Why Should I Care?
In the early days of search engines, keywords were the name of the game. Quickly, webmaster’s figured out that by adding more words to their pages they could influence their ranking in search results. Search engines then had to adjust their algorithms to provide quality results and, “keyword stuffing”, became a crime in the eyes of the search engines. This type of back and forth battle went on for many years and Google and other search engines are getting better at distinguishing legitimate content from spammy content.
Keywords however, are still at the heart of how search engines determine what a webpage is about. Imagine reading an article written in another language that you are unfamiliar with but is written in formatting you are familiar with. In the big bold title on top you see the word “uhuru” and you notice the word exists throughout the article, in the headings, in the paragraph and in quotes. It’s logical to assume that the article is about “uhuru”, even though you don’t speak the language. This is what search engines are doing, using clues to determine what your content is about.
Are you giving the search engine spiders enough clues? The way you scan a page is similar to the way a search spider scans a page. The frequency and prominence of a keyword has an impact on what the search engine believes the article to be about. What if you are writing an article on an athlete but while making comparisons, you use a competitor’s name more frequently? The search engines will think the article is about the wrong athlete and you missed the boat because you did not use your keyword frequently enough in your article.
Caution: How Much Is Too Much?
Search engines will penalize your site if you are deemed to be “keyword stuffing”. This was a common practice in the early years of the internet, at the bottom of a page you would see a giant block of text that said, Keywords:, and was followed by a repetitive list of keywords that had nothing to do with the actual content of the page. Some would even put in a big block of keywords and style it to be invisible to the human eye – but not Google’s.
The idea is to find a balance. Use your keyword often enough that it is clear to the search engine what your article is about, but not so much that you are stuffing keywords.
To find out if you are using a keyword too often simply read your article out loud. If you sound awkward and your text does not flow well you may be using your keywords too much. Search engine algorithms are becoming very advanced and are calculating things like verbs, nouns, pronouns, etc to determine if the text is actual writing or auto-generated text. Write your content for human consumption and the search engines will not punish you.
How Do I Check My Keyword Density?
There are many free tools to do this online. One such tool is wordcounter.net. To use their simple site you simply copy your text and paste it into their site. They then give you a break down of how many words are in your text, how many characters, sentences, paragraphs and average sentence length. They also provide a nice keyword density list, showing you the top 10 words used in your article.
They also have a mobile app which is $0.99 and is handy if you are blogging on the go. You can also write directly in the app and utilize dictation if your phone supports it.
Here is a breakdown of this post:
Notice that Keyword and Keywords are listed separately and that this sentence did not exist when the screenshot was taken.
Remember that search engine optimization is an ever changing art form and includes many aspects beyond the frequency of keywords. Be sure to check out some of our other posts on SEO.