Google SEO: How Many Words & Keywords?



Inverted Pyramid

I get asked this all the time -

how much text do you put on a page to rank for a certain keyword?

Well, as in so much of SEO theory and strategy, there is no optimal amount of text per page.

Instead of thinking about the quantity of the text, you should think more about the quality of the content on the page. Optimise this with searcher intent in mind. Well, that’s how I do it.

I don’t subscribe that you need a minimum amount of words or text to rank in Google. I have seen pages with 50 words out rank pages with 100, 250, 500 or 1000 words. Then again I have seen pages with no text rank on nothing but inbound links or other ‘strategy’. In 2012, Google is a lot better at hiding away those pages, though.

At the moment, I prefer long pages and a lot of text, still focused on a few related keywords and keyphrases to a page. Useful for long tail keyphrases and easier to explore related terms.

Every site is different. Some pages, for example, can get away with 50 words because of a good link profile and the domain it is hosted on. For me, the important thing is to make a page relevant to a user’s search query.

I don’t care how many words I achieve this with and often I need to experiment on a site I am unfamiliar with. After a while, you get an idea how much text you need to use to get a page on a certain domain into Google.

One thing to note – the more text you add to the page, as long as it is unique, keyword rich and relevant, the more that page will be rewarded with more visitors from Google.

For instance, this page might be relevant to a search for;

  • How many words on the page for Google?
  • How many words to rank in Google?
  • How many words and characters on the page for SEO?
  • How many words on the page for Yahoo?
  • How many words on the page for Bing?
  • What is the optimal amount of text on a page for search engines?

OK so I cheated a bit there, and normally I would take more time to work these questions into the text – but hopefully you get my drift.

There is no optimal number of words on a page for placement in Google. Every website – every page – is different from what I can see. Don’t worry too much about word count if your content is original and informative. Google will probably reward you on some level – at some point – if there is lots of unique text on all your pages.

TIP: The ‘inverted pyramid‘ – pictured above – is useful when creating pages for the web too – very useful.

How Often Should Keywords Appear On Your Page?

I just did a test on another site to see if I could identify a sweet spot in the amount of times a keyword is repeated. From other tests I have looked at I think a perfect keyword density sweet spot is clearly a myth. but keyword prominence/repetition/stuffing is clearly – not.

I got the idea when I was looking at a slide by Google employees where they mention in simple terms how Google ranks a page and I quote:

How well it matches - How often keywords appear

Is it really “easier than you think?” :)
My test consisted of

  • 15 pages of text
  • 2 keyword phrases (real words, not made up)
  • On each consecutive page I removed an instance of the word and introduced a new word (so I could do the same test backwards in case any document date modified came into play)
  • I waited for Google to spider, and searched for my 2 different terms

The results (I can’t illustrate this one)

Google picked the 2 keyword stuffed pages at either end of the test to rank for the desired terms (and ranked them number 1). By the way, the KD of those pages for the phrases were 18.64% just to let you see there’s clearly no optimal keyword density.

No wonder keyword stuffing is against Google guidelines - it works. For a while, at least.

I wonder if different keyword verticals (loans, injury claims, online betting) have different boundaries that can be breached and penalised.

Keyword stuffing is clearly against Google guidelines – so I wouldn’t recommend you do it. I repeat – be careful. I do prefer to keep it as natural as possible because ultimately it’s about your incoming backlinks and your domain authority.

Just make sure you’re aware of one thing Google is looking for:

How often keywords appear

In SEO How Many Words Maximum Can I Optimize A Page For?

How many words maximum do you optimize a page for? I was asked this today at a meeting and, as it’s something I have pondered for a long time, I had to come up with an answer that made sense to someone not seo-literate.

I optimise a page for as many key phrases as I think I can get in a title that makes sense. If Google displays @70 characters in a title in SERPS, I sort of think those 70 characters are the most important, wether or not Google reads more words in the title. I also weigh this up with my theory there is a limit on the actual amount of anchor text Google will count as a link (8 words). NOTE – In 2013 Google SERPS display is not limited by CHARACTERS, but by PIXELS LENGTH.

When making my titles, if I think the page won’t be linked to, I’ll use the 70 characters. If I think it’s an article likely to be linked to, I’ll also ensure my main keywords are within the first 8 words of a page title to ensure I am getting all the anchor text ranking benefits.

So with those thoughts in mind, how many words can you fit in 55-70 characters? That is the maximum amount of key phrases I would expect to optimise any one page for. Of course there could me many phrases made up with those words beyond that and you can use the content and organic links to capture for long tail searches, but on a page to page basis, seo for me revolves around those 55-70 characters.

If it’s not in the title, links and content, I don’t expect to rank high for it in competitive or saturated niches.

I always look to optimise for phrases too, not words, and always geared to satisfy the intent of a search engine user and visitor. The actual amount of text on a page for seo purposes is kind of irrelevant and totally dependant on the site and what I am aiming to achieve.

NOTE – I am more interested in getting as many unique KEYWORDS on the page related to my focus keyword phrases.

Update – Here is the sort of results you get with this strategy :)

What Is Keyword Stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is simply the process of repeating the same keyword or keyphrases over and over in a page. It’s counter productive. It’s is a signpost of a very low quality spam site and  is something Google clearly recommends you avoid. It is:

“the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results”.

It makes your text often unreadable. It often (really often) gets a page booted out of Google but it depends on the intent and the trust and authority of a site – and I’d think it would be diferent rules for different verticals (perhaps). Its is sloppy seo. It is a bastian of useless seo companies.

It might get a page to rank for a while, but will it convert any customers to leads and sales? It is obviously not a tactic you want to employ in search of long term rankings.

It can be a bit of an art though. When it comes to keyword stuffing, here’s clearly a tipping point, very difficult to identify. Just because someone else is successfully doing it do not automatically think you will get a way with it –  page penalties really do depend on the site you do it on but penalties are common.

Don’t do it – there’s better ways of ranking in Google without resorting to it.

keyword stuffing

Good Solid Content, On It’s Own, Isn’t Enough

CASE STUDY

Content is not ‘everything’ – not if it’s not ‘shared’ – not if it is not ‘remarkable’. Successful seo is a mix of a lot of elements coming together – it is NOT just about how ‘good’ your content is.

First, to illustrate my point, here’s a an everyday small business client site we took on in July (I’ve consulted with the client in the past on other projects).

They had a FANTASTIC little ecommerce site (@1,000 products) – very well designed and built by another web dev company). Unique well written content. Unique page titles. Absolutely nothing wrong with it.

But – NO TRAFFIC from Google for (more than) 6 months!

Google Traffic

The customer asked us SEO to get involved.

Here’s what the same customer made in the last 4 WEEKS with that rise in relevant traffic.

ROI

Not including a pretty penny from referring sites….

The issue is, original “compelling content” – so easy to create isn’t it(!) – on a site with no links and no audience and no online business authority is as useful as boring, useless content – to Google – and will be treated as such by Google – except for long tail terms (if even). It won’t be FOUND by people and won’t be READ and won’t be ACTED upon – not without a few good links pointing to the site – NOT if there is any kind of competition for the term. Googlebot is stupid – it cant tell if content is good or not unless other pages links to it. Googlebot expects ‘popular’ content to be ‘good’ content…..

Generalisations make for excellent link bait and while good, rich content is very important, sayings like ‘content is everything’ is not telling you the whole story.

In the case study, there was no need to examine the linkbuilding competition in this case – though often there is. No need to buy any crap links – I don’t. No need for any new content. No need for any fancy Google xml integration. No need to redesign the site.

It was not changes to the copy that was needed in this case - IT WAS LINKS FROM TRUSTED PAGES THE CLIENT SITE NEEDED.

Fact is – every single site is different, sits in a vertical with a different level of competition for every keyword or traffic stream, and needs a different strategy. There’s no one size fits all magic button to press to get traffic to a site. Some folk have a lot of domain authority, some know the right people, or have access to an audience already – indeed, all they might need is a copywriter – or indeed, some pap to write or drone on about today.

They, however, are in the minority of sites. Most of the clients I work with have nothing to start with and are in a relatively boring nice few outsiders write about.

It’s not a seo’s fault Google is a links based search engine. In one respect, Google doesn’t even CARE what content you have on your site (although it’s better these days at hiding this). Humans do care, of course, so at some point you will need to have that content on your pages – that’s why we are a creative, content focused search marketing agency.

Truth is a successful website needs good people working on every aspect of the site. The client needs to deliver. The web developer. The copywriter. The seo. The linkbuilder. The host. – everybody. You need good folk from every industry and there’s plenty of them.

I’d never say you don’t need ANYBODY or rule out an entire industry when developing your seo plan.

The more good people you have on your team the more likely you’ll achieve you goals.

Links, Titles and Page Text Content

Links effect rankings, more, they even PERMIT rankings. If you haven’t got the keywords in links you won’t feature and you certainly won’t rank – not with any normal levels of competition for valuable terms, at least.

Content is king, especially for humans, but that content can’t rank without links. I often wonder if Google needs the keyword you are wanting to rank for in the site’s link profile. If it’s not in this link profile for your site, you wont rank.

You get the keywords in your link profile by

  • getting links from other websites (primary)
  • internal navigation links (secondary)

I’m wondering if Google treats a page title as a tertiary link if the first two signals aren’t clear enough and especially if the content is well cited (but with poor anchor text. Maybe – or maybe this is just the side effect of scrapers scraping your page titles and forming links from those….

The relationship between content and links is incestous and can’t be seperated. I think seo zones. To rank it needs to be in your link profile and in your content, more specifically in:

  1. Links
  2. Title
  3. Content

In that order. Google is making it harder to rank without having the keyword in these zones. Even though the title is 2nd in my list, you can quickly see how pivotal your page title is. I mean can you even rank what’s more important out of the 3?

So for ranking, the most important is:

  1. Diversity of keywords in your entire link profile
  2. Diversity of keywords in your page title
  3. Lots of Content with unique words (enough to make a page relevant to the keyphrases it can rank for)

If you think this way you can get pages that don’t rank, to rank, quite easily, and you don’t need to buy links or break other Google rules.

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