Targeted Content Versus Keyword Density

6/13/2007

- David Tischler, SEO Copywriter

While looking for information about writing for web pages, you simply cannot avoid the topic "keyword density". Let's start with a definition. Keyword density measures the percentage of keywords and keyphrases compared to the total number of words in your web page body. There are many opinions about what percentage is the so-called "magic number". I have seen recommendations ranging from 2-20%. This disparity can be confusing. Keyword density can make a huge difference in the quality of the text on the page and have a big impact on your conversion rate.

The mistake that a lot of people make when writing content is adhering too closely to a particular keyword density. When you are too attached to hitting a percentage, you may be focusing more on the search engines than you are on your site's human audience. Doing this can detract from the original goal of the page, which is to convert visitors into paying clients. The key concept to remember is "targeted content". While it is important to know the keywords that suit your product or service and use them within the content of your page, insisting that those phrases be repeated a particular number of times can make what you're writing dull and unreadable. So what is a writer to do?
First and foremost, when writing content for a web page, there are several questions that need to be answered.

1. What do you want to accomplish with this content?

Are you trying to sell a product or get someone to sign up for a service?
Do you want your visitors to subscribe to a blog or newsletter?
Do you want them to visit a physical location or does your website cater only to cyber-space?
Are you trying to persuade people to see a certain point of view?
Every page should have a unique purpose, once you've figured out your goals, the next question you'll want to ask yourself is...
2. Who is your audience?

Knowing who you are writing for can make all the difference in how effective the copy for that page is. One of the things I like to do once I've figured out my demographic, is to look at a picture of someone I know who fits that image. For example if I am writing a page that sells gifts for young children, I look at a picture of my mom sitting with my niece and nephew and I write the things that I know will convince her to buy that present for them (complete with calls to action).
Now that you've figured out what you want to accomplish with your writing and who you are writing for, it's time to ask another vital question...
3. How is your target audience going to find you? (This is where those pesky little keywords come back into play.)

We live in an extremely diverse culture. Different segments of the population have many different names for the same things depending on where you live and how you were brought up. For example you may call it a Hot Dog, but someone else might call it a Frankfurter, Frank, Weiner, Weiner Dog, Red Hot or Foot long. You simply should not assume that everyone refers to products and services the same way and it is vital to know the terms that searchers are using when they go to the engines. There are several keyword research tools that can show you which terms people are looking for and help you decide which keywords you should target with your copy. (You can find ours at http://tools.morevisibility.com/ and clicking on "Keyword Researcher".)
Once you've identified your keywords, your audience and your purpose, it's time to get down to writing. So what should your keyword density be? The important thing is to keep the content on the page about your topic or "on target". It's true, we do recommend a 4% density to our clients at MoreVisibility, but we do this as a guideline. Oftentimes people take that guideline too seriously. Don't worry about it if you only hit 3.5% for a particular keyphrase. Writing content for a web page is a delicate balance of using your keywords enough so that the search engine spiders can find and index your page, and not so much as to make the copy unbearable for your human readers. The golden rule is: Do not sacrifice the user experience in the hope that the search engines will raise your rankings.

The primary mission of the search engines is to help people easily find what they are looking for. The primary mission of your web page should be to convert visitors into paying clients and the primary mission of the copywriter is to create original, relevant content that can accomplish both of those objectives.
For more information on writing "targeted content", check out this blog post by our Director of Natural Search, John Carcutt.

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