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Is Keyword Density Still a Ranking Factor in 2022?

For years, SEO agencies and specialists have heavily focused on keyword density when optimising websites for their clients. But in 2022, is it still a ranking factor when it comes to Google?

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According to John Mueller, a search advocate at Google, it's a resounding no.

But before we get to that, it's important to know exactly what keyword density means. According to Wikipedia, keyword density is the 'percentage of times a phrase or keyword appears on a web page, compared to the total number of words on the page. In the context of search engine optimisation, keyword density can be used to determine whether a web page is relevant to a specified keyword phrase or keyword.'

So why is it no longer important?

Towards the end of 2021, a Reddit user posted the question 'in your opinion, is keyword density still an SEO factor in 2021?'. It prompted a one word response from Mueller, 'no'. 

However, in fairness to John Mueller, he has been saying the same thing for nearly 10 years. Even back in 2013, he was telling SEO specialists not to overdo it when it came to adding keywords into text content. When asked why a website wasn't ranking for a particular keyword, he responded with the following:

"One of the difficulties our algorithms have with your pages is that they appear to be using the same keywords over and over again - making it hard to recognise what is really unique and compelling on your site. For instance, looking at the cached version of your homepage, I see over 1,000 mentions of 'towbar'. The same is the case in your URLs where even some of the URLs include three mentions of towbars. Our algorithms are pretty good at recognising important content on your pages, you don't have to repeat them unnecessarily."

Essentially, he explained that it's not necessary to repeat the same keyword over and over again as it will make it hard for Google to recognise what is really compelling and unique on your site. 

If that's not important, what is?

With keyword density perhaps not as important as it used to be when it comes to Google ranking factors, it's important to know exactly what is. There are a number of attributing factors to a website ranking well on Google and the other search engines; engaging and relevant content, responsive web design, fast loading times, strong natural links, ongoing search engine optimisation, user experience and a secure website.

Engaging and relevant content

Regardless of whether keyword density is important to Google or not in 2022, it's still absolutely essential that any website owner or SEO specialist focuses heavily on writing relevant and engaging content. Not only is Google more likely to prioritise a website that has informative, well written and relevant content, but visitors and users are also more likely to continually go back to that website and navigate through it. This in turn will increase the chance of those users becoming customers.

Responsive web design

Along with providing users with well written and engaging content, it's also absolutely imperative that you have a responsive website if you want to be found on the search engines. A responsive website is one that is designed and optimised to display correctly, and fit to, all types of screen size and device, including mobile, tablet and desktop. This, in turn, is more likely to encourage visitors to not only stay on the site but also encourage sales enquiries and those visitors turning into customers.

Fast loading times

A by-product of responsive web design is faster loading times. Although Google doesn't have a hard and fast rule when it comes to prioritising fast loading websites, they are certainly taking a keen interest in sites that do load quickly and consider them to be of a higher standard than slower loading sites. Therefore, it's important to make sure that your website does load and display quickly and effectively.

Strong natural links

One of the key aspects of any successful website is its natural links. It's incredibly important that any site has plenty of authentic and natural links to and from the website, especially those that either link to or from other relevant websites and information sites. For instance, a poor link would be one from a plumbing website that links to a football blog; neither subjects are related to one another and Google will judge this as a spammy link rather than a useful or relevant one. A natural link would be one that is linked from another relevant website to yours as they view yours as informative and something worth following.

Ongoing search engine optimisation

Many web design companies offer initial search engine optimisation when a website is built and that's great; but sadly, it's not enough. For a website to be truly successful on the search engines, it needs regular and ongoing search engine optimisation to be carried out. Text content, including additional pages, will need to be added to the site - this can also come in the form of blog posts and case studies. By regularly having text content added to the site, you will not only be seen by Google to be updating and improving your website but also be seen as an authority on your field or chosen subject by users and potential customers.

A positive user experience

You can have the best looking website in the world but if your site doesn't promote a positive user experience, you're very unlikely to generate many sales enquiries nor appear high on the search engines. The best way to achieve a positive user experience is to not only have a responsive website, we touched on what that was above, but also have a site that is built with easy navigation and usability in mind. Aside from pleasing Google, having a positive user experience is also more likely to encourage those users back to the site and to tell their friends about it too. 

Keep your website secure

While website security is especially important if you have an e-commerce site, i.e. one that sells products online, it is also a determining factor in how Google sees your site too. For example, while it is an absolute must for an e-commerce site to have an SSL certificate (meaning it has https: rather than http: at the beginning of the URL and has additional security encryptions), some browsers have now started indicating that any website, whether e-commerce or standard, is 'not secure' if it doesn't have an SSL certificate. While this isn't necessarily true, it is likely a factor in whether a website visitor will continue to stay on the site or even click on the link in the first place. It's also becoming apparent that Google is prioritising sites that are listed as 'secure' too. 

So even if keyword density is no longer a relevant ranking factor, there are plenty of things that SEO specialists can focus on to get websites ranking well on Google and the other search engines. While it can be done by yourself, it's highly recommended that you hire an established and experienced marketing company to look after it for you; after all, that will allow you to focus on running your business.

At Smart Domain Group, we specialise in designing and optimising websites for small and medium businesses across Kent and the rest of the UK. We offer first class responsive web design, search engine optimisation and marketing services, so if you're looking to have a beautiful new website that ranks at the top of Google for your required keywords or phrases, speak to the experts at SDG. Contact us today to discuss your needs with one of our friendly and experienced team.