Is keyword density important for an SEO content writer?

Pub density in England

Are you mapping your keyword density as carefully as these pubs in England?

Keyword density is a term that gets bandied about a lot in SEO circles.  Some say it’s the key, others that it’s bunk.  So, what’s the truth?  Is it important for an SEO content writer?

Wait… what’s keyword density, and why should an SEO content writer care?

First, let’s be clear about what it means.  Keyword density refers to the ratio of a given keyword to the total amount of text in its article.  For example, if the keyword phrase “Victorian architecture” appeared four times in a one-hundred word article, the ratio would be 4:100, or 4%.  That’s its density.

There was a time when putting the same keyword a zillion times on a page would send the page straight to the top of the search engines.  But that hasn’t been the case since the dinosaur days.  Search engines have gotten smart, and nowadays they are sure to penalize you for doing that.  It’s called “keyword stuffing”, and you should absolutely avoid it.

Those who say keyword density is important generally recommend a density of around 4-8%.  Some say as much as 20%.  You can find tools online that will analyze your density for you and make recommendations.


Many veteran SEO professionals ignore keyword density completely.  Check out the enlightening discussion here.

Why do they disavow density?  Well, they either believe it’s not a very important metric used by search engines anymore, or that it was a myth from the start.  The only thing it has going for it is that it’s a pretty straightforward concept, which means your non-expert clients can easily wrap their heads around it.

So if keyword density isn’t important, than what is?

In place of density, think in terms of the following three concepts: keyword presence, keyword placement, and term weight.

Keyword presence

First, does the keyword actually appear somewhere in the article?  That’s all keyword presence means.  It may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easily you can write your masterpiece and completely miss your keyword.  It does have to be in there somewhere.

Keyword placement

Second, where does the keyword show up?  Keyword placement refers to the locations of the keyword.  Search engines scan your article starting at the top of its structure: the title.  It also looks at section headers, and body text starting from the beginning.  The earlier the keyword appears in that process, the better.  So definitely, definitely, definitely put the keyword in the title.  Put it in your section headers too, and put it in your body text – the earlier the better.

Term weight

Finally, is the keyword common or uncommon?  Term weight indicates how common the term is.  The less common it is, the heavier the weight, and the easier your article will rise to the top of the search engine results.  Why?  Because there’s less competition for an uncommon term.

As an SEO content writer, you probably won’t be choosing your keywords; rather, your client will give them to you.  So there’s not much you can do in your article to affect term weight.  However, it will dictate how strategic you’ll have to be in order to get the same results.  The lower the term weight, the more clever you’ll have to be.

So… important or not?

So, is keyword density important?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  You’d do best to concentrate instead on keyword presence, keyword placement, and term weight.  With these three, your writing will get the upper hand.

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One thought on “Is keyword density important for an SEO content writer?

  1. Roger Weavers says:

    I agree, keyword density is not important, as long as its not too high. Placement is more important and good quality content using LSI will help. Off page factors are much more important for SEO

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