Remember when we used to call up the Yellow Pages and ask for a business’s phone number?
Yeh, neither do we. (And we’re terrifically grateful that those days are long gone.)
The fact is, search engines are our go-to solution for any information we need today, and they do a darn fine job of it too.
Here’s the thing though, there are over 8 billion websites out there and increasing daily. This means that ranking for a specific keyword is going to be a tough ask. Being found at all can be a challenge in this hectically busy online space.
For this very reason, smart companies employ the services of marketing professionals (that’s us) to create SEO-friendly content to get found. As we are acutely aware, though, the SEO-scape is a fluid and fickle friend.
Therefore, we need to revisit the murky waters of keyword density vs keyword term frequency to make sure we’re still on track.
Care to join us?
What Is Keyword Term Frequency?
Keyword term frequency refers to the number of times your chosen keyword appears on a page or in any piece of content. This makes perfect sense, but what about keyword density? How does this fit into the SEO equation?
Keyword Density vs Keyword Term Frequency
You’ll be happy to know that the answer to the problem of keyword density vs keyword term frequency is a simple one – they’re essentially the same thing.
The difference lies in how they are expressed. Keyword frequency tells us how many times a word appears on a page, but keyword density will give us this number as a percentage.
Now that we have that squared away, we can all go home.
Actually no. There are a few things we need to chat about regarding keyword density/ frequency.
Does Keyword Density Still Matter?
Let’s back up a little and make sure we’re all on the same page here.
The issue of keyword density has been an integral element in SEO for many moons. Having an article written around a particular topic that is relevant to your business and for which you want to be found means featuring those keywords or phrases.
Back in the day, however, SEO managers would choose keywords and throw as many as possible into a piece of content. The more, the better, right? Yes, that used to work and is affectionately known as keyword stuffing.
This was until the Google brains cottoned onto this and said, “I think not.” So, their algorithms evolved to determine whether a company was trying to get one over on them with poorly written content tied together with a bunch of nonsensical “keywords.” This only served to create largely irrelevant and hard-to-read content which search engines, universally, aren’t keen on.
Enter keyword density.
What Is the Keyword Density Formula?
Here’s where we really unpack the difference between keyword density vs keyword term frequency.
As we’ve come to learn, there is no predefined correct keyword density. Not from the search engines anyway, who seem to like to keep us guessing. Best practice, however, advises that we aim for a keyword density of between 1 – 2%.
Anything over 2% is heading into keyword stuffing territory for which we are likely to be hauled out of our beds and shot at dawn. No, not really. But our website may well be penalised for trying to game the system.
So, once you’re done crafting that delightfully poetic and SEO-friendly content, you would want to apply this formula:
Keyword Density = 100 x Total number of keywords ÷ Total words in the article
Therefore, a 1200-word article with a keyword frequency of 10 will have a keyword density of 0.83%.
What About Keyword Variants?
Keyword variants come into play when there are other words available that mean the same thing.
For example, the terms cell phone and mobile phone mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. However, because their meanings are identical, you want to tread cautiously, overuse them, and space them out in your content.
Keyword Density for Long-Tail Keywords
The question that poses itself next is, how does this apply to long-tail keywords? Well, when you consider that long-tail keywords serve the same purpose as their shorter-tailed counterparts, the answer becomes clear.
Whatever keyword or phrase you are targeting will be subject to the same keyword density rules: keep it between 1 – 2%.
When using long-tail keywords, we have to be extra careful to ensure that the content sounds natural and remains easy to read. It’s one thing using a keyword like “motor oil”, but quite another to use the term “adding motor oil to your corvette” naturally in a sentence. A few times.
While we need to consider the search engines’ needs and look carefully at our keyword density vs key term frequency, ultimately, we’re writing for humans.
Focus on User Experience
While it’s important to know these rules and regs and how best to craft your copy, one thing remains true: you need to focus on creating a good user experience.
The right keywords are important, but they only make up a part of the SEO puzzle.
Other factors that search engines consider when weighing up the value of your page is:
- How long do users stay on your page? This indicates the value and interest of your content.
- How many sites link back to your content? This shows authority and relevance.
- Is your content free from spelling and grammatical errors? These can be distracting for a reader.
- Is your content repetitive or duplicated from other parts of your site? Boring!
An engaged user will stay online, read your content, and hopefully share your gems with others. That is a signal for great content.
Keyword Frequency and Contextual Terms
Not that we want to muddy the waters at this point, but we feel that it’s worth mentioning that there is more to know about the role of keywords in a successful SEO strategy. The natural language processing power of Google offers good marketers with great content a distinct leg-up in this arena. This comes in the form of contextual terms.
What Are Contextual Terms?
Contextual terms (some SEOs call this Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI, but according to the father of Semantic SEO, Bill Slawski, this term is incorrect) is a good copywriter’s secret weapon.
Simply put, contextual terms allow the Google bots to contextualise content based on the words around the keyword.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s say that you plug in a search term for painting. Straight away Google will pull up results for painting contractors, artist supplies, and the history of art. This may or may not be what you want, but with no context, the search engines are doing the best they can.
Add in the word nails, and suddenly the search engines are putting up blogs about nail art and nail polish, with no paint roller suppliers in sight.
Contextual Terms in SEO
Circling back to the topic of keyword density and avoiding the quagmire of keyword stuffing, here’s how contextual terms give your content context.
If you’re blogging about luxury cars, for example, you can use similar or related terms to help categorise your information, such as:
- Personal driver
These words and phrases take your article out of the realm of “Billy Bob Can Fixxit” and transports you effortlessly into the world of Bentleys and chauffeur-driven luxury.
Certainly, you will use the term luxury cars, but your content will be easier to consume and more relevant to the right audience with the addition of these surrounding phrases.
That’s the beauty of contextual terms.
In the keyword density vs keyword term frequency debate, we can see that there can very easily be too much of a good thing and that we should keep our keyword density below the 2% mark.
We can also see how important it is to use well-crafted content that meets the reader’s needs naturally and pleasingly while still keeping those pesky Google bots happy.
It’s a fact that digital marketing is more competitive now than ever, and we need to know that the time and money we spend on content, social media, and ads are going to pay dividends. We need to choose carefully who is going to represent us online, and whether or not they know their stuff.
We’d like to invite you to give us a call and we can display our in-depth knowledge of the changing face of SEO.
Contact us here and let’s chat.