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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Feb 6, 2018 5 min read

HubSpot Is Doing Away with Its Keywords Tool. Here’s What It Means to You

{}Think you finally have your SEO strategy under control? Think again. The world of Google rankings has been turned upside down with the addition of featured snippets, artificial intelligence, and more conversational searches. HubSpot has made it clear where it thinks SEO is headed with the announcement that it’s retiring the—once crucial—Keywords tool.

The Keywords tool is used as a way to decide what to write about, see how content is performing, and discover how your audience is finding your website.

With advanced machine learning and search evolution, no one simply types one or two keywords into a search bar anymore. We expect Google to interpret what we mean and find content that is relevant and accurate. The accumulation of these changes means it’s time for our content strategies to adjust.

What’s Changed?

Over the last decade, the way the public interacts with search engines has changed drastically. What was once a place for education and business listings has become a complete hub for up-to-date information. Search engines now answer questions directly on the page via featured snippets; it offers quick resources like phone numbers, hours of operation, definitions, and recipes, all without taking you away from the search page. Its algorithms can now understand longer and more conversational queries, relying on the intent of your search instead of your exact phrase.

Depending on the keyword you have targeted, there can be thousands of related keyword options you also need to take into consideration. Now, if you have authority for one keyword, you can also rank for all variations so long as your content is relevant and search engines trust your site. This theory is why HubSpot has moved away from targeting specific keywords and has instead keyed in on building authority on certain topic clusters—content assets that revolve around a theme, building off one another to become a trusted resource.

Keywords Are Only a Piece of the Puzzle

Don’t despair. All that time you spent diving into keyword research wasn’t for nothing. Keywords will still shape how your content should be structured although there will be less focus on the keyword itself. The focus will be on its associated pillar page and topics.

After deciding what your business wants to be known for, keyword research helps discover all the topics you need to include in your cluster. This information can be found by simply typing your questions into Google and seeing what others search for. For example, asking “what is sales enablement” suggests the following:


There is free software out there that provides free keyword research (e.g. GrowthBot, Google AdWords, KWFinder) to build your topic clusters.

Rank Has Zero Consistency

Previously, marketers would focus on keywords that had low difficulty to drive their content strategies. With rankings changing consistently, it has recently become more difficult to predict keyword difficulty at any given time. With the removal of the Keywords tool, HubSpot is pushing marketers to direct their own paths instead of following ever-changing keyword trends.

With searches that are becoming more personalized and localized, those low-difficulty keywords may get you a high rank, but if only one or two people are seeing that search result each month, is it really worth it?

Focus on the Bigger Picture

There’s no reason to try to fit a poorly worded keyword into your latest blog multiple times. There’s no need to get bogged down trying to write the same blog seven times using seven variations of the same keyword. It’s time to step outside the Google rank arena and concentrate on what your business does best and what education you can provide.

The new HubSpot Content Strategy tool—the Keywords tool replacement—will help businesses do just this. It organizes blogs, pillar pages, and links into topic clusters. It allows you to visualize how your content is structured and exposes gaps your content is overlooking. If your business can pivot away from focusing on rank and towards building pillars of trustworthy and relevant content, Google—and your bottom line—will thank you.


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.