Keyword DensityI’ve been writing, editing and optimising copy for client’s websites for 15 years now and I’m still surprised by how many people ask me “what’s the special sauce for reaching the right keyword density?”

If you search Google for “keyword density” you’ll find plenty of results on the magic formula – this tends to lead people to that if Google is presenting these kinds of results in the SERPS, with the Panda algorithm in effect, then it must still be working.

Back this up with certain websites still managing to rank for their targeted keyword phrases whilst their copy looks extremely repetitive, and like it has been rinsed through keyword spinning software then it’s difficult for some folk to let go of the keyword density concept.

Oddly Google has never applied for any patents to cover Keyword Density (KWD) in its algorithms so this is a strong signal that KWD is something that they do not believe should be used as a yardstick.

What is Keyword Density?

If you don’t yet know what this phrase is let me explain now:

Keyword density in the art of SEO is defined as the percentage or times a keyword appears in web copy in comparison with the total number of words in the content

What is the Optimum Keyword Density for Web Page Copy?

There is no optimum percentage (%) figure – it all depends on how authoritative your competitors websites (and content) are. Some big brand sites that are highly trusted by Google *may* get away with a little more keyword spamming than a smaller site.

Google even lists some results in their pages leaving me perplexed – the site is small, has a low Domain Authority yet the keyword is stuffed pretty much into every paragraph and heading on an exact match basis. This is something that confuses those new to SEO. Increasingly these types of results won’t make the first page but you do wonder if Google leaves in to obfuscate SEO’s even further – and continue to push businesses down the paid click route (but that’s another story).

A Rule of Thumb that can help you avoid Keyword Density

I might have discounted keyword density software to measure my copy but there is a perfectly normal way of ensuring your copy is laser focused but not keyword repetitive:

Read your content out loud.

If you feel a keyword phrase is repetitive inside your copy then listen to your gut – it probably is. So take the time to ensure you don’t keep mentioning a particular phrase – if it appears that way then look to vary it up a bit (see my example idea below).

Look for variants of your phrase – a brainstorming session with your team can help you, or if you work on your own then keyword suggestion tools like ubersuggest.org or keywordshitter.com (ed’s note, one of my favourite tools even though the name is somewhat eyebrow raising).

I’ll give you one example of how I worked on a website’s copy many years ago in 2004 for a small gliding club using the targeted phrase only twice in the copy. I won’t link to the site as it has changed beyond all recognition since I left with no reference to my original and OPTIMISED copy.

I used the target term in a h1 tag with a call to action:

Book a Gliding Lesson today and Learn to Fly a Glider!

I then used “gliding lesson” in the first paragraph to ensure the reader understood what was on offer (naturally this also made it clear to Google).

Result?

The web page ranked 3rd on Google for “gliding lesson” for many years and attracted people worldwide – indeed a few even visited to fly with us when they holidayed in the UK.

With regards to keeping the content on-topic I brainstormed the following keywords – note ubersuggest and other tools didn’t exist back then so it was all manual lifting of phrases.

I thought what a user might want when looking for gliding lessons and then did my research.
I visited gliding.co.uk (the official British Gliding Association website) looked at what they had created and then started to create co-occuring phrases and synonyms which I could use in my web copy.

This is what I came up with:

Gliding

Glider

Glide

Gliders

Lessons

Lesson

Gift

Fly

Flight

Flying

Soaring

Soar

Thermalling

Thermal

Clouds

Pilot

Aviation

Sport

Club

Member

Student

Group

Membership

Trial

Airplane

Aircraft

Adventure

Experience

Birds

Aerotow

Winch

Launch

Landing

Take off

A few minutes thinking about your related terms can help give you more naturally optimised page copy. Sometimes it needs a few variations to get the best mix and may require future edits – but think of writing your copy first for humans and then for search engines, not the other way round.

So even back then I was beginning to understand the relationship between keyword phrases and their context – not just stuffing in the targeted keywords multiple times in a bid to boost a page’s ranking.

I was using keyword modifiers and related terms which enhanced the page copy making it that much more relevant in a search engine’s eyes

Now Google with its Hummingbird algorithm is even better placed to understand content that is well written and properly targeted, but not overly spammed to death.

It is certainly worth bearing in mind your keyword prominence and occurrence (a future blog post) but for now I’d recommend you ditch using any Keyword Density software and measurement, it really is a waste of time – better to research your own keywords and their variants. Spend any additional SEO time crafting the very best web copy for your page. It won’t hurt to ensure the keywords you’re targeting are included in the title tags, meta description and headings.

If you’re still unsure of what to do next then give us a call today on 01793 766040.

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