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I thought we’d got over “keyword density” by now

Some of the stuff these “Search Engine Optimisation Consultants” (SEOs) do really scares me. Just as frightening is the trust which some people put in them: if you’re using one, do you know exactly what they’re doing? You really should do, and the good ones will tell you, of course.

Search Engine Optimisation consists of two things: improving the “off-page” aspects of your website which are relevant to the search engines, and improving the “on-page” aspects. The “off-page” aspects are the ones which don’t modify your site, primarily generating good external links. Few SEOs working on industrial website commissions will spend enough time on this, because you won’t be paying them enough for this thankless task, and the results of the exercise never look that impressive (even when they are; I can’t stress enough how important link-building is). Alarm bells should start ringing if an SEO consultant offers to generate external links for you but doesn’t ask you for any information about your customers, your suppliers or your market in general.

Then there’s the “on-page” work – the things which actually require changes to your website. Again, a poor SEO consultant, just turning the handle, will focus on the things which look obvious and are understandable, rather than doing the difficult work which has less demonstrable results. This article today was inspired because I’ve just been speaking to an engineering company which was recently “advised” that if it wanted to do better in Google for, shall we say, “blue widgets”, it should include the term “blue widgets” loads more times on its blue widgets page. Even if it made the page look daft.

Stop it. Now. This sort of thing might have worked in 1999, but nowadays the algorithms of the search engines have been refined over the years by thousands of people far cleverer than you and I, with one aim in mind: to identify the same “best pages” as real humans would. That means identifying pages which appear to have been written by a human being! And what’s one thing which humans do? We don’t repeat ourselves. We reach for our mental thesaurus wherever possible. A page which repeats the same word or phrase over and over again is clearly a contrivance.

For a short read which will back this up, see Forget about Keyword Density on the Daily SEO Tip blog. If you want a mathematically-based demonstration, read the paper The Keyword Density of Non-Sense. Hmm, on second thoughts, don’t do that, instead spend the time rewriting any contrived pages on your website back into proper English.

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