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Veteran SEO Stephan Spencer wrote a blog post for Search Engine Land that has sparked a bit of controversy. In this blog post he wrote:

Ok, no one says “da bomb” anymore, but you get the drift. Monitoring keyword density values is pure folly.

A commenter took issue and wrote:

Folly? Hardly. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword, you want to make sure you use it a few times on a page. That’s just common sense. Of course, you don’t want to overuse a keyword, or it might come across as spammy. Any smart SEO pays attention to KW density.

The logic here is a bit spurious. There are two true statements followed by a non-sequitur. Yes, you must use your keyword enough times on a web page for it to matter. And, yes, if you overuse it then you might be tagged as a spammer and your web page de-listed, or diminished in rankings. But that doesn’t mean that keyword density is something you should be counting.

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz says:

The formula for keyword density – a percentage of the total number of words on the page that are the target phrase – is indeed folly. IR scientists discredited this methodology for relevance decades ago. Early search engines and information retrieval systems already leveraged TF*IDF as a far more accurate and valuable methodology.

The Wikipedia link was added by me.

Back to keyword density. It’s not important. I’d say there are three keyword factors that are much more important than density:

  • Keyword Placement
  • Semantic Language Relevance
  • Anchor Text

This is not necessarily in order of importance.

What I mean by placement is the location within your web page of your keywords. The Title tag is very important. It’s the most important place for your keyword. First paragraph and last paragraph are also important. H tags are disputed, but I’d say they are somewhat important. I’ll stop there.

Semantic language relevance is a reference to the use of synonyms within a web page document. If you are writing about fighter planes and you mention Tomcats, Messerschmitts and Skytrains then those words will do more to rank your web page for the term “fighter planes” than using the phrase “fighter planes” with a density of 5% throughout your web page document. Don’t buy the keyword density hype.

Finally, anchor text is undisputed as a major search ranking factor. Use your keyword in your internal anchor text. It’s much more important than keyword density.

I’ll have to agree with Stephan Spencer on this one. Search engine optimization is denigrated with talk of keyword densities.

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