There has been a lot of talk (and argument) and as to whether keyword density is still a factor when it comes to ranking a website. And after all the time and effort that has been put into testing the theory that the keyword density factor still exists, there is still a lot of difference in opinion from even the big names is the SEO world. So is keyword density still a factor in ranking a website today? Or have things evolved?
Well, it makes sense that if a site doesn’t make any mention of any keywords it wants to be found under, how is Google expected to know what the site is about? And how can it accurately rank that among sites that make regular references to that term? Sure, sites can be ranked under a particular keyword term or phrase purely by a good inbound linking campaign, but new sites can also rank well and all they have is the on-page information. It makes sense that at least the usage of keywords has some effect on a websites’ rankings.
Although some agree with that concept, others disagree. Is keyword density itself a factor? Let’s see what some of the professional SEOs think.
Like everything in search – it has evolved. I think the old kw density calc is the new ‘proximity calc’.
- If the keyword isn’t on the page – it isn’t going to rank well (or at all) for that keyword.
- If the keyword isn’t in the title of the page, it is going to be tougher to rank for that keyword.
- If the keyword isn’t in the url, the task becomes more difficult.
- What about in a big header on the page?
- What about high on the page, or strategically spaced throughout the document?
- Offsite density? Anchor text is another type of density.
I think keyword density needs to be changed to proximity density. It is closer heat map today than the pure numbers game of old.
Repetition of keywords seems to have at least some effect on the rankings for those terms, particularly when combined with other factors such as the use of heading tags and title tag. However the effect is quickly lost if you stuff the keywords.
If you imagine that the glass can only contain a finite amount of liquid and your keywords are separate glasses, the more keywords the more glasses how you divvy up the liquid is almost irrelevant as you still have only a certain amount of liquid to start with.
‘Optimal keyword density’ is a myth. Today’s search engines are way too smart to fall for such poor optimization methods.
Even a single inbound link with a good anchor text can boost a page lacking the keyword in question so that it outranks every page with tuned keyword density.
Focus more on writing good relative content, proper page structure and decent link building than keyword density. I remember when I first started in SEO, I had an Desktop Software Application checking my pages and telling me that I was short in my keyword density. So I stuffed more keywords in till the application was happy.
Then I released it into the search engines. The page never really ranked that highly. What was worse the client wasn’t too happy that his page read crap as well. I’ve never looked at keyword density since.
Keyword density gets less and less relevant all the time, at least for Google with Latent Semantic Analysis, Personalized Search, etc., etc.
Most results come from the ‘long tail’ of combinations of keywords. What counts is conversions to sales, if that’s your real business objective. Poorly executed SEO may even work against conversions if it turns off human prospects.
Just for a different perspective, I took a look at the USPTO database, which only goes back to the early 2000s, and at Google Scholar.
There are 15 granted patents and 48 patent applications that use the phrase “keyword density.” None of those are from Google or Yahoo, and only a very few are from Microsoft and IBM, which also work in enterprise search. A number of the patent filings were applied for by Overture around the time of their acquisition by Yahoo, but focus upon paid search, referring to keyword density as something that non paid search may be using.
Google Scholar reveals 208 instances of the phrase “keyword density,” and none of the documents listed appear to come from anyone working at a major search engine, though a 2006 paper from a Lycos researcher suggests the use of keyword density.
I’ve always considered keyword density to be more likely folklore than fact. I don’t think that will change.
“Keyword Density” (using a ratio of keywords to the total text on a page) is not a good metric for SEO anymore.
Yes, your keywords should be on the page… but beyond that, writing “naturally” is better SEO than worrying about keyword density.
What are your thoughts on keyword density? Does it still apply? Is proximity or prominence now more relevant? Or doesn’t it matter at all? What are your experiences and thoughts? Comments on keyword density are all welcome.
Credit goes to Shaun Anderson for his in-depth conversations with the SEO specialists quoted above.