SEO Best Practices: For Keyword Density, Less is More

The rules for keyword use are changing as Google and other search engines develop more sophisticated algorithms for page rankings.

It used to be that you’d use as many of your keywords as possible, high on the page and throughout your homepage, especially, as well as in hidden meta-tags (no longer relevant), title tags, headings and subheads. “Black hat” webspammers would pack long strings of keywords in the background of a page, unseen by the human eye but detected by search engines, and inject keyword links out of context.

Keyword Stuffing Can Hurt Your Rankings
But now so-called keyword stuffing can actually lower your rankings. Google, in particular, continues to refine their search algorithms to punish SEO tricksters and reward “white hat” developers who create excellent, relevant content for their websites.

Most significantly, Google now recognizes synonyms for search terms relevant to your copy and rewards your for keyword phrases that are woven naturally into content.

Say, for example, you’re a CPA offering small business accounting services and tax preparation. You do basic keyword research and discover that both of those phrases have robust search. But the phrase “small business accounting services” is a mouthful and it doesn’t feel natural as you write, knowing you want your text to sound conversational and client-centered.

Rest assured that Google will recognize a phrase like “accounting services for small businesses” to be the equivalent of the precise keyword match. You could even use a string of phrases such as “accounting services, including tax preparation, for small businesses” and not damage your search optimization.

Use Keywords Naturally, as in a Real Conversation
The key is to keep your content readable, relevant and informative. You need to identify your most important keyword phrases and use them intelligently throughout your website, as you would in a conversation. More and more, Google can read your site and understand it as a human would. Scary but amazing!

Bottom line: Don’t stuff keywords. Include them in title tags, headlines and subheads, but keep them in context to boost search optimization. You’re writing for your ideal client, first and foremost. Keep it clean, clear and conversational. Less really is more.

Here’s an excellent interview with Google SEO guru Matt Cutts by Karon Thackston, from her Marketing Words Copywriting Blog, that explains more: Matt Cutts Reveals Google’s Updated Copywriting Strategy.

And here’s more detail from Cutts himself: Another step to reward high-quality sites.

Marketing consultant Evelyn Herwitz loves to help you tell a great story about your great work. She specializes in search-optimized web content that positions you as an approachable expert in your field and helps you grow your business. Contact Evelyn for a free half-hour consult for new clients.

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