Unfortunately, I can’t tell you an exact number, or even a number that gets close to being the “right” number of keywords on a page because that’s the wrong darn way to approach keyword optimisation.
The times have changed….
In the past chasing keywords was a viable approach to SEO. Such factors like the length of content, where keywords were included on the page (title, H1 tag, URL etc.) and the percentage of times a keyword appeared on the page compared to the total number of words on the page (keyword density) all influenced a site’s relevancy and its ability to rank in search.
“Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or phrase appears on a webpage compared to the total number of words on the page. In the context of search engine optimisation keyword density can be used as a factor in determining whether a web page is relevant to a specified keyword or keyword phrase.”Source Wikipedia.
Over time, these intricacies of search engine optimisation led us SEO’s to speculate about the perfect percentage of keywords to use on a page. What we knew then was that one or two mentions of a keyword would increase a site’s relevancy for a search term, but a total percentage of keywords over 3% might result in penalisation.
Using a keyword too many times is known as “keyword stuffing” and it is something we have all come across on the web. It’s those instances of low-quality, sometimes barely legible content “stuffed” full of keywords, written purely to entertain search engines and with no regard to humans reading it. As keyword stuffing became common place on the web Google and other search engines introduced algorithmic filters to combat content that used too many instances of a keyword. A high keyword count indicated (in most cases) spammy content and thus would be demoted in search results.
Whilst having a high percentage of keywords in your content (keyword density) will still result in your website getting penalised, having the exact keyword there at all is no longer a requirement.
Google semantic search is the biggest change to the internet since the birth of the world-wide-web. Whilst the workings of semantic search are deep and complex and beyond the scope of this particular post, the contrast between semantic search and its predecessor, data-driven keyword search is clear.
The new “semantic” Google understands conversational style queries and user intent, it understands what a website is about regardless of if or where keywords are placed.
In the example below this website ranks number 3 on Google for the term “organic SEO infographic” yet you’ll not find the exact words organic SEO infographic exact keyword term is not present in the title or content of the page. There are also 2 image results for the website.
Google uses many other signals to determine the context of content on a website, which means that as long as your content is relevant and on a theme the keywords you want to rank for do not need to be there.
So does that mean you avoid inserting your keywords all together?
No, that would not be an extreme reaction to this blog post. Where appropriate continue to include your keywords, however, don’t obsess over it. If your keywords are relevant and they naturally fit in the content you are writing then include them, if not don’t sweat. Far more important is that your content is useful and engaging and on the theme with the keywords ultimately you might want to rank for.
The era of Semantic Search makes it increasingly difficult to game the search engines with a formulaic approach to SEO. There is now no perfect keyword density formula, except for the one that occurs naturally when you create content that serves your audience.
Focus on providing the best possible answers to users queries, include your keywords only where natural and relevant and leave Google to do the rest.
Are you happy to see the back of keyword focused content and do you think that will raise the quality of content on the web?