If one thing has remained a consistent challenge in SEO since the beginning of Words You Want, it has been meeting the keyword density requirements of various clients. In addition to this being one of the overwhelming concerns, there has always been the question of what that keyword density should be. Some clients believed 1 percent was enough while others wanted 3 or even 5 percent. Still others have had no idea and asked us for our advice. The bottom line being that it all depends on whose SEO strategy your employing, as well as personal preference.
As a writer, you simply abide by the requests of the client in many cases, even though you know that a 3-word long tail keyword at 5 percent in a 500-word article is going to make up 45 words of the article. That’s a lot of words that are simply keywords used to attract the search engines to that particular page on that particular topic.
However, the SEO world has been in a bit of shift since that day in February when Google surprised us all with a change known as the Panda update that would affect many websites and how webmasters and business owners pursue search engine optimization. Many sites lost 80% of their traffic within days. With these changes, marketers have found themselves asking a lot of questions and researching the various new ways they can avoid search engine penalties as well as continue to crawl up rankings. One of those questions is whether or not keyword density is really a factor in how your pages will rank?
As a writer, it’s good to see the changes that are being made. By penalizing websites that have scraped, spun and twisted single pieces of content into a mass of uneducational and worthless keyword crap, Google has put the focus back on what should always be your focus when creating a website – quality content. This means that writers get to actually write with quality, research and information in mind, not how many times you can squeeze a phrase into a 400 word article or blog. When you’re not concerned with a million different technicalities and what keyword density you’re supposed to be using, you can actually focus on the fun part of writing, which involves learning and writing something interesting and educational.
And, guess what? When you’re able to write naturally, those keywords that you want used actually work themselves into the content and you create naturally optimized content that actually drives a lot more traffic than the content created around a specific percentage.
Understanding the Nonsense of Keyword Density
This is not just something that I’ve noticed on my own as a writer, but something that other SEO professionals are catching onto as well. In fact, in their Beginner’s Guide to SEO, SEOmoz.org states that keyword density is really just a myth and a tragic one at that. There used to be a time when search engines were purely focused on keyword density and how many times a word showed up on a website. Remember the days back in the 90s when you’d come across a website that had a paragraph of hundreds of keyword variations posted at the bottom of the page? And, remember when the search engines began frowning on that and so webmasters simply changed the color of the words so that they were hidden from the view of the reader? Well, the search engines have come along way since then. Now, they penalize you for employing such underhanded practices and focusing on a specific keyword density today can actually work against you and provide you with worse results. Search engines have come along ways from simply gathering links to websites and showing them based on terms. Today’s search engines gather information based on people’s preferences, social media usage, videos usage, image usage, and so much more.
In their guide, SEOmoz.org links to Dr. Edel Garcia’s research on keyword density, which is appropriately titled “The Keyword Density of Non-Sense.” I won’t even try to explain the math and calculations used to prove that keyword density is non-sense (I’m a writer and by no means a mathematician after all), but if you read the first section on linearization, it becomes obvious that attempting to maintain a keyword density based on all of the elements that create a website is a futile attempt. In the example graphic, you see the basic framework of the website and it’s main headings. There’s no additional content in the framework, but if you imagine what would be there, such as text blurbs for each little box and perhaps a paragraph or two of a welcoming message, and then you read the content in the “after linearization” box, it’s easy to see how obtaining and maintaining a specific keyword density is next to impossible.
When you combine all of the elements that make up a website from the various headings, advertisements, blurbs, product descriptions, etc. and then add in perhaps an onsite article or blog, it’s clear that all of these elements are jumbled together when the search engine crawls the page. Now, let’s say you wrote an article with a 3% keyword density that you placed on a page of your website. Since your website page is going to contain all of the standard elements of your design from page to page, you’re essentially adding the article to a page of various other words and phrases. Therefore, you’re keyword density of 3% is immediately lost amongst all of your standard content. Although we see these pages and are able to focus only on the content that is intended to be read, the search engines don’t read the same way we do. They jumble your headings, your article content and anything else that is on the page into one long paragraph of nonsense and eliminate any type of keyword density and keyword placement you thought you had achieved and thus destroying your precious keyword density.
Unfortunately, far too many people are still influenced by keyword density. There are more tools for determining keyword density than a person can count and the majority of SEO professionals still base the majority of their optimization techniques on keyword density. What is even more confusing for the average marketer is that the article directories also place a large emphasis on keyword density and impose limits. However, these limits can actually work to your advantage. By limiting the use of specific keyword phrases, you’re taking off the shackles and actually writing in a more natural manner instead of trying to force a specific set of words into an article a specific number of times. The result is content that actually provides information to the reader rather than being redundant and useless.
Proper Keyword Placement
Saying that, keywords definitely still have a place in your content and they should be researched and used wisely. After all, the only way a potential reader or buyer can find your website is through a keyword search on a search engine. This means that utilizing the proper keywords on your pages and in the proper manner is important.
As a writer, I have to agree with the “best practices” set forth by SEOmoz. These include recommendations such as using the keyword in your title tag, H1 header, three times in the body, in your URL, and meta description. They also suggest using your keyword at least once in bold and in the alt attribute of any images you may have on your page. The use of keywords in this manner is natural and unobtrusive. Plus, you’re not stressing out over how many times you’ve actually repeated a term, which makes the writing process a whole lot easier and creative in a good way (because you have to be pretty creative to stuff keywords and that’s creativity a writer would rather not tap into).
In my experience writing for various websites, I’ve also found that it’s best to develop your content around a single keyword or topic. In doing so, you’re able to ensure that your content is targeted to the topic at hand, which will in turn provide you with naturally optimized content utilizing keywords and long tail keywords when needed. I also suggest utilizing subheadings in longer articles as much as possible. You might have a lot of information on the topic, but chances are your reader doesn’t have time to read it all and will want to skip ahead to the information they need. Subheadings will help them to locate that information quickly.
There Is No Complete Formula
Try as many may to optimize their content to no end utilizing a variety of keyword placement strategies and keyword density strategies, the bottom line is that there is no complete formula. It’s really all about providing excellent content and in doing so other websites, as well as the search engines, will reward you. If you create something that is worth reading and that others find interesting and useful, chances are others will link to your site and that specific piece of content will gain in popularity. The more popular and relevant the content, the better your chances are of ranking in the top 10 of the search engines.
If you need help in creating the type of content that your readers will learn from and enjoy, then consider Words You Want for your SEO writing needs. We have been writing search engine optimized articles, blogs and web content for several years and will provide you with well-written and original content. We write content that is researched and informational and don’t employ any shady tactics such as spinning or scraping content. We want your website to succeed and to provide readers with the information they seek.