Settling the Debate: is Keyword Density Really a Ranking Factor?

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Keyword density has long been considered an essential ranking factor to achieve a page 1 position in Google. But is it still thought of as a Google ranking factor today? Let’s dive into this further below and answer the question once and for all.

What is Keyword Density, and How is It Calculated?

Keyword density is a measure of how often a keyword or phrase appears in a piece of text. To calculate keyword density, divide the number of times the keyword appears by the total number of words in the text. For example, if a keyword appears five times in a 100-word text, 5% would be the keyword density. You can also use tools to check keyword density faster.

Why is Keyword Density Thought to be a Google Ranking Factor?

This topic has long been debated since many SEO professionals have differing opinions. And SEO tool companies add to this belief by developing keyword density tools and checkers that identify an ideal ratio of keywords to copy. Moreover, this belief is based on fact, as keyword density was a ranking factor way back when search engines were still gaining traction. But that doesn’t mean that it’s still true today.

So, is Keyword Density Really Important for SEO?

As search engines continue to improve through continuous algorithm updates, their ranking factors also change. So while keywords are still undeniably crucial for SEO, keyword density is no longer considered a Google ranking factor. That’s because search engines like Google are now smart enough to understand what a page is about in ways other than measuring keyword density. 

Google has also pretty much confirmed this and has tried over the years to dissuade SEO experts from focusing too much on keyword density.

The Connection between Keywords and Keyword Density

multi-colored arrows pointing to the word keyword

Keywords help Google identify which pages to display for a particular query. If a page has too few keywords, the search engine may not understand what it’s about. But if the page has too many keywords, the search engine may consider it an attempt to manipulate search rankings. This dilemma has led to people believing that there is an ideal keyword-to-copy ratio that strikes the perfect balance between using too few and too many keywords, hence the birth of keyword density analyser tools.

However, no set ratio will give the best results for everyone. And sticking to a set keyword density ratio won’t help your SEO efforts. In fact, some web pages can still get a good ranking on Google for a keyword that never appears on that page. But that also doesn’t mean you can use the exact keywords as much as you want, as it can still lead to search engines seeing it as keyword stuffing.

What is Keyword Stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the act of filling a page with a specific keyword so many times that it becomes unnatural sounding. It happens when SEOs try to cram too many keywords into their web copy to game the system. But this black hat SEO technique no longer works, as Google will penalise your site if it detects keyword stuffing.  

So, How Should You Use Keywords?

While keyword density is no longer a ranking factor, keywords are still critical as they’re still an essential part of SEO. But you have to use them strategically and not stuff them into your content in the hopes of manipulating your way to a higher ranking. Here are some tips on how you can use keywords effectively:

magnified long tail keyword written on notepaper

Use long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are longer and more specific phrases that are less competitive and easier to rank. They may get less traffic than general keywords, but they can still help you attract the right audience to your website.

Use keyword variations: Using the same keyword too often in your content can lead to search engines seeing it as keyword stuffing. To avoid this, mix things up by using different keyword variations. For example, if your focus keyword is “SEO tips”, you can also use related keywords like “SEO tricks”, “SEO strategies”, and “SEO tactics”. 

You can also use latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords to help Google better understand the context of your web copy. LSI keywords are related terms that usually appear together. For example, if you’re writing about “SEO tools,” some LSI keywords could be “keyword research,” “rank tracking,” and “link building.”

Use keywords naturally: One of the most common mistakes people make is using keywords in a way that sounds unnatural. It not only turns off your readers but can also lead to search engines seeing it as keyword stuffing. So instead of cramming keywords into your content, integrate them into your sentences in a way that sounds natural.

Remember other ranking factors: Keywords are essential, but there are other things that search engines consider. So while you focus on using them effectively, remember other ranking factors like website design, user experience, content quality, and link building.

Best Practices for Keyword Density

Now that we’ve covered how to use keywords properly, let’s also look at some best practices for keyword density.

Focus on topic coverage: Instead of adding your focus keyword repeatedly, concentrate on covering the topic as fully as possible. Try to include subtopics related to your main subject and utilise keyword variations as well.

Use keywords in strategic areas: Keyword stuffing is frowned upon by search engines, but it is helpful to include keywords in strategic places like H1s, title tags, URLs and meta descriptions. Then again, do it naturally so the keyword placement doesn’t sound forced.

Key Takeaways

Keyword density is no longer a ranking factor on search engines, but that doesn’t mean you can also get away with keyword stuffing. And instead of obsessing over keyword density, how you use keywords and where you place them matters more. 

Looking beyond Keyword Density 

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Here at SEO Services Australia, we understand what really matters for your website. As an SEO service company offering comprehensive and tailored SEO services for local companies in Australia, we are specially positioned to create solutions that get you actual results. Using updated SEO knowledge and best practices that consider your business as a whole, we look beyond achieving simple fixes and baseline SEO results to improve your website ranking.

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