The conception that keyword density is critical to SEO success never seems to go away. Anytime someone brings up “keywords” as an essential element of Search Engine Optimization, people always want to know: “how many do I need?”
The keyword question gets asked more than a fast-food worker says, “Would you like fries with that”? Many website owners talk about the keywords like they’re the magic beans of the SEO world.
After all, keywords are all it takes for good SEO and ranking your website well for a topic, right?
I know what you’re thinking! If I repeat the same word in as many combinations as possible on each page of my website, Google will love me. Well, that’s what measuring keyword density tells you: how many times you’ve repeated yourself. It isn’t an SEO strategy, and it isn’t SEO optimization.
Once upon a time, keyword density was central to search algorithms in a far-off land, but this hasn’t been the way for over a decade. That’s right, a decade!
Technology and searchers have both moved beyond that system.
The idea of keyword density impacting SEO still exists because it seems simple.
If optimization were that easy, everyone would do it, and you wouldn’t need SEO agencies like Ian Turner Digital in Calgary, AB — and let’s face it, not everyone who wants to rank for “keywords” proves capable.
Head Term: Cooking
Fundamentally, it’s pretty simple. Keywords represent popular topics “cooking.” The more someone searches for information about a topic, the higher the search volume is for those associated keywords. The most basic keyword related to a topic is called a “head term.”
Keyword Phrase: Mexican Cooking
When you add modifiers or additional words to a head term, it’s called a keyword phrase. “Keyword phrases” use different modifiers to make topics more specific or complex. They make it more apparent what people are searching for.
Finally, long-tail keyword phrases reflect how most people use natural language or complete sentences to ask direct questions.
These are great for optimizing titles because they show readers that the page's content may answer the question they asked. Finally, long-tail keyword phrases reflect how most people use natural language or complete sentences to ask direct questions.
These are great for optimizing titles because they show readers that the page's content may answer the question they asked.
Long-tail keyword Phrase: What Spices are Used in Mexican Cooking?
Keyword density is a percentage, measuring how much of a page is made up of a head term, keyword phrase, or long-tail keyword phrase.
Knowing this number is about as much use as turning on your car’s AC while driving in winter!
This is one of the important concepts behind keyword density, and what makes it a problematic metric. If you start mentioning a keyword or phrase more than is natural, contextual, or relevant, it looks and sounds artificial.
This is keyword stuffing — literally, stuffing your target term or phrase into a page to increase the density, but without improving the quality of the content or serving readers in any meaningful way.
This action is one of the crucial concepts behind keyword density and makes keyword density a problem metric. If you start mentioning a keyword or keyword phrase more than a natural-sounding, contextual, or relevant sentence or phrase, it looks and sounds artificial.
Keyword stuffing is what it says, you are jamming or “stuffing” your target term or phrase into a page to increase the keyword density, but it’s not improving the quality of your page content or providing value to visitors in any meaningful way.
The idea behind keyword research is to discover topics searchers want to learn about or find answers to questions.
Beyond that, it’s a matter of strategy to determine how to use those keywords to create page content.
Loading up a spreadsheet full of keywords does nothing to convey what makes a good result; it doesn’t tell you who the people using the keywords are; it doesn’t tell you what searchers want or the words they are using accurately reflect the intent behind them.
Many keyword research tools will present information on keyword density combined with more useful metrics like monthly search volumes.
Don’t get sucked in: it’s easy for these tools to calculate average keyword density across several pages. They can even generate irrelevant statistics like Minimum Keyword Density or the lowest keyword density in content that ranks on page one of the SERPs.
As impressive as it sounds, it’s no more helpful to your SEO strategy than aiming for maximum keyword density.
Google Cares About Quality & Quantity
Everyone likes to cut corners — and nobody more than professional SEOs.
A single calculation that tells you how well you’ve optimized your web page content for a target keyword would be an excellent tool. In reality, real optimization is work.
Researching, careful thought, revision, repetition & patience is the key. Don’t hang your entire SEO strategy or your efforts on a single number — especially when that number is keyword density.
There are no magic beans for SEO!