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Google Panda and the Myth of Keyword Density

Published on Sep 19, 2011


Read 'Google Panda and the Myth of Keyword Density' at 'Time to Start Up,' the small business blog by BizFilings.
http://www.bizfilings.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/googlepandakeyworddensity.jpgIn a previous article about Google Panda, we focused on a list of dos and don’ts to help keep your SEO efforts in alignment with the new Panda algorithm. But in order to play nice with Panda, we’ve got to understand the rules — and one rule that can be very confusing is keyword density.

What is Keyword Density?

Jon Wuebben, in his book Content Rich, describes keyword density as, “the percentage of the total words on the page divided by the number of times the keyword phrase appears.” In other words, if you have a 500 word article, and you’ve used your keyword phrase 10 times, your keyword density would be with 5%. So far, so good — right? It’s easy enough to do the math here, but there are questions that need answering. Can a particular keyword density percentage help or harm your website? Is there a chance your keyword density doesn’t matter at all? Much of the myth involved with keyword density stems from old SEO techniques that no longer work, coupled with a lack of knowledge on what works today. Some believe that keyword density is meaningless. Others believe that you need to be at a certain percentage, or ratio, of keyword phrase to total words (between 3-8%). There was a time when website pages were jam-packed with keyword phrases, and that was actually acceptable SEO — now it’s a major rule breaker, not to mention a big disappointment to anyone who attempts to read it.

The Truth about Keyword Density

So who do we believe? How do we know which SEO choices are going to help us make Panda happy so we can connect with our customers? I’ve made a list that details what I firmly believe to be good SEO practice. But first I’d like to explain how I perceive keyword density. It’s not in percentage points, but in placement points. If you put your keyword phrase(s) in the right places, and include them organically in the rest of your content, your SEO will be solid. Without further adieu, here’s the list: (1) Include your main keyword phrase in the TITLE of each page or blog post. Create a title that’s interesting, succinct and engaging. Having the keyword phrase close to the front of the title helps with SEO, but you don’t want to butcher a good title to do this. Would you rather have 1,000 people find you in Google’s search results, read your title, and say “yuck” — or have 100 people find you in search results and click through because you wow’d them with your title? (2) Create a link (also called a hyperlink) that includes your keyword phrase. This link can lead to another article you’ve written on the subject, or you can highlight an amazing article by another writer. Both Google Panda, and the writer of the article, will like this. You can create more than one link, but don’t get crazy. I recommend no more than two or three, because too many could raise a Panda flag stating you may just be placing links for the sake of receiving more hits. (3) Make sure the URL that leads to your page includes your keyword phrase. In the case of this article, it could read “google-panda-and-the-myth-of-keyword-density,” or “googlepandaandthemythofkeyworddensity.” (4) Have your keyword phrase appear at the beginning and at the end of your content. In the first sentence, if possible, and in the last sentence or paragraph, as well. (5) Use the keyword phrase in a body copy header. This will increase the relevance of the keyword phrase in the eyes of the search engines. (6) Include your keyword phrase in the title of your images. You can also include them in any alternate image text, including image captions. (7) Place your keyword phrase (or keyword phrases) in tags and meta-tags. Always make sure that your keyword phrases appear in the actual body copy of your web page or blog post. Having them in your tags or meta-tags won’t help unless they’re referencing copy that exists on the page. Some SEO writers recommend making sure your keyword phrase appears in bold, italics, and that it’s underlined at least once respectively. They also state the importance of including the phrase in <h1> <h2> and <h3> tags. My concern is that repeating the same keyword phrase so many times could easily be perceived as spam by Panda. If you’ve written a 1,200 word article it might be just fine. If you’ve written a 200 word article your keyword density could easily be too high. As Google Panda evolves, one thing will remain the same: it’s always best to keep your content relevant, original and well written. This is the foundation. Without a solid foundation, SEO will not work for you because you’re not giving people what they want. For more info on Google Panda, keyword density and many other SEO related topics, visit SEOMOZ. Related Links: - Is Your Website Fresh Enough for Google Panda - Google Panda Do's and Don'ts: Is Your Website Optimized Correctly? - Google Panda and the Black Hole Effect Business Blogs blog