Keyword Density in Articles Question

Rick writes in and asks:

How should I calculate keyword density for my articles and what should it be, ideally? I’ve looked all over your site and can’t find any recommendation. It’s important, right?

Rick, is it important? Short answer = No. If anything, it’s been abused and we reject content that is over-keyword or key phrase optimized because it’s too *gamey* of a practice or of no obvious value to the reader.

In the EzinePublisher view of every article (you’ll find this in the upper right article tools section of each article), we have been providing Statistically Improbable Words and Statistically Improbable Phrases, but I’m not convinced that this information provides any value to anyone.

Some of the dumb things we’ve seen members do when they get the “keyword density is a secret bug”:

They will send in a 500 word article with the same keyword or keyphrase repeated 21 times or worse, they will BOLD only the keyword or keyphrase. It sticks out like a bad date.

They will start every sentence with the keyword or keyphrase they are gunning for.

They will insert keywords or keyphrases in non-grammatically correct ways. Example: You can save money mybrand loans is the way.

Keyword Density Conclusion:

Being keyword dense or keyphrase dense is dumb and it destroys your credibility with the reader and with us. There is nothing wrong with being ‘keyword density’ aware, but don’t build your articles around any keyword density metric… instead, build your articles around providing the most useful value for your ideal reader.

39 Comments »


1
foreclosurefish writes:

I wholeheartedly agree with this post. I’ve seen articles that are so dense in keywords it’s impossible to get any message out of the article other than the keyword. And isolated keywords in themselves hardly provide any relevency. In my earlier days, I would occasionally write dense articles, but I couldn’t stand to read them afterwards. And I know that if I can’t read it, no one else will want to, either.

Whether it helps my search engine rankings is irrelevent to me; if I’m just sending spam out online, then the business will suffer in terms of credibility and relevency.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:09 AM

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2
Jennifer Thieme writes:

Can’t remember where I saw this, if it was here or elsewhere:

“Write for readers, not for search engines.”

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:20 AM

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3
PDNcoach writes:

I am glad someone asked this question! I am new to EzineArticles and, frankly, write my articles with the reader in mind, then struggle with the keyword issue. It seems to be working: I reportedly have 45 publications in 10 days!

However, I have one related, perhaps ‘opposite’ question (which may be a silly one). Do the keywords I list need to be in the article? In other words, if a keyword is relevant to my subject, but not actually in the article, should I list it? Or should I ensure that it does appear at least once in the title or body of the article?

I guess when it comes down to it, I don’t really know how this “keyword” thing works (and my Mom taught me to ask if I didn’t know the answer!).

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:21 AM

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4
Bobette Kyle writes:

Right on, Chris! Articles and content are ultimately for *people*, who respond to useful material and ignore (or get annoyed by) nonsensical garbage. So, good articles will build popularity naturally.

Not to say keywords are not important…you need to be found under phrases people are searching for, but that can be done intelligently. Search engine popularity gained by writing quality articles is a long-term business builder. Popularity gained by gaming the search engines is a flash-in-the-pan.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:25 AM

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5
Cynthia Bull writes:

It’s refreshing to hear that slamming articles with ‘rich’ keywords and phrases is passĀ©. Sharing content that’s interesting and valuable definitely has greater appeal, attracting thinking minds and productive efforts. GOOD commentary, Christopher!

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:27 AM

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6
Joe Stewart writes:

I was watching a video from Google engineer, Matt Cutts, recently and he said that you need to use your primary keyword phrase enough so the search engine robots can determine what your page is about, but he wasn’t kind enough to share exactly how much “enough” was.

I’ve had several people say 3-5% and others say 1% is plenty. That’s what I do, but I add several supporting synonyms too. I’ve been surprised at some of the other terms I’ve accidently ranked for.

Just sharing my “two cents”.

Joe

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:29 AM

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7
Fred Parker writes:

Why do I think I have been here before? In so many of the wesites or articles the objective is to get someone to do something i.e Buy something. That is not going to happen as a result of something no one wants to read and worse still it will injure the site, you and your prospects. The whole world does not revolve around SEO and in general the SEO strives for better ratings or whatever ignoring the need to sell.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:32 AM

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8
Gregg Hall writes:

Chris,

You are right on. Keyword stuffing not only looks like garbage, in most cases it is garbage.

Almost all of the search engines are moving towards theme relevance and Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI.

For those who have not heard of this what it is basically is that everything on the page is relevant and these new search engine algorithims are able to tell that certain words are thematically relevant.

An example would be if you were writng an article about golf and you use names like Tiger Woods or Gary Player, etc. These new algorithims would recoginze that these names are related to golf.

I know many PLR article distribution services that are still using keyword density calculations and search engines are beginning to penalize people for using these types of articles.

The best way to write is conversationally where everything flows and you use synonyms of words so you aren’t using the same words over and over in your text. There are exceptions of course such as when you are writing a product review or a technical overview, but you still want to avoid keyword stuffing.

What you want to do is write content that is valuable to a visitor, not gibberish designed to try to trick the search engines.

Gregg

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:33 AM

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9
Willow writes:

Thanks, Chris, for some very valuable information. As a “newbie” to article writing, I hear all kinds of different tips on keyword density. As a writer, I want to write, not be so concerned with how many times I plug a word or phrase in my article. Now I can simply write for the pleasure of writing!

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:43 AM

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10

PDN Coach,

The keywords you enter with each article are important and they become part of the meta tags of the article. In addition, they may be used in the future for a tagging function.

This discussion is about not using excessive keywords in the article body.

Joe,

Matt’s right, but I’m really talking about keyword and key phrase abuse here.

Example: Repeating a keyword 19 times in a short article is abuse, whereas repeating it 3-4 times is probably ok.

All,

Let’s not confuse this issue with the importance of a keyword intelligent article title… that should be 40% keyword optimized and 60% human optimized.

ie: Write your article title for a human reader in mind, but it’s ok to be up to ~40% keyword optimized so that you help the search engines understand what your article title is about.

I can see how a search engine could be confused about what your article is about if you don’t use a main keyword or keyphrase in your article title… therefore, avoid the cutesy article titles for favor of one that allows a reader to know what your article will be about by reading the article title alone.

The simple rule I recommend on the article title is to write your normal article title and then extend it another 40% so that it’s longer (provides more hooks to help a reader understand what your article will be about).

Many authors submit articles with article titles that are too short or not descriptive enough.

Lastly, don’t over-optimize your article title. They should be written so that a human can appreciate them. We do our best to not accept articles that are keyword loaded as they also stick out…as bad form.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:49 AM

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11
Ron Coleman writes:

I understand Chris’s point of view, but there is a flip side to this argument. A main objective in writing EzineArticles is to get traffic to your site and to the sites that publish them. Keyword density is a tool that can be used to help accomplish this. It has to be done well, however, or it destroys the readability of the article. On the other hand if you totally ignore keyword density the article may read well, but nobody will see it. Websites that publish these articles want material that people will read and also material that will bring them advertising revenue. It really helps if the search engines can locate them.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 10:51 AM

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12
Allen Taylor writes:

I tell my clients that I write “keyword-rich” articles, not keyword-density articles. I will often get a question related to this where someone will ask what is the property density and my answer is always the same. I don’t pay attention to density. Period. I use keywords, but I use them intelligently. I shoot for one instance per paragraph with the exception of the first and last where I go for two. But I allow myself the flexibility to move those targets. Bottom line: If the article isn’t usable by intelligent ezine publishers for the benefit of their intelligent readers then I don’t care what the search engines think about it. I do write for the spiders, but my first priority is to my human readers.

Good post.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:02 AM

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13
Mike McDonough writes:

Cris,

You are so correct. Keyword spamming articles is no way to get your site visited. The new web 3.0 semantic search engines use normal language to provide search results.

Ask a question and get the results you are looking for not 1,000+ of results that have no revelance to your search. One of the sites that is leading in this type of search engine is hakia (hakia.com).

If any one is interested in how their search engines work they have set up a tour on how they store datd.

Individuals who live by keyword spamming articles and web pages will die by the same.

Good quality content set in normal language will produce better search results. Ask a question then give the answer in your articles.

Mike McDonough

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:05 AM

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14

Ron,

Search engines will locate quality original articles regardless as to whether the author hit a high enough keyword density metric… especially if they have a keyword intelligent (but not over-optimized) article title, of which I think we can both agree is important.

To be clear: I’m not saying that keyword density knowledge or use is wrong; I’m saying that the abuse of it creates crappy garbage articles that we’d prefer to not see.

It becomes a trust factor thing. Can we trust that a member is writing articles aimed at being super useful to the reader or are they over-optimizing their article without regard to what a reader would find valuable.

EzineArticles members that submits articles that are *over-keyword-optimized* are flagged and we track patterns to help us know how fast we should review submissions.

An acid test: If a major search engine quality assurance person was reviewing the article, would they agree that it’s a valuable article to someone or would they suspect that the author is trying to game the system?

As you can guess, we work very hard to separate ourselves from those who try to game the system because we don’t want to look bad to our users, nor do we want to make our ideal author/member look bad via association, nor do we want our advertisers to look bad.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:10 AM

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15
Becky Mundt writes:

Chris,

Happy to see this post!
:)
What we are really talking about here is white noise.
And the white noise ratio is getting higher all the time.

Whether you’re a writer or a marketer or both;
white noise is still just white noise.

Useless static, or worse, conversion misdirection – or adsense hell, the land where every click pays someone something and white noise prevails.

Understanding that the search engines are learning to understand good (or at least sensible) writing is fine news. Getting back to the real work of doing something useful, or at least real and interesting, what a concept!

Write on!

Sincerely,

Becky Mundt

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:29 AM

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16
Hermas Haynes writes:

Chris,

I concur completely. Trying slavishly to attain some magical keyword density in article writing is laborious and unnatural, and the finished product usually reflects it.

So long as you know your material and can stay focused on the key idea you want to convey, simply expressing yourself in your voice is generally all that’s required to engage your readers and still satisfy the search engine robots.

Article writing is much like jazz improvisation.

A jazz musician must understand the cornerstones of music – scales, chords, harmony and rhythm. But when he (or she) is in the spontaneous moment of improvisation, there is seldom any conscious awareness of the particular rules that are being employed to create a particular jazz riff.

It’s an intuitive understanding of those rules, coupled with creative inspiration, that results in a memorable performance.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:37 AM

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17

You would think this would be common sense but alas, I’m sure you see the darndest things come across your desk.

Warmly,
Priscilla

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:43 AM

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18

Great post and practical advice.

Even if you think keyword stuffing is the best way to write for the search engines, most search engines today will not reward you for overuse of a keyword or keyword phrase — they consider it spamming.

The best approach, as several people have already written, is to be aware of your important keywords when writing, but write for your target audience, not for the search engines.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 12:41 PM

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19
Mammy writes:

Thanks everyone,
This is a really useful and informative discussion!
Mammy

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 12:53 PM

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20
Chinmay Chakravarty writes:

Thanks everyone. I’ve learnt a lot to agree on the basic point that one should write for the readers and not search engines. It’d be a happy coincidence if it serves both well, it should not be forced.

To Chris: By this same logic article title should be intelligent and interesting for readers so that they feel like going through it. Why then force keywords into it? If it happens naturally, it’s ok. But deliberately putting keywords into titles is giving not enough thought to the readers.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 1:41 PM

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21

Chinmay,

Let me respond to you with an analogy:

When you download your email, do you not filter your spam from your legitimate email by the SUBJECT line?

The SUBJECT line in email is the same importance as the ARTICLE TITLE in an article.

Meaning: I should be able to figure out what your article is about by your article title alone just like I should be able to figure out what your email will be about or whether I will want to read it by the subject line alone.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 1:49 PM

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22
Chinmay Chakravarty writes:

Chris

Agreed. But what about the suspense element? Sometimes I feel article title should make the readers curious wondering what it’d be all about. This, of course, does not apply to ‘content’ writing; but in arts, entertainment, opinion and all such categories should we make our titles so clear that the article becomes very predictable. Why not inspire the reader to go through to find out fully.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 1:57 PM

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23
Edward Weiss writes:

It’s really pretty simple. If your article title contains keywords that aren’t too competitive, you’ll probably wind up in the top 20 in Google for that particular term.

If you’re trying to write an article where the keywords are highly competitive, i.e. “guitar lessons,” then your chances of getting listed in Google plummets.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 2:15 PM

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24
Coach Bud writes:

Chris: I have a mantra that has guided my whole life and seems appropriate to this discussion. “When your true purpose is to help others succeed…you succeed”.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 2:15 PM

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25
Allen Taylor writes:

Ed, you hit the furry little mole on his cute little noggin.

Go for the high value, low-sought-after keywords and market them like you own them. In time, you will.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 2:58 PM

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26
Lance Winslow writes:

This is good because the “Key Wording Bandits” are stealing from those who do the most good and help the world in providing important information on key subjects.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 3:05 PM

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27
Kevin writes:

Chris – Congratulations on building a strong value system into your position.
Build the business on ‘Character’ – not ‘characters.’

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 5:20 PM

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28
Edward Weiss writes:

Chris Knight wrote:

“The keywords you enter with each article are important and they become part of the meta tags of the article. In addition, they may be used in the future for a tagging function.”

Chris, does this mean you’re going to add a tagging functionality?

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 6:11 PM

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29
Tony writes:

Its really pretty simple.

Just write as if you are telling a story…forget keyword density which can lead to an “unnatural” result.

Good Luck
Tony

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 9:38 PM

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30

Edward W,

I’ve had a tag cloud on my whiteboard for over a year now. Chances are very high that something will become of it. No ETA is known yet.

Comment provided June 5, 2007 at 11:10 PM

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31
kip winsett writes:

Speaking of keywords. I notice that although I have a few articles posted at ezines, I have no links to my site from them. I’ve also noticed that while I have a google alert for a short keyphrase (which always appears once or twice in my article) I never recieve a google alert when ezines publishes my articles.

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 12:46 AM

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32
Outeasy writes:

A Zillion thank yous for posting this! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped reading an article when noticing this blatant bad form! “Hey, buy an ad – get noticed!”
Best regards,

OuteasY

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 12:48 AM

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33

Kip,

Sorry, have no idea why Google alerts don’t work when we publish your articles…

I do have a tip for you though to improve the effectiveness of your articles: Instead of only having (2) anchored active links to your website, make one of them be a regular: http:// full URL with no period at the end.

This is for many reasons, including the obvious that a text-based ezine publisher who syndicates your content can’t give you a link back very easily.

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 12:55 AM

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34
snambiath writes:

There is Keyword Density and there is Attention Span. The former is purely software-driven, the latter purely human-driven.

With more and more publishers jumping into the fray and all of us receiving much more mail – unsolicited and otherwise, I strongly believe that the role of software has tapered off and that of retaining your reader’s attention has become that much more challenging.

Today, Keyword density still retains the same importance as far as Searches go. But to retain the attention of your visitor (and to get him to click on your product or the advertisement on your site), you need to go beyond mere keyword density! A wholesome site with well-constructed thoughts and language is still the best way to get your site to pay for you and I do not see this changing ever!

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 1:31 AM

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35
Tim writes:

Brilliant! Thanks for setting this reader straight! I’m so glad to see you and your company have this approach to keyword density. Now, if we could just convince the rest of the unwashed masses :-)

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 3:59 PM

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36

Thank you for this important information, Chris! I’m glad to see that keyword density is not that important because I never care about it while writing my articles, only when I write the headlines.
I’m surprised to see that my articles are in a very good position on Google (first or second page) when I type only two very expensive keywords (like depression, psychotherapy, etc) even though I’m a newbie that is starting now.
It means that the content is really essential for the search engine. This is a relief for me because my work is based on the unusual content I’m presenting.

Comment provided June 6, 2007 at 6:49 PM

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37

The keyword density argument is very similar to that on reciprocal linking. We are told that this is not of any future value. Only inbound one way links will count.

Next week we could equally be told that keyword plugging of any description is bad for your search engine health.

Why can’t the search engines work purely and simply on a “Quality& Effort” standard then it will be the same as everything else in life. We all will have an equal chance to promote our sites accordingly and be judged on merit.

I think robots, spiders, article spinners, language translation software etc will never replace the human brain, thank heavens!!

I’m just going to carry on writing as I have always done……..hang on…….I’ve just seen a robot……I know exactly where I am going to stuff this keyword!!!

Regards to all

ps there are no keywords in this comment

Comment provided June 20, 2007 at 4:56 PM

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38
Allen Taylor writes:

Mr. Phillips, your premise that “only one way links will count” is false. Search algorithms consider many different factors, link direction being one of them. Link relevance is also important, as is the reputation of any website from which a link is created.

Keyword density is, you are right to point out, equally flawed. There is no optimal number of keywords per content words on your page that will get you a better ranking. The maxim is “content is king” not “keywords are king.”

You ask why the SEs don’t work on a “quality and effort” standard. The answer is, they do. Their algorithms are the tools that measure such. And they are created by the “human brain.” And, FYI, there are keywords in your comment. You may not have intended them to be there, but there are always keywords present on every content page. If they are not there on purpose then they are there by accident. I’d rather create content that uses the keywords that are important to ME and plan my success rather than hope for it.

Comment provided June 21, 2007 at 8:42 AM

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39
Paul Lalley writes:

Most search engine users never get past the first or second SERP. So, the entire concept of page rank, and consequently, keyword density to improve PR, is a myth.

Keywords are only useful to SE spiders. They aren’t helpful to humans.

Comment provided June 25, 2007 at 4:41 AM

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