Re-Evaluating Keyword Density for On-Page SEO





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June 3, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Re-Evaluating Keyword Density for On-Page SEO

Re-Evaluating Keyword Density for On-Page SEO

For many years, the sacred grail of SEO content was “keyword density.” There were countless theories and formulas floating around on the optimal keyword density, and writers were expected to stuff those keywords in like a Thanksgiving turkey, no matter how awkwardly they read.

But as many industry experts have proclaimed, keyword density is now officially dead. Is that true? Let’s dive in and re-evaluate this age-old SEO practice.

The Rise and Fall of Keyword Density

Back in the good old days of pre-2012 Google, keyword density was the be-all and end-all of SEO content. The formula was simple – take the number of times a keyword appeared in a piece of content, divide it by the total word count, and multiply by 100 to get a percentage. For example, 10 keywords in a 500-word article would equal a 2% keyword density.

This metric was widely believed to be the “right” way to do SEO content. As an old-school SEO writer myself, I remember the agonizing days of keyword stuffing, desperately trying to hit those elusive density targets no matter how unnatural it made the content read.

But times have changed. According to Moz, companies that focus too much on attaining a certain keyword density often end up ruining their content, destroying credibility, annoying readers, and earning themselves a one-way ticket to the dreaded “back” click. Yikes, that’s some pretty strong language.

The reason? Well, it stands to reason that keyword density may be one of the great SEO myths of our time. While it was meant to create more readable documents, more often than not it simply destroys legibility and readability, leading to low conversion rates and a poor user experience.

Hummingbird and the End of Keyword Density

So why were we so obsessed with keyword density in the first place? Many people were taught that keyword density is how search engines determine the relevance of a given page. But as Moz points out, if search engines focused solely on keyword density to rank pages, all content creators would need to do is repeat the keyword phrase ad nauseam to rank well on Google. And trust me, the search giant is not that gullible.

In fact, it’s likely that Google evolved beyond that way back in the late 90s. But the real nail in the keyword density coffin came with the 2013 Hummingbird update. This allowed Google to process search results based on semantic search, evaluating pages based on their ability to match user intent rather than relying on Boolean measurements like keyword density.

As soon as Hummingbird came out, marketers began to re-evaluate their relationship with keyword density, and the overwhelming answer was a resounding “no, it doesn’t matter as much as we thought.”

The New Rules of Keywords

So if keyword density is dead, what does that mean for keywords in general? Well, the good news is that keywords are still important – they just need to be used in a more natural, reader-friendly way.

The key is to focus on using keywords to determine user intent, not just stuffing them in willy-nilly. It’s all about understanding the concepts and vocabulary that search engines associate with a topic, and using that to create strong, valuable, and interesting content.

Gone are the days of formulaic keyword density targets. Instead, the name of the game is providing a unique user experience that satisfies searcher intent. Many SEO experts recommend aiming for a keyword density of around 1-2% – not too little, not too much.

And don’t forget about keyword variants – similar but not identical terms that can help boost your relevance without crossing the line into keyword stuffing territory. Tools like the “searches related to” section on Google can be a great way to identify these helpful variants.

The Path Forward for On-Page SEO

So there you have it – keyword density, the once-mighty SEO metric, has been consigned to the digital dustbin. But that doesn’t mean keywords are irrelevant. Far from it!

The key is to shift your mindset from rigid formulas to a more holistic, user-centric approach. Focus on creating genuinely valuable, engaging content that satisfies searcher intent, and let the keywords flow naturally. Incorporate helpful variants, monitor your density, and keep an eye on evolving best practices.

Oh, and one more thing – don’t forget to check out, the premier SEO agency in Manchester, UK, for all your on-page optimization needs. Happy writing!

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