Edwin is a strategic content specialist. Before joining Yoast, he spent years honing his skill at The Netherlands’ leading web design magazine.
Have you been in the SEO industry for a couple of years? Then you’ve probably noticed that keyword density (or keyphrase density) has a bad reputation. So why do we still include it in Yoast SEO’s content analysis? When used correctly, the keyword density metric can be a great way to help writers keep their content focused.
Keyword density was (and is still) misused
In the earliest days of SEO, increasing your keyword density was one of the most common tactics to boost your rankings. By frequently repeating your target keyword, you could try to convince search engines that your page was more relevant for that topic. Over time, this practice evolved into measuring the number of times your keyword occurred on the page and experimenting to find the ‘perfect’ density.
Many SEO practitioners ‘optimized’ their content to hit that perfect number. That practice resulted in millions of low-quality pages written for search engines instead of users.
It’s still surprisingly common for keyword density to be (mis)used in this way.
Used well, keyphrase density can keep you on topic
The best practice nowadays is just writing good content for your users and keeping it on topic. Sprinkle your focus keyword a few times, but you don’t need to worry about the precise placement or quantity. We definitely agree with that approach.
Your job should be to research your topic. Find out the best angle to approach it from and make the best piece of content out there. You shouldn’t have to worry about whether you’ve used the keyword enough times.
But there’s more to consider than this. Effective SEO requires that a single page be (more or less) about a single topic. A page must be focused to be a good resource for users searching for information on that topic. A guide about landscape photography shouldn’t also talk extensively about baking cakes.
Except, a good guide to landscape photography definitely should also talk about cameras, photography software, and other related topics. That could make the content more relevant and more useful. But getting that balance right, and staying on topic, can be difficult to manage.
While topicality has come a long way and Google understands language to an incredible degree, a keyphrase is still the first thing people enter into a search bar. People search with keywords and phrases, and people use those terms to evaluate the results they get presented with. Google tries to figure out the intent behind the searches to come up with the best possible result.
For this, Google doesn’t simply match the entered keyphrase with a page that matches this phrase best. They look at many other factors to determine if the pages it found should be presented to the searcher as being the best one for their query. One of those is the topicality of the page, of course, and the quality of the content found. Writing an awesome piece of content that 100% covers the topic is essential.
Keyphrase density can be an excellent tool for understanding how “on topic” your content is.
For writers and editors, keyword density is an insightful metric
Yoast SEO has tens of millions of users, and many of them haven’t the foggiest ideas of the intricacies of SEO, NLP, or the inner workings of a search engine. Yet, many of these people want to ‘optimize’ their content. Most don’t know where to start when it comes to writing with an SEO mindset.
That’s where we come in. We’ve done the research. We built a language analysis tool that helps users from all walks of life get the most out of their sites and content.
For writers and editors, the keyphrase density features help them get a sense of how focused and topical their content is. Of course, our feedback gives insights into how they can turn their next article into an SEO-friendly masterpiece.
We always advise people to do their research, find the best and most fitting keyphrase(s), and use that as the basis for what they write. While writing, users automatically add the keywords in a totally natural way. If you’re used to it, you don’t even need to keep an eye on our analysis. You will always be on the right track.
And if you’re not on track – if it looks like you’ve strayed off-topic in a long post, or if you’ve over-saturated a shorter article – we’ll let you know.
A better way to measure content topicality
Yoast SEO has come a long way since the early days of analyzing text. We were the first SEO tool to add readability checks with feedback that helped our users to create the awesome content that Google and your readers are looking for.
Our updated analyses give you even more feedback on how topical your content is. Yoast SEO doesn’t just look at how many times you’ve used your keyphrase, but also if you’ve distributed it reasonably throughout your content. This keeps you from adding your keyphrase a lot at the start of the article while totally forgetting about it near the end. Now, your articles stay on topic the whole time!
Another awesome feature is our word forms support in Yoast SEO Premium. Thanks to this, we recognize all grammatical forms of your focus keyphrase in the content. This makes it much easier to improve your text as the analysis is smarter and more forgiving. You can even add more related keyphrases and synonyms to check the full topicality of an article.
Now, it really is a joy to create that great piece of content — without Yoast SEO getting in the way.
The keyphrase density metric still holds its own
Keyphrase density as a metric might feel like an old and outdated concept, but that’s not true. Using it properly — as a way of analyzing your content and suggesting improvements for better understanding — works really well. Yoast SEO helps keep you on track at all times.