To an extent, the idea that a required percentage of keywords (keyword density) within a web page is a misnomer. While it is important to incorporate keywords within strategic placement on the applicable web page, making certain that “XX%” of your page content contains a specific keyword inference is a debatable factor, in terms of the impact on keyword rankings in search engines. Different keywords will require different levels of keyword-rich content when it pertains to search engine rankings, and this depends on a variety of factors such as the competitive search environment and the relationship amongst existing material online that currently is associated to a given keyword. That being said, there are a few surefire ways NOT to incorporate a keyword strategy into page content, and while it may seem obvious what not to do, it’s never surprising to find someone out there that is doing it (or considering it).
I’ll use a hypothetical example of a website trying to optimize for the term “Red Sox”, as I was having a conversation on keyword-sensitive copy writing with a client, and wanted to point out a few key points on keyword spam. (and the Red Sox/Devil Rays game was playing yesterday afternoon while we were discussing the issue, and Manny Ramirez elegantly struck out to end a 9th inning rally – which hurts me as a fan and in my fantasy baseball league).
The excessive usage of a keyword within a specific section of content or in a parameter of the HTML code.
- Where you may see it: Meta Keyword Tags, Image ALT Properties, Footer Navigation etc
- What it may look like: “Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing” and various other strings of “Red Sox” related keywords, all lined up in an orderly fashion like such.
Creating text that appears invisible to a traditional website visitor, through font style adjustments, hidden layers or other nefarious ideas.
- Where you may see it: That’s the beauty of it – you won’t see it! But the webmaster hopes that search engines will crawl, index and associate the content to Red Sox related keywords because the search engine won’t realize it’s not visible under most circumstances.
- What it may look like: (Hint – drag your cursor immediately below this “hint”)
Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing, Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing
– all in white font or an applicable font that matches the background of the web page.
Very Tiny Text
Using little tiny font parameters to try to squeeze in extra keyword ideas without (blatantly) sacrificing the user experience with an excessive browser scroll bar (see “excessive keyword repetition”).
- Where you may see it: This is pretty similar to hidden text, but is usually so small that it often appears to resemble a small line of gray or applicable font color.
- What it may look like: “Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing” – except really, really small.
(like this: Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing, Red Sox, Red Sox Tickets, Red Sox Shirts, Red Sox Hats, Red Sox Stuff, Red Sox Clothing) 🙂
Excessive Keyword Repetition
It’s somewhat subjective as to what actually constitutes “excessive keyword repetition”, but the general rule of thumb (for me) is when keywords are utilized in a way that sacrifices user readability. This could include the overflow of textual content (with a “high” keyword density), long lists of keyword-specific navigation – directly in the main body of content, or excessive footer navigation, footer text etc.
- Where you may see it: Anywhere in the body of content but it can be especially apparent if a page has a tremendous amount of up/down browser scrolling associated with it, the majority being textual content (of some sort).
- What it may look like: “The Red Sox are a great team and I love all of the Red Sox Players. I hope that the Red Sox win the World Series and we can celebrate the Red Sox win at the Red Sox Ballpark – Fenway Park. I usually wear Red Sox jerseys and Red Sox hats to Red Sox games that I go to, even if the Red Sox are playing away from the ballpark. Check out all of the Red Sox hats, Red Sox jerseys and Red Sox memorabilia available for sale on my Red Sox website!“
The importance of keyword visibility within the textual content of a web page and in specific locations of the HTML code (Titles, Metadata, Headings etc) cannot be understated, but because these variables can (and will) be so easily manipulated, it’s also valuable to focus on the readability and usability of your web pages to your potential visitors, prospects and customers, in conjunction with your keyword strategy for search engine rankings.
More Resources on Keyword Development for Web Page Content
- Understanding the Keyword Density Curve – Lisa Barone writes about the complexity in managing keyword strategy and how understanding the competitive environment for your keyword(s) provides the window of opportunity for realizing an “optimal” keyword density. (yes, each keyword, related to each search engine)
- Lower Keyword Focus To Improve Search Engine Rankings – just written today, Aaron Wall has an article on Search Engine Land which discusses the fact that keyword density strategies a few years ago actually may negatively impact your search engine optimization efforts going forward. The article provides guidance on more improved strategies, designed with the reader in mind, to focus on search engine friendly content development.