Chapter 4: about specific keyword density ranges
With the decline of meta-tags, keyword density ranges have become very important. They’ve also become very controversial. Here’s the thing: you want a high enough keyword density — at least 7%--that your keywords rank highly in the bigger search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, DogPile, and HotBot.
But, as we discussed, you don’t want your keyword densities so high that they turn your content into over-hyped gobbledygook, nor do you want to raise a red flag when the spiders come crawling over your content. If your keyword density is 20% or more, the search engine will most likely red-flag you for “keyword stuffing” and penalize you by moving you down in the search results.
Thus, keyword density ranges are controversial. To make things worse, different search engines have different algorithms. One of them might thing an SEO keyword density of 18% is fine, another may not.
The only way a search engine can figure out just what your page is about is to search for the keywords you use. Those keywords don't necessarily have to be right there on the page—they can be in the title and in links that will lead to the page. Having said that, though, keywords that appear on your page are certainly the most common way that search engines use to decide what your page is all about. Keyword density refers to the ratio of keywords to the total number of words on the page.
Now I want you to look again at the paragraph above. There are 95 words total, and I used the word "keywords" exactly five times. The keyword ratio for the paragraph, then, is 5 divided by 95 times 100, or about 5.26%. Easy math, correct? You bet.
But how much does that stuff matter?
Well, it’s not a matter of life and death, but it’s pretty important. You see, when a search engine compares two pages to figure out which one ought to rank higher, keyword density will factor into it—usually pretty significantly. In fact, all other factors being equal (which is pretty much impossible, but let's pretend), the page with the higher keyword density will generally rank higher.
However, simple as Keyword Density is, it can also get really complex in a hurry. Do plurals or other stemmed variations of your keyword count as keywords? Should stop words, which are those common words you see all the time like "a" or "the," be ignored when calculating density?
Should you include off-page content, like meta tags and titles, in your calculations? What about keyword frequency or keyword proximity or keyword prominence? And like I’ve said before, bear in mind that if your keyword density gets too high, search engines just might realize it and penalize your page.
But now, hold on. Even though keyword densities are getting to be a complex science with lots of complicated algorithms, you can do it!
Keyword densities really are not rocket science, so don’t fall into the trap of making things more complicated than they need to be. Go to Google and search on "keyword density." The first three pages should be ones that provide about 20 or 25 different tools for calculating KWD.
Now all you have to do is pick one that feels user-friendly to you and use it to optimize your web page, noting the results. Now try something else: run a Google search on your keyword, and run the analysis on the first ten sites. Take a good hard look at the results. From this, you should get a good idea how your page will compare with the ten top ranking pages in Google, at least in terms of keyword density.
Here’s the thing that frustrates people, though: if you go and do that with three or four different KWD tools, you will no doubt come up with different numbers, but the graph of those numbers will look very similar. Don’t worry about it, because the numbers aren’t the most important thing. You only care how they compare to each other.
Something else you'll probably discover is that keyword density is not a very good indicator of rank. The top ranking page may have a much lower density than the page at number ten, for example.
Why does this happen, when you work so hard to get your keyword density high? It happens because KWD is only one factor among many. It's important to a good ranking, but it's not the be-all and end-all of a good ranking. What you really want to know from your analysis is the range of density values that rank well. Chances are good that if your page is below that range, getting on page one to compete with the big dogs will be tough, and if you're above that range, the search engines may think you’re “keyword stuffing” and you’ll be penalized. Just remember, though, the numbers are guidelines you should know, not carved-in-stone rules that forever define your fate. Experiment!
You may hear self-proclaimed website gurus say that keyword density should always run between two and eight percent or whatever the current numbers being quoted in forums across the Internet happen to be. That’s partly true. Those numbers are probably fairly accurate for most keywords. They’re based on averages and it’s always good to stick close to an average.
But there’s a problem. Here’s how the problem goes: the most commonly used letter in English is the letter “E.” If you wrote a ten word sentence, it would be much easier to use the letter E five times in that sentence than it would be to use, say, the letter Z five times. Letters aren’t an even distribution. Neither are keyword. Big shock, huh?
Remember what I said earlier about not sounding awkward in your content? Well, the biggest thing about keyword density is that it must read well and sound very natural to a user. It’s useless to get a page one ranking if your content is very lame.
Like the letter E, some keywords are easy to use a lot of while still sounding natural. For instance, if your keyword was “grass” on a site about lawn care, it wouldn’t be hard to use “grass” a lot.
But some keywords just don’t lend themselves to being used a lot—like “quince.” (It’s a type of fruit.) Here’s the choice to be made: you can use an average range, which will work well most times, or you can spend time analyzing the top ten pages to find the best range for that particular keyword and be sure you're not trying to optimize for a Z or a quince.
Frustrated? Don’t be! It isn’t that hard. If you’re still confused, check out a competitor's page in Google's cache (which highlights the keywords for you) to get a good visual feel for density.
Another good tip is to perform a “real person sanity check” on your content. Reading your optimized content out loud several times, and try to get a natural flow that will make the copy draw users who will come back. Then take a hard look at your content. If you can substitute a keyword for a pronoun without loosing your flow, do it.
For instance, if your keyword is “hammock”, instead of a sentence saying, “I love to lie in it,” say, “I love to lie in my hammock.”
4.1 Do-it-Yourself SEO
There are a ton of free online SEO tools available on the internet. Most feature some very impressive statistics and information to help you optimize your website, analyze search engine positions, research your competitors, and lots of other things.
There are two ways you can use these free online SEO tools:
(1) If you’re new to SEO, these tools provide excellent insight on how a website is performing and ranking. Use them to highlight issues and trends with your website and provide indicators for where optimization work is necessary.
(2) If you’ve had some experience with SEO, these tools will act as a complement to the more specialized SEO tools, like WebPosition Gold or SpyderOpts. You can also use them to supplement an SEO’s internal knowledge base and experience.
Here are some choice tools for both new SEO users and more experience SEO users:
Keyword Research Tool
Use this to research appropriate words and phrases to include in your webpage's body text so that you’ll rank higher. It’s easy to use. You just enter the word or phrase you want to be found under, then the tool suggests additional words and phrases for you to consider using. You also have the option to select from a range of top search engines, e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN, Teoma, etc.
Keyword Analyser Tool
This one will read the body of the page and give you a report on what words are used and how many times they are used.
Since most engines rank sites depending on that site’s keyword density (which typically ranges between 3% and 9%), this is a really good tool to have.
Search Engine Position Checker Tool
This tool checks to see if your website appears in the first fifty results in major search engines for your designated keyword or phrase. If your URL is present, the tool outputs what position it occupies. This tool also lets you know if any other URLs from your domain appear in the search results.
Link Popularity Tool
This tool will measure the total number of links or "votes" that a search engine finds for your website. One of the best feature is that besides tabulating data, it also produces a very cool graph of the resulting data. One other nice feature is the ability to compare your website to your competitors to help you with your overall marketing strategy.
Meta Tag Generator
This automatically generates a Meta Keyword tag by reading the page you specify, removing common words from it, and picking the most used words on the page. Extra weight is given to words in a heading tag (etc.)
Search Term Suggestion Tool
This one tells you how many times a certain keyword was searched for at Overture.com. It will also show all related searches for that keyword. It’s a good thing to use to determine search frequency among related keyword phrases
Search Engine Optimization Tool
This is a tool with a lot of power. It tests the performance of a web site by analyzing a page by important criteria such as title and content. Then it ranks the page against the criteria that the top search engines use. And as if that isn’t enough, it also provides SEO advice to improve your overall ranking. The report it puts out is well laid out and easy to read.
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