywords

The best way to explain what the aboutness of keywords is with the following example. Let’s take the word “blind” as a test word.

It is a simple word. Yet, the word has multiple meanings such as:

  • Blind eye
  • See clearly
  • Turning a blind eye
  • Going in blind
  • Double blind
  • Window blinds

Humans often struggle to pick up the intonations between phrases like “blind person” versus “window blinds.” Computers have far fewer interactions to pick up the cues for a word. These misunderstandings lead to incorrect search results.

Google spent the better part of the last decade reducing the number of times they get wrong. This shows in the additional precision searches have lately. Computers are getting smart enough to understand the aboutness of a word.

Search engine marketers who use this to their advantage see better results by choosing the words with the right aboutness.

Now, before you jump in to the aboutness fray keep your audience top of mind. Certain words have different meanings to different groups that affect the aboutness of a keyword.

For example, in America the word “entrée” is the main course and not the appetizer. The rest of the English world also think of the word “bush” refers to a single tree. We know it is the rural parts of our country.

Words matter, which is why aboutness also gets reduced when searchers use stop words like “and”, “the”, and “an.”

The further you go down the rabbit hole, the more you understand how complex the meaning is for simple phrases. Master the aboutness of a keyword to rank better for the keyword variations that matter most to your business.

How to improve your aboutness on your website

1. Your website should have a clear purpose

Have you ever visited a website and knew less about the product or service they offered after you left the site than when you first visited the site?

If so, you witnessed a low aboutness moment. To avoid this, websites should make concepts easier to understand. Otherwise, they are a waste of space and money.

The aim is not to create a product name so obscure word that it feels like something a 14-year-old boy band would create to be cool (but really were not.)

Plus, the navigation used generic words like “Products,” “About,” and “Contact Me” without any reference to their industry or service. If you thought it was difficult to understand the meaning of the website then visitors had the same problem.

2. Consider your audience

Keywords in search engines come down to one final factor: consumers. If your target market does not like the content you produce than the aboutness goes down.

What terms does your audience use? For example, in the SEO community the word “white hat” refers to legitimate search engine optimisation practices. The rest of the world thinks you are talking about a literal white hat.

Doing the right keyword research helps you use the correct keywords for your audience.

Start by looking at your competitors and use keyword research tools to find the correct keywords.

3. Study semantics

Since aboutness deals with the relationship between words, it is important to use this skill like Google algorithms do.

In the case of Google, they need to know not only which website has the best information for their users, but also which page on the website.

Benefit from this process by using internal links to help Google find the most important page on your website for a topic.

For example, if you sell DVD’s then your DVD category page should have links to the page from every DVD you sell. Google can then identify the hierarchy of pages for your website for this term.

Final Thoughts

Aboutness seems like a vague term when you first hear it. However, the concept describes the relationships words have in our language. Keyword aboutness helps search engines like Google decide which words or phrases we meant to use when we do a search on their website.

The aboutness is crucial to managing your search strategy in a modern era of voice searches and complicated algorithms.

If you need more help improving the aboutness of your keywords contact us today at Shout for more information.

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Shout Agency

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