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Keyword density and you
2010-07-08: Search engine optimisation, the art of getting a good position in Google's natural search results (as opposed to Pay Per Click paid-for sponsored links (ads)), can be looked at as an art or as a mathematical exercise. I tend to prefer the former, after all, if you have a great business people will beat a path to your door, but once you get into an area with any sort of competition you really need to employ both techniques.
Here's how it works in principle. You have a website, and you're selling things. Therefore sometimes you are selling things to people who have entered a search term into Google, found you, and bought something. That forms the beginning of a revenue stream, particularly if it's not a one-off.
Those people follow a path from Google to a particular page on your website, through a series of other pages on your website to the payment pages and beyond. You'll be wanting to optimise that customer journey so as to convert more visitors into customers. It's called a funnel, and using Google Analytics you can see which are the problem pages where people fall off.
60% of traffic on a Google results page goes to the top listed natural result. If you can convert visitors to customers on a phrase for which you have the top listing, and that phrase has significant traffic, well, you have a money tree. So everyone wants that, and the competition nowadays is fierce.
Google wants to provide the best results to their customers for any search term they request. It spends untold resources trying to keep out the spammers and ensure the results they show are really satisfactory. Part of their calculation of which sites to show on page one comes from the keywords on the actual web page.
So if I'm selling Scarborough sea shells, my customers might enter that into Google and I should mention that phrase on my website so Google sees that, matches the two, and I should appear on page one of the search results and make loads of money.
But what if a competitor opens up who also sells sea shells? And what if they mention Scarborough sea shells twice on their web page where I only mention it once? They'll appear higher in the results. So we start a race. I add three mentions, they add four. In the end, our websites just consist of hundreds of mentions of "Scarborough sea shells".
The next day, neither of us is on Google's search results for that phrase because Google thinks we are trying to spam the system.
So we reign ourselves back and try to find the sweet spot where Google thinks we mention that phrase enough to be confident that that is genuinely what the page is about, but not so much that it's clear we are trying to game the system unfairly.
Where's the sweet spot?
Well, you can probably assume those who are already on the first page have found it. So we can use analytical tools to look at their keyphrases and work out their keyword densities.
It's not even that easy, because Google today might think the page title is really important, and image alternative tags are not. Tomorrow Google might change its mind. It's a moving target.
Plus, every website on page one has a different set of keyphrase densities for its title, its body text and so on. So one way forward would be to take every result on the first page for your keyphrase, and average out the figures, then compare to your own and make suitable changes.
Remember: this is just for one keyphrase, and one search engine.
And that's not the only thing you need to worry about, Google also takes account of your inbound links and the keywords used in those. But that's for another day.
Good job I love analysing data.

By John Allsopp
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