Captured Technology

Is Keyword Density Still Important For On Page SEO

Dec 19 2011

English: The three biggest web search engines

Image via Wikipedia

To answer the question posed in the title, yes and no. Yes, keyword density does still matter but no, it is not as important as it used to be, and in some cases, keyword density is far less important than many of the other factors which go into determining page rank. In situations such as sites which are in relatively sparsely populated niche markets where the level of competition is low, having a somewhat higher keyword density (without overdoing it) can make a bit of a difference.

The thing to keep in mind here is that keyword density isn’t unimportant, but it’s only one of a larger number of things which factor into how search engine result rankings are determined. For that matter, it’s not even a very important factor.

If it’s been a few years since you’ve really been involved in search engine optimization in any meaningful way, it may come as a surprise to find out that keyword density is no longer the number one SEO topic. If you’ll think back just a couple of years, you’ll recall that the standard practice used to be to pack site content so full of keywords that it was often close to unreadable; it was ugly, human readers hated it, but the search engines hadn’t quite caught up yet. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon to see sites rank highly when their content read something like this:

“If you want to buy shoehorns, then you need to find out more about how to buy shoehorns. You can buy shoehorns online from websites which tell you how to buy shoehorns.”

Not the kind of content anyone would want to read, even supposing they really were in the market for a shoehorn. There’s no missing the keyword here; it appears at roughly 17.5% density in the sample above. Webmasters actually used to be able to get away with this kind of keyword over stuffing, but thankfully to webmasters and readers alike, the search engines have changed the way that keyword density is weighted in their algorithms and it’s no longer necessary to make sure that your content has a higher density than your competitor in order to be noticed by the search engines.

Now, this doesn’t mean that content isn’t still important; in fact, it’s more important than ever now that the keyword density has been relegated to be only a supporting factor than a primary one as it used to be. It’s far better to use your keywords in your content only where it fits in naturally and makes sense (no more shoehorning in phrases like “buy shoehorn”, in other words) than it is to force a higher keyword density at the expense of quality and readability. In the end, user experience is what matters; after all, who is your real audience and/or target market – human readers or Google? If you make your site appealing to readers, the search engines will follow.

Your keywords tell the search engines what your site is about, but they’re a lot better than they used to be at figuring this out; you’ll do just fine using your keywords at a density of around 1% to 2% or in other words use the keyword 2-3 times in your content. Other on-page SEO factors are even more important, so chances are that you’ll get better results from making sure you have unique title tags for each of the pages on your site and that they follow SEO best practices than you will by trying to figure out a way to get your keywords into your page content another one or two times.

It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which keyword density wouldn’t matter at all, but clearly, it’s nowhere near as important as it used to be – and most webmasters and readers alike would agree that the web is a better place for the change.

Jeff is an internet marketing consultant, a blogger and he often writes about SEO. He likes to share his knowledge and experience with others, and helps them with their online presence. At the moment, he is writing for a real estate agency in NY that makes Queens condos.

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