Keyword Density is Out of Date
Many people measure the density of their keywords when writing an article in hope that they will hit some sort of magic percentage that will make the page rank for those keywords. They use tools that analyse the text and gives them a percentage that tells them how often their keyword has been used, I have heard many different estimations on what this percentage should be ranging from 4% to 20%. The truth is that keyword density really doesn’t have a place with the arrival modern search engine technology.
Smarter Search -The Knowledge Graph
Search engines have evolved beyond merely counting how many times a keyword is used and now look at text and content as a whole. They are building “Knowledge Graphs” which are databases that show the semantic relationships between words and phrases. When analysing your pages content they already have an expectation of the types of words and phrases that are related to your pages main topic. Rich content will naturally contain these related words and phrases and thin content will just focus on the main keywords. This is helps search engines decide on the quality of your content.
I have just taken delivery of a new pair of climbing shoes so I’ll use these to illustrate my point. Let’s say I want to optimise my site content for keywords related to climbing shoes so I’m going to write a review about this new pair.
Thin content would describe the bare minimum such as appearance, brand, price, material etc.
Rich content would go much further and talk about the technical ability of the shoe, how it performs under the various types of climbing and what it is best suited for and how these were designed by one of the worlds top climbers.
The rich content would be identified by the search engines because they would see more of the words that are related to climbing shoes being used. They’d see terms such as:
- Gym/Sport Climbing
- Outdoor Climbing
- Chris Sharma
- Toe/Heel Hooks
The list goes on depending on just how much detail you want to go in to. From an SEO view quality content will have more of these related words rather than solely focusing on the head term and as such is likely to return higher in the SERPS. From a user view quality content will give me all this information so I can make an informed choice about which shoes I want to buy, I really don’t care too much about the colour of my shoes when I’m halfway up a climb hoping that my shoes will grip on to a tiny hold and support my weight while I reach to make the next move!
Instead of worrying about keyword density you should begin by brainstorming words, phrases and topics that are related to your main topic. Identify which are of most value to the reader and go from there. This is especially good for e-commerce where a lot of your competitors who are offering the same products will be using the manufacturers description. By taking the time to write your own product descriptions you can get an edge by having unique content that is seen as higher quality and therefore more likely to be returned for a users search.
Your content will naturally contain your main keywords so there is no need to worry about the density, you only need to keep an eye on the keyword weight.
Not all text on a page is considered equal by the search engines. Paragraph text is given much less importance than text that is used in the page title and headings, the value placed on the importance of text is known as keyword weight.
While the knowledge graph helps a search engine decide on the richness and quality of your content they still need to understand the main topic or focus of a page. To do this they look to see which are the important words on a page.
I don’t know the exact measurements used, I imagine it’s a very complex algorithm that I’d have no hope of understanding! But I use my own simpler measurements that seem to serve me pretty well. I analyse the page and score the words by weight to create a word cloud that gives me a visual representation of how the weights of each keyword appear in relation to each other.
This is how my homepage appears in that format:
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You can see that the important words on the homepage all relate to my head keywords but the keyword density for “Small Business SEO” in the actual content is only about 1.5% yet this site still ranks well.
The scores that I use for weighting are as follows:
Domain Name: 9
Path Name: 6
So the trick is to get your main keywords in the title, description & header tags to give them the most weight. If more weight is needed then look at emphasising them with the <strong> or <em> format tags. You may have noticed that I don’t score text in the description, this is important text and should contain your keywords but Google won’t always choose to display your own description and may instead display an excerpt of text from your page that they feel is more relevant to the page. As a metric we can’t rely on this part of the page being used so I don’t factor it in.
Most descriptions will show up as you enter them so long as you use a unique and relevant description to each page and that it is not deemed as spammy. Spammy descriptions tend to repeat keywords and use long lists of various related keyphrases instead of actually describing what the page is about. If the search engine uses your description then that’s an added bonus to your keyword weight.
You don’t need to take the time to score every word to take advantage of this, just make sure your keywords are in your title, description and headings.