Search Marketing Standard asks, “Is Keyword Density Becoming Less Important?”
News flash: Keyword density hasn’t been important for about 3-5 years. But I’d agree, it’s becoming much less important.
Keyword Density Defined
What is keyword density? This is the practice of ensuring that your online content contains the right amount of keywords based on the number of words in your content overall. It is usually expressed in a percentage. For instance, if you have 100 words of content and you are optimizing that content for the keyword phrase “goat milk” then using that phrase 5 times will result in a 5% keyword density. Search engine optimizers used to teach that 1%-7% keyword density was optimal.
That used to be true. Back in 2001. But by 2003, things had begun to change. Google, by that time, had already started using Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) as a ranking algorithm factor. However, they weren’t that adept at ranking pages on that basis then so keyword density still had some sway.
By 2005, Google had introduced so many new ranking factors and was constantly tweaking the ones they considered important that keyword density was all but a bygone fancy. Other search engines started to give up on it too. By 2007, keyword density was so unimportant that newer search engines didn’t even bother with keywords – they just went right to the LSI.
Sure, you can still count keywords today and do fairly well in some search niches. But counting keywords has not been important since 2005 and certainly not after 2007. If you’re still counting keywords today then you are likely getting a reputation as a spammer.
Why Latent Semantic Indexing Is Misleading
After totally being late on the keyword density discussion, Rebecca Appleton goes on to say that LSI makes search engine optimization – or Web writing – even easier. Not so fast! I think what she meant to say is it makes Web writing appear easier. Here is it is in her own words:
While the complexities of LSI may lead you to believe that content writing just got harder, actually the opposite is true. Trying to write web copy based on the concept of keyword density as an important ranking factor is difficult because you are forced to write against your natural instinct of not repeating a keyword again and again and again. It makes the task of writing tedious and difficult as you’re forced to forcefully include a particular word a set amount of times, regardless of what would otherwise be the natural progression of the text. Writing based on a belief in LSI is much easier as you’re free to write naturally, without trying to keyword stuff. The search engine can see through the use of synonyms to extract meaning from a text, allowing for a more creative and interesting use of language. Invariably, without a tedious keyword repetition, the content you create will be of more interest and read better to a search user – aiding the user experience.
OK, while I concede that writing keyword density content is difficult because it isn’t natural, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that writing content that is natural (LSI content, in other words) isn’t much easier. It might be easier if you’re a writer, but you still have to have some writing ability.
Writing Web content is still pretty much direct marketing content. The only exception is when you are writing relationship marketing content. But website content doesn’t really fall into that category, and that’s the content that you want optimized for search engines.
I still think keywords are important. They probably always will be. Google still shows you a list of ten websites that rank for a search term whenever you enter a search query. You’ll be hard pressed to find web pages that do not contain your search term in them somewhere. So that tells me that keywords still rank. But you don’t have to measure densities. It’s important to know where and how to use keywords to get your content ranked, but it’s also important to know how to write naturally. You can do both. And, yes, it is hard. But not impossible.