My first 2018 dumb SEO question: does keyword density still matter? As in, if a post is ranking not too bad and I add in a couple keywords in good places, will it improve the ranking position? Also, I would love to learn more about how Google actually deals with Keywords. Thanks!
Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.
Gareth Daine: Nope, keyword density does not matter. But using keywords strategically, particularly synonyms and related terms can help with topical relevance and in turn ranking. Good on page is important.
Roger Montti: Synonyms? It`s not about applying SEO 1.0 style keyword repetition by adding in all the synonyms. The point about synonyms is that you are free to write your content as you see fit and that Google will understand it.
Roger Montti: I wrote an article about this complete with citations to Googler statements and patents . That way you know it`s not JUST my opinion, but it`s opinion with solid citations to back them up.
Here`s an excerpt:
"Should You Use Keyword Synonyms?
Synonyms (and LSI) were initially used as a way to combat keyword spamming. Although Google was never a keyword based search engine, it was not entirely immune to keyword spamming, more formally known in scientific circles as Term Spamming. It’s called Term Spamming because this kind of spam focuses on search query terms, hence, search query Term Spamming.
With the advent of the Hummingbird update and the increased ability for natural language processing (an attempt to understand language beyond keyword relevance), the search marketing industry responded by recommending the use of synonyms in order to rank better.
The thinking goes that in order to be topically relevant for a phrase that you would have to salt your web page with synonyms. But this strategy is a “back of the napkin” solution to a highly complex problem. The advice to use synonyms in a web page is literally a joke: Did you hear the one about the SEO who walked into a bar, a speakeasy, a dive, a gin joint?
Clearly, using synonyms is a simplistic approach to being topically relevant. "
Ammon Johns: Not only does it not *still* matter, it never did.
There`s a lot of people who simply were not around in the 90s when the term Keyword Density was in use, and so many misunderstood it.
Keyword Density was never a term of the search engines but simply one of a set of three loose metrics that SEOs could use to talk about how they were using keywords, without having to actually quote the text. KWD was never, ever useful even to SEOs as a stand alone metric, and was never used at all by any search engine.
Keyword density was a way to talk about the percentage of a text that was keywords, but it makes no sense alone. If I have a page which contains nothing but my keyword phrase then it has a density of 100%. If I had a page that had nothing but 50 repetitions of my keyword phrase, that too would have a density of 100%, but it`s not exactly rocket science to see those things are very different despite having that one metric be the same.
One of the other metrics that had to be used alongside density to describe how one had used the words, without having to give away to potential rivals in the forum what words they were, was Keyword Prominence. If the very first words in a text were the keyword phrase then that`s 100% prominence. If the phrase didn`t appear until the second paragraph then that`s a lower prominence, even if the words turned out to be used, in total, the exact same number of times (and so had the same density score).
The final of the three was Keyword count, and when used in conjunction with density and prominence, could give a very clear indication of how keywords were being used, without spilling the beans on precisely what the keywords were.
But this was simply a way for SEOs to swap notes and ideas, never ever a thing SEs used.
Michael Stricker: If you don’t think Keyword Density counts, then you never had to clean up an Over-Optimization penalty. The only way it counts is as a negative, a stroke against the page, if Keyword-stuffed, or against the domain, if prevalent. Ever see a site that only ranks for its domain name?
Dido Grigorov: No! It doesn’t play any role and as Ammon Johns said it has never played it! Never think about keyword or a phrase repetitions in a text. Spend more time to research the common phrases, to predict the intention properly and the most important topics and subtopics. Always think about an improvement of the content on the common top ten results for your semantic core. That’s way more important :)
Ammon Johns: Quick lesson for everyone that is always fun and informative: Search on Google for "click here".
The SERPs you`ll get today are very different to what they were a few years ago, but still informative. These days you`ll mainly get results that include the words on the page somewhere, but you should still be able to find quite a few very high authority sites, such as .gov ones, where the words don`t appear in the page at all - so a KWD of zero.
The old results were even more fun, as the top sites for that search used to be the Flash download page, the Microsoft Windows Drivers page, and quite a few others that didn`t use the words, but obviously just had so many backlinks to them using that text ...
The fact that you will probably still see that happening with certain very trusted sites, such as local and national government shows you that while anchor text exact match isn`t what it once was, when there are enough authority or trust factors in play, that still becomes the top signal.
Jody Nesbitt: common sense needs to prevail always, dont keyword stuff
Jenny Halasz: My favorite example of content length and keyword density is this site: http://www.isitchristmas.com
Jenny Halasz: And the answer is “it depends”. Anyone who says otherwise is selling snake oil.
Dan Thies: Keyword Density has never mattered and will never matter ever in the future.
Jeff Ferguson: I question if it ever did, but definitely not now.
Patty Mantaloons: Yes, it "matters" in that ranking for a competitive term would be unlikely with 0% density. Conversely, unnaturally repeating KWs could signal spam/low quality. Go with what`s naturally there with well written content for humans, and then, if need be, strategically tweak, so long as your content isn`t tainted or unnatural. It`s a slippery slope though - time is often better spent improving UX.