Keyword density is defined as, “The percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page.” For years, this was considered one of the most important factors for where pages ended up ranking in search engines.
This gave rise to the notorious practice of “keyword stuffing” where individuals would include a keyword phrase an ungodly number of times with the aim of manipulating search engines and ranking highly. But it’s a very different story these days, and things have changed dramatically.
The question is, how important is keyword density in 2018?
What the Data Says
To gain an objective standpoint, I find that it’s usually best to turn to some quantifiable data. One particular study that puts things into perspective is a recent one from SEMrush that found, “18 percent of domains ranking for high volume keywords don’t have the keyword in the body.”
This tells us that nearly one in five pages ranks for a keyword without including it whatsoever. So by this number, it’s clear that keyword density is nowhere near as important as it used to be. As long as the content is high quality, it’s possible to achieve a favorable position while disregarding keyword density altogether.
But at the same time, the fact that 82 percent of of domains ranking for high volume keywords do have the keyword in the body tells us that keyword density certainly still has some level of importance.
Placement is Critical
After some extensive research, I can say with relative certainty that it’s more important where you place your keywords rather than how many times you use them. In the past, it was more about using a keyword phrase frequently and spreading it evenly through your content.
But most experts will agree that in 2018, it’s all about keyword placement. More specifically, you’ll want to place your keywords in:
- The title
- H1 and H2 tags
- First paragraph
- Meta description
This appears to be of more significance.
Don’t Worry About Exact Match
You should also know that exact match keywords are a thing of the past. Ever since Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013, latent semantic indexing (LSI) has been a critical component of SEO. This simply means that Google examines content as a whole to decipher the underlying meaning rather than strictly looking at one specific keyword phrase.
Therefore, you’ll want to use multiple variations of a keyword, which you can learn more about here.
The Bottom Line
The main thing you need to know is that keyword density isn’t all that important in 2018. You simply can’t manipulate Google by using the same keyword several times throughout your content. SEO just doesn’t work like that anymore.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should stop doing keyword research. This is still important for helping search engines understand the context of your content and can help you outrank your competitors.
What’s more important is strategically inserting your keyword in the right places such as the title, header tags, etc. and writing with LSI in mind.
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