Do I have to target exact phrases in my SEO copy?

October 25, 2006 •

The short answer is no.

The long answer follows…

As soon as you start optimizing your web copy, you’ll realise that it’s quite difficult to repeat your keyword again and again, without your copy becoming very unfriendly to readers.

This is particularly problematic when you’re targeting very specific keyword phrases. For example, for me, targeting “copywriter” is quite easy, but targeting “SEO website copywriter Australia” is a lot more difficult. If my web page has 200 words, my keyword has to appear six times for a keyword density of 3%. That’s fine if it’s a single word, because there’ll still be 194 words of normal copy left. The keyword won’t be so noticeable to readers. But if there are four words in the keyword phrase, there’ll only be 176 words left. That would make the keyword phrase a lot more noticeable.

What’s more, exact keyword phrases are difficult to incorporate into your copy in a natural way.

Fortunately, however, you don’t have to actually target the exact phrase. You can simply target the individual words. So instead of me repeating the exact phrase “SEO website copywriter Australia” six times, I’d simply repeat “SEO” six times, “website” six times, “copywriter” six times, and “Australia” six times. These individual repetitions could appear anywhere on the page.

Using this approach, I can achieve the density I’m after without sacrificing readability.

I will qualify this: it’s my understanding that when someone searches for “SEO website copywriter Australia”, all things being equal, a website that targets the exact string “SEO website copywriter Australia” will rank higher than a website that targets just the individual words. But when are all things ever equal?

As always, the important thing to remember is that human visitors are more important than search engines. What’s more, keyword density is not the be-all-and-end-all of SEO. (Please see my previous post on keyword density in your SEO copy.)

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