Writing to a Certain Keyword Density

Dear Jill,

I find your website very useful but haven't found the exact answer to my query. Perhaps you could point me to it if it's there.

I am rewriting the text of a website for a client (I am an editor not an SEO person). He has had an SEO report done by someone else who has told him to aim for a keyword density of 6 to 12 percent on each page, with each page focusing on different keywords.

To me that seems unrealistic if I'm going to write sensible and readable copy. For a 300-word page that would be at least 18 instances of each keyword/phrase. I would rather have about 4 or 5 repeats at most.

Is my client being misled about what is needed in terms of keywords to rank well, or should I just try to fit them all in? I am worried that this might actually work against him with the search engines.

I know you can't answer all emails personally, but this might be of interest to others (especially SEO rookies like me).

Thanks and kind regards


Jill's Response

Hi Margaret,

In short, yes, your client is off the mark. There is absolutely no perfect keyword density you should be writing to. Just write copy that reads well to humans while also keeping the keyword phrases in mind. Unfortunately, there's some very expensive (and some not so expensive) software and courses out there that convince people that there's some magical number of times to use keyword phrases within copy in order to achieve high rankings. There isn't now, nor has there ever been, anything of the sort. Any software program or presenter at a conference or white paper that tells you otherwise is simply wrong.

If it weren't so prevalent, and there weren't so many people paying good money for training that teaches crazy things like this, it would actually be pretty funny. The thought of writing copy with a particular keyword density percentage in mind is ludicrous on so many levels.

For one thing, it doesn't work! There is no magical density that will ensure high rankings. If you have a lot of time on your hands, run the top pages through any of those stupid software programs that check that sort of thing and you'll see for yourself that they're all using completely different percentages of keywords/content. For another thing, what makes anyone think that taking the average keyword density of the top pages and using that number on your page is going to make yours rank highly? It just doesn't even make sense!

If you are a copywriter, and you write for SEO companies or even dabble with SEO on the side, please, please, please, just say no to any client that comes to you and tells you to write anything with a given keyword density in mind. I don't care if it's a range or an exact amount. You should just not do it. It's wrong, it's stupid, and it will ruin the readability of your client's site. If all that isn't convincing to you, just remember that it doesn't work anyway.

Write great, professional marketing copy while keeping your keyword phrases in mind. If they stick out like a sore thumb, all you've done is written spammy, keyword-stuffed content, and who wants their company associated with that? The easiest way to do this is to never optimize for only 1 keyword phrase, but instead choose a handful of related phrases. It's darn near impossible to write decent copy if you're attempting to focus on one keyword phrase.

Jill Whalen of High RankingsR is an internationally recognized search engine optimization consultant and host of the free weekly High RankingsR Advisor search engine marketing newsletter http://www.highrankings.com/advisor. Jill's handbook, "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" http://www.highrankings.com/seo-writing.htm teaches business owners how and where to place relevant keyword phrases on their Web sites so that they make sense to users and gain high rankings in the major search engines.

Jill specializes in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, site analysis reports, SEM seminars and is the co-founder of the search marketing and website design company, Search Creative, LLC http://www.searchcreative.com/

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