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Keyword Density


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8 replies to this topic

#1 Spicoli

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 07:54 AM

How much of a role does straight-up KEYWORD DENSITY play in search engine rankings anymore?

When my company first formalized its SEO strategies back in January of 2002, it appeared that steady repetition of two or three targeted keyphrases throughout a page would rocket us to the top of Google's rankings for those terms. Since then, it seems that inbound links have grown much greater influence. Loading page content with high keyword density is feeling more and more like an exercise in futility that interferes with natural copy flow.

I realize that the marketplace has become increasingly more competitive -- (and will continue to do so) -- and that this may account for a significant portion of the slide in certain markets. I also understand Google's reasons for assigning weight to inbound links, because it assumes that each link essentially vouches for the site's authority on a particular subject.

But has the formula for Google's rankings shifted away from keyword density at all in recent months? Should I reduce the repetition of keyphrases on our web pages to enhance the flow of the copy, or is density still just as important as it ever was?

The biggest hurdle that my company faces when optimizing pages is the nature of consumer keyword searches in our industry: travel. Because users tend to search for hotel accommodations by geographic market (i.e., "Tampa hotel," "Tampa accommodations," "Tampa lodging," "Tampa Bay hotel," "Tampa Florida hotel," etc.) -- all of our most targeted keyphrases contain the name of the city in which the property is located, which can make for some VERY clunky copy.

My strategy as a copywriter has always been to drop the keywords into the copy as many times as possible without making it look too obvious, by burying them in paragraphs of gentle prose. I average about three keyphrases every five sentences. I've justified the mention of our city's name at that level of frequency by explaining that every mention helps our rankings. Is this an accurate statement? Judging by the sites that rank in the top five for many of our targeted keyphrases, it appears that one or two mentions PER PAGE is enough for search engines to recognize them as relevant to a particular search term; the rest is based on inbound links. Am I just bitter and frustrated -- or should I get with the times?

Thanks. ;)

#2 Mel

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 09:12 AM

Hi Spicoli
I don't think that Googles algorithm has gone away from keyword density, but there are many other items that are becoming increasingly important. My rule of thumb is to put keyphrases in as often as you can without it seeming spammy if you read the page out loud. I find that using headers is a great help to page density and it still can read well.

Looking at only on page text content proximity and density both play a role, but so do H tags, bolded, colored or large text and even underlined text.

In a competitive industry such as yours the anchor text of incoming links can play a large role as of course the links themselves.

In summary you still need a balanced approach to SEO (you do have to have the words on the page) since there are 100 other factors, all of which add their bit to the pages ultimate ranking.

#3 Jill

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 10:17 AM

My strategy as a copywriter has always been to drop the keywords into the copy as many times as possible without making it look too obvious, by burying them in paragraphs of gentle prose. I average about three keyphrases every five sentences. I've justified the mention of our city's name at that level of frequency by explaining that every mention helps our rankings. Is this an accurate statement? Judging by the sites that rank in the top five for many of our targeted keyphrases, it appears that one or two mentions PER PAGE is enough for search engines to recognize them as relevant to a particular search term; the rest is based on inbound links. Am I just bitter and frustrated -- or should I get with the times?


Sounds like you've gone overboard. The very fact that you're questioning if you've used the phrases too many times, means you have. You mentioned that the copy doesn't sound good any more because of too many instances. Since your only justification for putting them in so many times is for the search engines, you've gone overboard.

Having your keywords within your copy has always and will always be important. But having them in the copy just for the search engines, will always hurt your rankings.

Surprisingly enough, at least with Google, it seems to be able to tell the difference between good usage of keyword phrases, and over usage. There are no set numbers, but if it sounds dumb, it is dumb. You'll lose rankings and you'll lose sales.

But nothing has changed. Links have always been important, and so have keyword on the page.

Jill

#4 Spicoli

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 02:18 PM

Thanks for the words of wisdom, Mel and Jill. I realize it's tough to give specific advice when the standards of this art form / science are so subjective.

But just as a follow-up ... how do you handle keyphrases that are NOT conversational?

(Take, for instance, the keyword "San Francisco wedding." As you suggested, Mel, the headers offer an easy insertion point. Then I can begin the copy by asserting that our property "offers a picturesque setting for San Francisco weddings, receptions, and other formal events." And I can close by inviting them to "experience the premier San Francisco wedding facilities...." Is that enough? It's difficult to make "San Francisco wedding" sound natural, in any context. I mean, really: Who says that? :cheers: )

You've faced this problem before, haven't you?

#5 Jill

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Posted 04 August 2003 - 05:57 PM

Really? You think that would be a difficult keyword phrase to use in your copy if that's what your site was about? Seems easy enough to me.

Off the top of my head, I'm thinking:

"Planning a San Francisco wedding?"
"Looking for a San Francisco wedding planner?"

Etc., etc., Not sure what exactly your site does with these San Fran weddding, but I'm sure there are millions of ways to use the phrase.

Have you purchased my Nitty-gritty report yet? :lol:

Jill

#6 Spicoli

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 07:49 AM

Easy on the sarcasm there, killer. :rofl: I was just looking for a little advice.

#7 Drew-z

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 08:46 AM

Surprisingly enough, at least with Google, it seems to be able to tell the difference between good usage of keyword phrases, and over usage. There are no set numbers, but if it sounds dumb, it is dumb. You'll lose rankings and you'll lose sales.

Google is automated, so how can there NOT be set numbers for good usage of keywords and bad?

For example, isn't it plausible there is an optimal keyword density to word count ratio.

Isn't your "feel" for proper usage and overusage really just highly correlated with a quantitative variable in the G algo?

#8 Jill

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 08:49 AM

Easy on the sarcasm there, killer.  :rofl:  I was just looking for a little advice.

Are you talking to me? There was no sarcasm in my post. Sorry if it sounded as if there was. I was totally serious.

Jill

#9 Jill

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Posted 05 August 2003 - 09:15 AM

For example, isn't it plausible there is an optimal keyword density to word count ratio.


Sure, it's definitely plausible, and fairly probable. But that could change from day to day, or week to week.

Using common sense instead of numbers, puts you at just the right "avg." density needed which will keep you good regardless of their little day-to-day changes.

Not to mention that there are all the other factors that work in conjunction with keyword density. For instance, perhaps there's a rule that if you have 10 links from a PR7 page you only need a keyword density of 1% or whatever. But if you have only 1 link from a PR3 page, you need a keyword density of 16% or whatever.

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if they do that sort of thing. Making there be no optimal keyword density percentage!

:rofl:

Jill




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