Keyword Density or 'Aggressive SEO'

keywords, SEO

October 9, 2012 by

Keyword DensityKeywords are always a main focus of any SEO discussion. The Search Engines use your keywords to determine what your site, and ultimately each page, should be ranked for. Matt Cutts from Google recently talked about this in an article called Stop Obsessing about Keyword Density! A More Useful Keyword Strategy. In this column he provides a strategy of how to build keyword density without overly stuffing the page and making it unreadable. However, in our recent research we have found that Google does indeed index ‘keyword stuffing’ if done in a certain way.

First, let’s take a look at the basics. In my previous post, Blind Side SEO, I discussed that the basic blocking and tackling in SEO produce the best results. To build density and emphasis you need to:

  • Perform Robust Keyword Research – You need to rely on more than tools to build a comprehensive yet concise list of keywords
    • Use tools to start a base list (AdWords, SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc.)
    • Find your most searched AND clicked Paid Search keywords
    • Mine your analytics to find high-engagement keyword referrals
    • Monitor Social Media to determine how people talk about your brand, product and/or services
  • Analyze Content On The Page – Search Engines index content above the 'electronic fold' higher than content further down on the page. Ensure that you include your keywords in the following areas:
    • In the Meta Title Tag and Description
    • In the H1 and reinforced in the H2, H3…
    • In a keyword optimized or path-based breadcrumb on the page
    • In image ALT tags and link anchor text
    • Emphasized in the copy (bold, italic’s, color, size)
    • In the copy (but keep in mind readability)

Before diving into the case study I need to set a requirement. ‘Aggressive SEO’ only appears to work on sites with a high number of indexed pages, a high text-to-html ratio and in competitive keyword areas.

We work with clients in the highly competitive Car Industry. In this market, Paid Search terms are regularly $2-5 a click and there is heavy competition from National and Local dealers. SEO is paramount to their success. These sites are designed to integrate databases with millions of cars and trucks. Therefore, site structure and keyword placement are integral to driving up keyword density.

Case Study – We compared two sites that were very similar in SEO rankings, link popularity, traffic, etc. and used the same model car (GMC Acadia) in the same market to test their placement on Google.

  • Site A– A national aggregator of car information:
    • The searched vehicle term is dynamically inserted in the title, new search field and in the database listings (16 total mentions). They did not follow all best practices (listed above) for SEO optimization.
    • Code Summary – When searching through the source code we found:
      • 272 mentions of ‘Acadia’
      • 76 mentions of ‘GMC Acadia’
      • 0 mentions of ‘Used GMC Acadia’
  • Site B– A national aggregator of car information:
    • The searched vehicle term is dynamically inserted in the title, breadcrumb, H1, new search field and in the database listings (16 total). This content is very powerful as it is above the “electronic fold.”
    • The term GMC Acadia is “stuffed” into 30 ‘nearby’ markets and in 6 ‘model years’ in a “Fat Footer”.
    • Code Summary – When searching through the source code we found:
      • 166 mentions of ‘Acadia’
      • 117 mentions of ‘GMC Acadia’
      • 63 mentions of ‘Used GMC Acadia’

Case Study Summary
The keyword cloud for Site A shows what the Google Bot sees on the page. Although they mentioned Acadia hundreds of times, it does not have high prominence on the page. Inadvertently they have created prominence around a term (miles) that does not add SEO value.

For Site B they have clearly indicated what keywords are most important. There does not appear to be any ‘keyword stuffing’ since there are hundreds of other words on the page. They have mastered keyword density for specific pages.

Mentioning the keyword hundreds of times on one page surely goes against every one of Google’s best practices for White Hat SEO. Yet, when searching for the same term in Google we found that Site B was in the 2nd spot for the search term, even out-positioning many local dealers, while Site A did not appear in the first 5 pages.

I am not endorsing Black Hat SEO methods to increase density by any means. In fact, we are strong believers of building quality content that caters to your customers' specific needs. Yet, it appears that 'Aggressive SEO' has not been completely ferreted out with the Google Penguin update.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Utilize all best practices for content building
  • Ensure that the majority of content and keywords appear above the ‘electronic fold’
  • Create a "Fat Footer" and link to static pages dedicated to important keyword terms
  • If you have a lot of content, get more aggressive with ‘keyword use’. Aim for 3-5% density.
  • Increase Social Authority and sharing


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