SEO is a field that is constantly changing, with new trends and methods coming out all the time. One topic that has been debated for many years is keyword density and its value for ranking in search engine result pages. It was once considered the be-all and end-all of SEO content writing. Any site would hardly get a look-in without implementing a winning keyword density strategy.
However, does keyword density still matter for the success of the overall SEO strategy today? In this article, we will look closer at its importance in 2023 and its role in modern SEO processes.
What’s in “Keyword Density”?
The number of times a keyword or phrase appears in a piece of content or on a specific website page is what “keyword density” means. This figure is usually measured as a percentage of the overall word count. Sometimes the term is used to indicate “keyword frequency,” which means how often a particular keyword shows up on a page.
How to Calculate?
If there is a need, the density percentage can be calculated. To determine it on a particular page, simply divide the number of times a word appears by the total article word count and multiply it by 100. The result is the density of that particular keyword. For instance, if a word occurred ten times in a 2,000-word article, its density would be 0.5%.
The Importance of Keyword Density in the Past
In fact, keyword density calculation has long been associated with SEO. Initially, the density figure was a vital part of search results. Those days, search algorithms acted by scanning content for target words and determining their density to get an idea of what a webpage was about and if it was relevant to a specific search query. The user could search for “white evening dress,” and pages that included the most references to that phrase were shown on the first page of the search results.
As companies began to catch on to the value of bringing their site to the first page of search results, they resorted to the help of SEO experts to help them appear there. These specialists developed strategies based on the importance of keyword density. The goal was to give the platform a better position in the SERPs by increasing this figure. As a result, the content was created for search bots rather than site users.
These strategies became known as “black hat” SEO tactics. Among them were the following:
- stuffing (as many keywords as possible were crammed into the content, making the article unnatural and pretty much unreadable for users);
- cloaking (one content version was shown to users and another to search bots to enhance ranking);
- invisible keywords (they were added to a page in the same color as its background, again to acquire a better ranking).
But then Google was pretty quick to take note of these tactics. The result of their implementation had a significant impact on the overall user experience. Companies managed to bring irrelevant content onto the first page of search results that was not all that helpful for the user’s query. When they clicked on the platform, they found something completely unrelated to their search intent. All of that has led to significant changes in Google’s algorithms.
Hummingbird and Panda Updates Influence
Basically, there were two significant changes in Google’s algorithms. The Panda update was launched in 2011 with the aim of curbing black-hat SEO practices and improving the quality of search results. According to it, websites with an unnaturally high keyword density were getting penalized. In the wake of this update, keyword density was much tougher to manipulate for optimization goals.
The 2013 Hummingbird update made search bots much better at comprehending the intent behind users’ queries. They went beyond the vocabulary in a query to uncover the meaning. The algorithm gave more relevant search results and paid even less attention to keyword density.
Considering those shifts, the metric has become unimportant for SEO. Moreover, it is no longer considered a ranking factor influencing search results.
How to Approach Keyword Density in 2023?
Before Panda launched, this figure ranged from 2% to 3%, and that was deemed optimal. This figure satisfied both the content’s users and Google’s algorithm. However, currently, the main question is how one should approach the subject of keyword density when writing content in 2023 after a range of algorithmic changes.
Best Practices to Use
Even though keyword density does not directly influence the site’s SEO performance, it can still help you in your optimization efforts. Consider sticking to the following practices when creating content to use keyword density to your advantage:
Create natural and relevant content.
Sticking to a specific keyword density is not helpful. Moreover, aiming for a particular figure is more likely to have a bad effect. Instead, forget about this metric and write naturally. That does not mean you should not mention target keywords in the article. Of course, you should, but do not put in any specific effort to do so because this happens naturally during the writing process.
Focus on covering the topic.
Google’s algorithms do look at the way the topic is covered. Therefore, it is better to focus on covering the chosen subject matter as much as possible. That implies adding subtopics that users are likely to want to read. You can take your cue from what is already ranking and pay attention to common subheadings to locate good ideas.
Incorporate keywords in crucial places.
While keyword stuffing in your content should be avoided at all costs, adding your major keyword in a few noteworthy places, like the title tag, H1, URL, and meta description, makes sense.
However, the main point to remember is to include the keywords only if they fit naturally into the context. Additionally, you can use close variations of them, which are not an exact match, if that makes more sense. Ultimately, using variations will not hurt the site’s rankings.
Keyword density is no longer the critical factor in SEO that it once was. Even though it is still an important metric, webmasters should focus on making helpful, high-quality content that provides value to users and answers their queries. In the modern SEO landscape, the main goal is to give users a great experience, and keyword density should be used in a way that helps reach that goal.