Want Good Copy? Ditch Your Keyword Density Rules
I’ve said it all along, good copy is ruined by keywords. It seems I’m not the only one who sees it this way.
It’s one of the worst things to ever happen in the search engine copywriting field: the discovery of keyword density. I won’t venture off into a discussion about whether keyword density is still a valid measure of search engine optimized (SEO) copywriting success. I will say, however, that the mere introduction of this concept led to the mutilation and destruction of innocent copy all across the globe. Without any regard to flow or customer experience, website owners around the world began shoving keyphrases into their copy like wild men. The results have been disastrous! Otherwise wonderful content has been utterly destroyed.
Keyword density is that onerous concept that tells copywriters to include their primary and secondary keywords or keyword phrases as a certain percentage of their overall copy. In other words if you write 500 words on bananas and your keyword is “yellow fruit,” your keyword density expert might recommend that you use the phrase “yellow fruit” at least 2% but not more than 5% of the overall copy. What that means is you’ll have to use “yellow fruit” not less than 10 times and not more than 25 times throughout the text. That’s if you multiply 500 by .02 and .05 as most people would figure it.
But that’s not really the proper keyword density. Can you imagine using “yellow fruit” 25 times in a 500 word article? Since the key phrase is two words, that would, in actuality, result in a 10% density for that key phrase. Let’s cut that in half – no less than 5 times and no more than 13. Still, 13 times for “yellow fruit?” How many people would actually search for banana using the words “yellow fruit?”
Hopefully, you can see the problem. Now let’s try the exercise for a 1,000 word article using “automobile mechanic Tucson Arizona.” Here’s a rule to remember: The longer your key phrase, the more difficult it will be to get that key phrase optimized with the proper density in your copy. That’s not to say you don’t have a valuable keyword. But you have to be a little creative in how you use it. I like Karon Thackston’s recommendation:
One keyphrase I had to work with was “Texas Hill Country real estate.” That would get pretty cumbersome if it were left as it is seen there. But by breaking it up with some punctuation, it sounds perfectly natural. Here’s how it can be done.
There is no more beautiful place than the Texas Hill Country. Real estate listings in this area are filled with stunning homes that.
Do you see what happened? I broke the phrase up using a period. In the eyes of the search engines the phrase is still intact. They don’t even notice the period. That period, however, causes the reader to take a mental pause and helps alleviate any repetitive feel to the copy.
That’s an excellent tool to use. And she’s right. The search engines don’t recognize punctuation. That means more flexibility for the copywriter.
Another great tool to use is to break up the keyword phrase using conjunctions and prepositions, which search engines don’t file either. For instance, using the same keyword phrase, you might say “real estate in Texas Hill Country” is some of the most beautiful the Lone Star State ha to offer. See that? I rearranged the keywords so that half of it appeared in front of the other half and separated them with the little word “in.” Why is that important? Two reasons:
- Most people don’t use quotation marks in their searches. If you type in “Texas Hill Country real estate” in quotation marks, then the search engine will look for that exact phrase with all the words in that order. On the other hand, if you just type in that phrase without the quotation marks, the search engines will look for all of those words but not in any particular order, and that’s how most people conduct searches online.
- Secondly, search engines don’t care about words like “in,” “for” and “but.” They skip over them. So a search for Texas Hill Country real estate will yield results such as “real estate in Texas Hill Country.”
Copywriting online is a little different than copywriting off line, but not much. You still want your copy to make sense. You can optimize it perfectly for the search engines and produce copy that your human visitors will not read. You might as well just write copy that will knock your human visitors off their feet but never get found in the search engines. Good copy – whether online or off line – must pass the cardinal rule, namely, it must be compelling. That is, compelling to human eyes, not search engine spiders (that’s a secondary consideration). First and foremost, your copy must sell. If it doesn’t, the number of times your web site is crawled is just a number. And who wants to do business with a number?