If you’re looking for ways to boost your site’s search engine rankings, keyword density will probably be one of the most frequently mentioned tips. Keyword density isn’t as important in SEO as it used to be, but the proper use of keywords is still critical to helping potential clients find your website in searches.
This blog is provided for general information only. Always talk to a laywer or other appropriate professional before making decisions.
What exactly is keyword density?
Keyword density is the number of times a phrase appears on a page divided by the total word count. For example, if you’re targeting the keyword “criminal defense lawyer” and use that phrase one time in 100 words, your keyword density is 1%.
Why are keywords important?
Keywords tell search engines which searches your website should be in the results for. Originally, keywords worked much like the old-fashioned way of looking things up in an index or library catalog. A website would be listed under a few key phrases and wouldn’t show up in search results unless those exact phrases were used in a search.
How did search engines know to list a website for a given phrase? They would scan the content of every website and make a note of the key phrases it used.
Why does it matter how many times a keyword is used on a page?
The flaw in the original system was that it gave too many irrelevant results. Maybe someone would be searching for information about growing apples and the search engine took them to a page where a personal injury lawyer gave an example of a lawsuit where someone tripped over an apple.
To bring up better search results, the search engines decided that the more times a page mentioned the word apples, the more likely it was to actually be about apples and not just mention them in passing.
Why have search engines stopped caring about how many times a keyword is used on a page?
When people realized they could get their page ranked higher simply by including a word more times, they began to game the system. This led to search engines being flooded with spam pages repeating a keyword over and over again or listing long strings of irrelevant keywords at the bottom of a page.
Search engines want the best content to come up first, so they reduced the weight of keyword density in their rankings and began punishing sites with unnaturally high keyword densities.
How does keyword density affect search rankings today?
Today, keyword density is much closer to an on/off switch than something to maximize. Search engines can now scan for related terms and determine how credible a site is using other factors. When targeting a keyword, try to include it in the page title, meta description, URL, and once or twice in the body. After that, forget about keyword density and write naturally. Don’t forget that you could be flagged as spam if you go overboard with a keyboard.
Quick Guide to Properly Using Keywords
When to Add Keywords
- In your introduction paragraph so readers know what the page is about
- To replace ambiguous pronouns like it, them, or their. Do this especially at the start of a new paragraph or section (just like in offline writing).
- To replace a similar, less accurate word (fruit vs. apple)
- In subheadings that don’t make that section’s main idea clear
Main question: Will including it improve readability?
When Not to Add Keywords
- If a sentence or paragraph is wordy, use a pronoun or short phrase over a long keyword phrase
- Never disrupt your flow to add keywords
- Don’t repeat a keyword multiple times per sentence or paragraph unless it’s the best, most natural way to phrase things. This depends on if you’re targeting a short or long keyword; “lawyer” might be naturally used several times while “experienced DUI defense lawyer in Amarillo, Texas” wouldn’t.
Remember: First, do no harm.
How to Check Your Use of Keywords
If you want to see if you’re using your keywords properly, you can use an SEO tool like Semrush. Semrush has an On Page SEO Checker where you can put in each of your web pages and what keyword(s) you want it to rank for. It will tell you if you’re using a keyword too much or not enough. It will also tell you if there are related keywords to add to help you add more relevant information about your topic and get found in more searches.
Result: You’ll know for a fact your pages match what gets better search results instead of just trying your best but not knowing for sure.
What should you do if you don’t have time to worry about keywords?
Writing strong web content that helps you stand out in search engines is a time-consuming task. If you need to stay focused on other areas of your practice, consider hiring an experienced content writer to help you.