Home » Blog » Office Hours » What Do You Need to Know about Onsite Optimization and Keyword Density?
Keyword density can be an issue for any topic you write. Here’s what you need to keep in mind while creating your content.
David: Well, let’s talk about what I would call onsite optimization and keyword density. So, like you were asking about, sometimes we dismiss keyword density on a page, but you still have to have the keyword on the page.
Dave: Yeah. And kind of the question is, yeah, you have the keyword on the page, and maybe one other place or a couple of other places to almost make the article or the content remind the user they’re in the right place. So, in other words, you’d have it a couple of times for user-friendliness or user usefulness, but it is not necessarily needed for SEO.
David: What I really like about what you just said is that sometimes web designers don’t like words on pages because they think it is not pretty, and they’ll resist it. But you know the Bible of web design, Don’t Make Me Think, says that you need to have words to reassure someone they are in the right place. That’s very important.
David: But you know, Google doesn’t pick up drifts very well. It doesn’t pick up inferences very well. And so, you kind of do need to have the word on the page. Now, I would say Google is a lot better than it used to be. It used to be in old SEO that we would build a page for lawyers, a page for all attorneys, build a page for the law firm. Well, Google is smart enough at this point to know they’re all the same. Right? So, we don’t need to have three pages for every law practice or type of law they practice. So, in essence, Google doesn’t think of keywords. It thinks of topics now. And so, if you follow the keyword research process as I outline it, what you’re going to do is you’re going to have a topic with a whole bunch of keywords underneath it. And then, you should apply that topic to a particular web page, understanding that there are some keywords that a lot of people are searching for, and you probably should include those on the page. And there are some words that people aren’t searching for so much. And it might be worth mentioning that keyword on the same page as another keyword. But there are sometimes, like, if a keyword has got like a thousand opportunity number, which is one of the numbers we use on our keyboard research process, and one has ten, well, that’s a lot more people looking for the word with a thousand than with ten. But to make it more natural, you should include both. Right? And lean toward the thousand. But to give you a keyword density, a percentage where the content should be, that’s where people go wrong.
Dave: Yeah, yeah, right. That makes sense.
David: This is why when I give writers directions on how to write pages, I say, here’s the topic. And the topic is usually the number one keyword. But I don’t tell them it’s a keyword. I say this is the topic. And they write a page. And I say, here are some other words you might want to include in there if you can fit them in there naturally. And so, I let the writer just write. And they know if they can use this variation, great.
David: But then, what I’ll do is I’ll write a page, publish it, come back in three months, and in the on-page optimization process on Curious Ants, it tells you how to go to Search Console and to check to see what queries the page is being served for. And if there is a query that it’s being served for, there are clicks for it, and it ranks really well according to Search Console for it, then I might tweak the page for that different keyword because Google already likes the page for that keyword. But that’s why I’ll often go back three months later because you just get that data in Search Console to show you what Google likes to serve this page for.
Dave: So, with you, then it seems like another reason to do that would be because while Google will pick up the keyword, it almost seems like you’d want to go on the offensive then and say, okay, let me make it explicit, because somebody else could come in and make the keyword explicit and steal your search.
David: Yeah, there’s always that. Yeah, I think that’s true. You know, but they will never have my Google Search Console data to know what Google is serving this page for.
David: So, I have access, and I know what specific phrases Google likes to send traffic to that page for.
Dave: Okay. Yeah.
David: And they might have a page, and it’s hopefully not a copy of mine. And they might find other variations that do well for them. Great. Optimize it for that. And if you’re not hyper-focused on only one word and you’re using a variation, what you’ll find is there are a lot of words that Google serves the page for, some more frequently than others. Sometimes that’s because more people search for this than that. Sometimes it’s because Google will actually pick an irrelevant keyword and try to send traffic to it. Sometimes it’s because Google tries something new. It’s so funny. They’ll just test something out and say, I wonder if people will like it if I send them to this page.
Dave: Yeah. I imagine they’re doing that a lot.
David: They are. Yeah, they do that a ton. So, that’s how I like to think about writing content in light of keywords rather than a keyword density percentage. Now, I might use keyword density just to almost make sure I’m not overdoing it.
Dave: Okay. That’s a really good point. So then, you can use your rank math or your Yoast or whatever as a guideline to say, well, I know they want me to get to a certain amount to make my color green or whatever, right? But I’m going to ignore that and just make sure that it’s not red, but it’s yellow or something.
David: Well, I always ignore that because at least the free version of Yoast, for instance, will only let you pick one word.
David: But I’m not optimizing a page for one word. I’m optimizing for a topic. And the topic has many words.
Dave: That’s true, too. That’s true.
David: And so, that’s why I don’t even enter the keyword into the Yoast box to tell Yoast what I’m optimizing it for.
David: There could be, within the way Yoast works as an SEO plugin, benefit in just making sure you’re not also optimizing for the same page somewhere else.
Dave: Yeah, that’s true.
David: Right? That’s a problem that’s called cannibalization, and Yoast can help make sure you don’t… But even if you use Yoast wrong, you might have two pages with two different keywords, but they’re too similar. And really, that second keyword should be optimized for the first page, not separate. And that’s kind of a cannibalization thing that you can use Search Console to check for too.
Dave: Yeah, for a client, they were ranking really well on a page for a bunch of different keywords. And some of those keywords had a higher number of searches they weren’t ranking as well for. But you know, we created a few extra pages for some additional, not necessarily just for the keywords, but to answer questions that people were searching for.
Dave: And I was thinking, well, are we going cannibalize based upon this 750-word thing? But then I’m thinking, well, no, we need to make sure we just answer the question properly. If we have some of these other keywords in there, that’s okay. We want to make sure that we’re helpful in answering the right questions. We can’t avoid using some words from a highly-ranked page to make the article make sense.
David: Exactly. That’s key – make it make sense.
Dave: And at this point, Google is smart enough to know what you’re doing.
David: But there are things… If I find that Google is sending one keyword to two different pages, that tells me in Search Console that I’m cannibalizing myself.
David: Right? Because in Search Console, under the pages, you look at a page, and then you can click on that, and you say, show me the queries that show up for this page. Alright. Then you can select one of them, and you can do the opposite. And say, for this query, what pages does Google serve? And I need to make a decision to decide, well, okay, is this a salesy word or an informational word? If it’s a salesy word, I want to make sure it’s going to the sales page. Right? I want to go to the page where you can buy it or make the lead or close the deal, or whatever it might be. But if it’s informational, I’m fine with a blog post having it. So, if that’s the case, then I might… Let’s say there’s one keyword, and it’s a salesy keyword, Buy Widgets Today. I want that to go to my widget page, right? But let’s say I have a sales widget page that shows up for that keyword sometimes. I also have a blog post about why you should buy widgets today. That shows up for the same word.
David: Well, I don’t really want the blog post ranking for that because, in this case, if someone wants to buy, I don’t want them to have to take a step. So, what I do is I make sure the blog post had not only a link to the sales page but the link includes the keywords for which I wanted the sales page to rank.
David: Because anchor text matters for SEO, even if they’re internal links on your own website.
Dave: Yeah. That makes sense.
David: Right? So, that sends a signal to Google that the blog post says the sales page is more relevant for Buy Widgets Today, and it sends signals, and that potentially could break that cannibalization cycle.
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