If you had been looking at the best SEO practices several years ago, keyword stuffing was, well, key. Pad out your content with brand, product and service names and you could look forward to high search rankings.
However, as a result of the introduction of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm in 2013, and the rise of semantic search, which understands the user’s intent and the context of search terms, keyword density is now not only dead, but should be avoided at all costs.
A formula was used by marketers to calculate keyword density, who believed by putting the right number of keywords into a piece of content it would get a better position on search engine results pages. SEO experts believed that a keyword density of between three and five per cent was ideal.
But around the same time as it released Hummingbird, Google realised keyword density and links were not a reliable indicator of quality content, and that how closely content matched user intent was. This resulted in the rise to prominence of semantic search and the waning of keyword density’s importance.
Keywords still have an important role to play as they help to identify user intent, around which content that caters to it can be created, but marketers must use them as they are intended to be used in modern search, focusing less on occurrence and more on how they can be used to create content that better caters to readers needs.
The first step to using keywords in modern search is to choose user experience over keyword density. Stuffing articles with keywords results in clunky, spammy pieces. If written content does not flow, cut the keywords in favour of provide a better reader experience.
The second is to give keywords meaning; semantic search means the structure of a sentence containing a keyword and the context given to it hold more weight than the keyword itself.
Finally, natural synonyms should be used for keywords wherever possible, allowing you to write content that is rich and readable and provides value to readers.
Keyword density is dead, but should not be missed very much. Keywords are a tool for creating enduring, effective content that is beneficial to readers, but should not be the core focus of an SEO strategy.