Keywords are a hot topic when it comes to creating strategic content that is loved by people and search engines alike. Unfortunately, there is a prevalent myth that content should maintain certain levels of “keyword density” in order to rank well in search engines. Some believe this to be true, while others believe it to be pure baloney. It’s telling, however, that current legal patents held by search engines don’t mention keyword density as an important metric for search engine ranking.
So, what’s the deal?
Keyword Density and Your Content
The truth is, yes your content should contain keywords relevant to your niche. However, you don’t need to use them ad nauseam. Keyword density is just not a thing with modern ranking algorithms. Yes, keywords are fundamental to the process search engines use to determine the relevancy of your content, but they are definitely not the only factor or the deciding factor.
A few of the most important places to include relevant keywords are places like title tags, your header tags, your metadata, and maybe a time or two throughout the text of the content provided it occurs naturally. Forcing keywords to work in content just to use them means you run the risk of search engines thinking your content is nothing but web SPAM. Not only that, but it makes for a horrible user experience for your reader, and big G is all about that user experience.
Keyword Stuffing Your Content
Sadly, the misinformation abounds, and people continue to this day to misuse keywords in an effort to manipulate the search engines and increase their search rank. If you know anything about SEO at all, you might recall the days when Google rolled out the Panda update. This update basically destroyed the idea that stuffing content with keywords is anything but a death knell for your website. Many websites took a big hit during this update and lost a lot of traffic as well as rank. Moral of the story? Forget about keyword density as a metric for SEO and never, under any circumstances, stuff content with keywords where they don’t belong or naturally occur.
Best Practices for Keyword Usage
Natural keyword usage is the order of the day with modern algorithms. You only want keywords to fall within your content naturally and strategically. Remember, search engines are really only concerned with a handful of metrics.
They comb through the proximity of keywords in a document and where those words occur, plus assess things like how many times they repeat. Your main theme, topics, and subtopics should support your keywords. You can achieve this by making sure to use your keywords or phrase in the title of your content, along with once in the first paragraph or somewhere that’s prominent near the top of the page.
Throughout your content, you can use the keyword 2-3 more times (with variations) but don’t bother trying to add it in any more than that unless it just happens naturally. It won’t impact your search rank and could even cause your site to be flagged for over usage.
Other places you should include your keywords include the metadata, such as the ALT text of images on the page, along with using it in the URL for the page itself. Think short and sweet, long URL’s are clunky and not helpful or user-friendly. You want something descriptive of the content, readable for humans, and fairly easy to recall. You should also use your keywords in your meta description.
Choosing Good Keywords
Remember that you’re not concerned with getting a ton of visitors. It’s way more important and lucrative to get the right kind of visitors. That means you have to choose good keywords relevant to your audience. One way to do this is to search the term in the Google search bar. You can then see how many results pop up with sites already ranking for that keyword. It gives you an idea of your competition. You can also take a peek at their content to see how they are using that keyword.
You may notice that for some keywords there appears to be a lot of ads at the top and alongside your search results. That’s a good indicator that keyword is highly valued and might even be a little too competitive to target.
Another way to test keywords is to use Google AdWords and see how well it converts with test traffic. You pay for it, but it provides accurate results that allow you to determine how valuable a keyword may be for your purpose. You can also look at Google Trends for great ideas, and if you want to see how Google views your page, check at the cache for that page by typing in "cache: https”.
Ultimately, your biggest takeaway should be that keyword density is no longer a “thing” in the eyes of the major search engines and modern algorithms today. Yes, you still use them, but no, you don’t have to stuff your content with them and go crazy. Get strategic, choose relevant keywords with care, and then use them sparingly and naturally within your content. Not only will the bots love you, but your readers also will too.