Is Keyword Density Dead? What Marketers Need to Know

If you work in SEO, digital marketing or copywriting, you've probably been hearing the cry: "Keyword density is dead!"

That's a big statement, though!

Plus, keyword density has been a major factor in SEO for years, so how could it just die?

If you're wondering what the truth about keyword density is, you're not alone. Here's your guide to when keywords matter, when they don't and how best to use them in your content.

What Is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is the number of keywords or phrases present in content. Since keywords first started being a ranking factor, back in the 1990s, marketers have been using this formula to figure out the KW density of their content:

Keyword Density = Keyword Occurrences / Total Word Count X 100

When Keywords Matter

Don't let the hype confuse you, keyword density has changed, but it's far from dead.

Since Google released its Hummingbird update in 2013, the search engine looks at keywords differently. While keywords used to be one of the primary ranking factors for any website, they're less important today than they once were.

Today, Google looks at a few things when it comes to keywords:

  • Authority. It doesn't matter that you can stuff keywords into text -- Google wants to see how authoritative that text is. The search engine takes quality, expert writing, and reader response into account here.
  • Placement. Where are your keywords showing up? Are they relevant and helpful to readers? Are they boosting your SEO through your meta descriptions and alt text?
  • Relevance. Thanks to the rise of semantic search, Google and other search engines look at "topics rather than terms." In other words, the sites that rank are conversational, helpful and relevant to users, instead of being obsessed with KW density.

Finding the Best Keywords for Your Content

To figure out which keywords you should be targeting, you'll need to use a tool to conduct some basic keyword research. Here are a few industry favorites:

Once you've identified keywords to target, include them throughout your content, in your meta tags, and in your alt text.

When Keywords Don't Matter

There are two major sins in the world of keywords: targeting high-volume, broad keywords you'll never rank for ("shoes" rather than "green suede boots") and stuffing content with keywords without considering to relevance and quality.

Search engines have gotten smarter, and they don't take kindly to sites that do the latter. If you're going to be successful with keywords in the modern world, it's all about proper placement and natural inclusion -- no matter what type of content you're producing.

Need help with your company’s SEO and key word strategies? We can help. Send us a note at or call us at 480-305-2017 for more information.

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