Is Keyword Density Content Marketing Dead?

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Answered by: Claire, An Expert in the Internet Marketing Category
Advertisers trying to cast a spell on their audience might try to follow the “Rule of Three,” which dictates that something said three times is more powerful than something intoned only once. For instance, in the past, if a marketer wanted to impress the Google search engine, they might opt for a keyword density of 3%. That meant that for every 100 words, a keyword would be repeated 3 times within the actual content. However, when Google released their Hummingbird update in mid-2013, they introduced a different set of rules into their algorithm that favor semantic searching instead. Now, instead of searching for content with specific keywords, Google can look at the context of the entire phrase and, also, mine the author’s other online content to determine what the content is really about, whether it includes multiple keywords designed to attract attention or not. Will these changes make keyword density content marketing obsolete?

A Smarter Google Algorithm

No one can get a copy of the Google algorithm code, so it’s hard to tell whether it’s time to put keyword density to rest. However, there is some evidence from the new Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) that Google is looking at far more than just the keyword alone for content ranking. After years of collecting data on the queries entered into the Google search engine, it now has a database of related terms for many different types of questions posed to it online. When someone asks, “What can I do to minimize the appearance of big canine teeth?” the SERPs can deliver content on dentists, not veterinarians. By analyzing the content of others who have searched the web over the years, it becomes apparent that although the keyword may have been canine teeth, it had nothing to do with dogs or veterinarian care. They’ve not only read the context of the query, but also the related content of previously associated keywords to know what the questioner meant when posing that query.

There is Meaning in the Word Cloud

People who might have searched for canine teeth may also have described them as fangs, cuspids, or eye teeth. These terms would all be associated with the word canine teeth in this context that form a meaning cloud around each other. If a particular dentist who specializes in tooth shaping has posted multiple articles on that very subject, then Google knows that, due to the many associated terms that are related with canine teeth. It doesn’t even matter if the dentist posted some articles on their social networking profile, some in an article archive, or another in an online magazine. With an author tag, the dentist can get credit for all their content and be placed higher as an authoritative source specializing in tooth shaping.

Context is More Important than Keywords

Keyword density may not be officially dead, but it may be in the last throes of life. Google is able to mine data extensively on websites, following content from specific authors, making it more likely that they will only give credit where credit is due. Strategies that tried to game the search engine by polluting content with random keywords won’t work and hasn’t for quite some time already. Google has also raised their standards so that only top-quality, original, content with contextual meaning will fare well in the SERPs. Those online businesses and marketers that adopt semantic content strategies, without focusing solely on keyword density content marketing, will fare better than those that don’t.


Elran, A. Kissmetrics (n.d.) Should You Change Your SEO Strategy Because of Google Hummingbird? Retrieved from:

Larson, R. (2014) Are Keywords Necessary in a Semantic Search World? Retrieved from:

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