Keywords: Proximity, Density & Prominence in SEO

Keyword proximity in SEO refers to how close together keywords are to one another, or to another element on the website. There is a real art to nailing down keyword proximity within a body of text. The goal really isn’t to have all of your keywords within a close proximity, but it definitely is something to consider. One common piece of advice you will find is that the closer your key phrase is together within a piece of content, the more relevant that page might be Googlebot for that particular keyword or key phrase.

Keyword proximity: In this example we illustrate the difference between a close keyword proximity, and a far keyword proximity.

Always use your thinking cap when it comes to these principles of SEO. Don’t overdo it. If we are targeting the keyword “SEO” don’t do something like “SEO SEO SEO SEO SEO” and think you are getting 5x the keyword proximity points because you strung them all together.

Keyword prominence refers to how visually eye-catching a keyword is within a website. A keyword in the same exact font / format as the rest of the website won’t be nearly as prominent as a keyword bolded and within a link anchor. There aren’t any official rules to follow when considering keyword prominence, but it is something you should consider when designing your on-page SEO strategy.

In this illustration we display 2 identical blocks of text. The first block has no prominent keywords. The second block has keywords with bold / red text which we would consider very prominent.

There are a variety of different ways to make your keywords stand out (or more prominent) within an HTML document or website. A few of our favorite examples are:

  • bolding, italicizing, or underlining text
  • adding color or background color to text
  • using the h1-h6 tag test
  • embedding the link within an unordered or ordered list
  • a combination of any of the above

As with anything in SEO, don’t go overboard. You don’t want to make your text seem ridiculous or unbelievable. You also don’t want your keywords to stick out too much for this. Another example of keyword prominence is when you are referring to anchor text or Hx tags in SEO. The reason why it is so important to have keywords within your H1, H2, etc tags is because Hx tags are very prominent, in most cases larger than the rest of the body of text. The same can also be said for un-ordered lists, italicized text, anchor text, and other styles.

Google has also gone on records saying that keywords have different “weight” depending on where they are within a page (prominence)

For years in the SEO community, when talking about backlinks, it has been preferred if you are obtaining a link that you want the link “above the fold” of the post. Now we know there is some truth to this!

Keyword Density in SEO

Keyword density is the topic that deals with the ratio of keywords to text within a given page. Let’s get straight to the point here, having keywords within your content is vitally important. While many SEO’s may scoff at this topic, it is still an aspect of SEO that Google uses to rank pages.

An example of keyword density: we would love for this page to rank for on-page SEO or on-page optimization, so we must be sure that this page contains those keywords. It is also just as important that your content reads well, is engaging and interesting to your reader.

At some point some SEO made up a chart for keyword density recommendations. To me there is really no magic number. It really varies from page to page. There really isn’t any magic % or number of keywords to have within your content. A rule of thumb is, if it looks like you are stuffing keywords in your content, you are most likely doing it wrong.

Google actually offers a quick way to do a site-wide keyword density check. They won’t display results on a page by page basis, this tool is more good for displaying an overall snapshot of your keyword density of your website. To illustrate here is a snapshot of our agency content keywords report.

The great thing about this tool is it really allows you to see if your website is on track, or not.  Since “SEO” is really a keyword we are targeting, overall we are really on track however there are a few of our secondary and tertiary keywords that didn’t make the top 10 so that is something we might take a look at.

A Word on Synonyms

If you’ve gotten this far in life, I’m sure you already know that synonyms are a word that means exactly the same thing as another word. Examples of synonyms are “laptop and netbook” or “happy and gleeful.”

While this may be a simple topic when it comes to the English language, it gets more in-depth when it comes to SEO. For the most part, Google understands that when you search for “SEO tutorial” that if the page is titled “ultimate SEO guide” or “learn SEO” it generally means the same thing. This can be a blessing and a curse for SEO’s and searchers.

Google’s complex mathematical algorithm has this built into its core. They’ve been improving upon this algorithm on a constant basis, and are always trying to improve it to deliver the user better results.

One strategy a lot of SEO’s use when thinking about synonyms is using to find new keywords to use.

if you take away one piece of advice when it comes to SEO synonyms just know that it is always a good idea to include synonyms in your content strategy. For instance let’s say you are crafting a landing page about Android Phones. While you already know at this point to include the word “Android Phone” in your title tag, meta description, h tags and content, you should also include synonyms for “Android Phone” such as “mobile phone, phone, etc” within those elements as well.

This is yet another SEO topic that could easily expand into 100’s of pages of algorithm diagrams and patents, but we’ll try to keep this simple for you.

There are other times when synonyms aren’t exactly a direct English synonym, but rather a logical synonym. This carries over not only to keywords but key phrases as well, and Google has even started to pick up slang words as well.

Be careful with synonyms. Don’t overdo it, and make sure you are logical about what words you choose.