To compete in the digital marketplace, your business needs both high-quality content and an SEO strategy that ensures that content gets seen. In the early days of SEO—which stands for search engine optimization—that strategy usually involved making sure that all of your content included a set percentage of carefully selected keywords that were relevant to your content and that your target market was likely to search for.

Today, search engines have become increasingly sophisticated when generating results, and that keyword strategy that used to help you achieve high rankings could now be keeping you buried in search results. Is an old-fashioned approach to keywords keeping your company from conquering the digital marketplace? Here is what you need to know about creating relevant keyword guidelines.

Recognize the New Rules

If you’ve been using keywords as part of your digital marketing strategy for any length of time, then you’re likely to have encountered the recommendation that keywords should represent 5% of the content you create. This so-called keyword density target went out the window in 2011, when Google confirmed what many people had come to suspect—having that target number of keywords would not necessarily help a piece of content and could actually hurt it.

According to Google, keyword usage has diminishing returns. The first one or two uses of a keyword helps the search engine understand the theme of your content and rank it accordingly. Subsequent uses of the keyword offer a negligible, if any, effect on your ranking. Too many uses of the keyword can actually start to harm your ranking, because it makes your content appear thin. That means a 5% keyword density may tell Google that your content isn’t going to provide a good user experience.

Consider the Less-Is-More Approach

Google was generous enough to tell digital marketers that heavy keyword density could be harmful to rankings, but no search engine has ever given marketers that magic density that is beneficial to how content is ranked. In reality, there likely isn’t a specific percentage of keywords that should be in a piece of content anymore. Good content that uses keywords sparingly is the new normal, even if a tangible definition of what that means is not available. Less-is-more seems to be working when it comes to keywords in content. The highest-ranking pages in Google’s search engine use fewer keywords than lower-ranked pages, in most cases.

Embrace a Keyword-Content Balance

Stripping away the keyword density rules can be freeing for digital content strategists. Striving for balanced keyword usage and high-quality content is the best way forward. To win at keywords today, your content should follow these guidelines:

  • Research and choose a few effective keywords to direct the content.
  • Write clear, concise text that uses keywords naturally.
  • Avoid overuse of industry-specific jargon.
  • Make content easy to scan with short paragraphs and lists.

At Pennington Creative, we’re tapped into the evolving demands of top-ranking content and can help end the SEO guessing game for your company. Find out how we can help you solve the mystery of your digital content strategy and start reaping the rewards of your online presence by contacting us today.

About the Author

Heather - Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting
Heather McDonald

Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting