A Writer's Bane - Keyword Density
June 05, 2012 | ~2 mins read time.

I have decided that writing with SEO in mind is becoming the bane of my existence when I am writing. In fact, it's becoming so irritating, that it's cutting into Diablo III time and that's somewhat unacceptable. I don't know about any of you, especially the writers that might be reading this, but I can churn out blog posts and website copy in hardly any time at all. Opinion pieces are, of course, the easiest.

These are closely followed pieces where I'm given a topic or subject and a word count with no expectation of a certain bias. I don't care for topics where the client wants a certain bias because it can be very time consuming, or impossible, to find supporting research. Give me a topic and let me do the research and I will give you a lovely piece of writing. I will engage your readers and I will do it with citations! Citations that are even in context! This SEO nonsense is starting to get grating, though.

Some clients are great with their SEO requirements. They'll put in an order and say, "I want you to use 'whargarbbl' four times in 350 to 400 words." I can do that. Even though that's a commonly used word, it's not been included in a dictionary (that I know of) yet, but most people know what it means. I could come at that from a number of different angles.

Now, giving me a word like that and then telling me to use the word at a "5% keyword density" is difficult. In 100 words, I'd have to use it five times. That's too repetitive for my taste, but I can do it. However, there are an increasing number of clients requesting three to five keywords and asking for 5% density on each. That doesn't leave a whole lot of words leftover for other things. You know, like coherent non-repetitive writing.

There are other clients who are going a different route with another version of keyword density. This version is when they put in an order requiring the writer use 10 - 15 separate keywords, some of them two words or more, add in a requirement that the writer must also use each of them two to three times, and then, like some sort of gleefully thrown grenade on top of that, they limit the word count to 250 to 350 words. Again, they're not leaving a lot of room for writing that is engaging, easy to read, or even semi-coherent.

Good times.

For the purpose of amusement: I have used the word "the", including in this section, 12 times. According to WordPress, there are 492 words in this post. That works out to a keyword density of 2.4%. If you've never had to write an article with keywords before, think about what this would have looked like with "whargarbbl" used 12 times. Then think about what it would have looked like if I'd used it 25 times to get a 5% keyword density. That's a lot of whargarbbl.