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Google on How to Use Keywords in Content

John Mueller answers a question about how many times to use keywords on a page and the value of words mapping to the topic

Screenshot of Google's John Mueller discussing proper use of keywords

Google’s John Mueller answered whether targeting keywords in H1, Meta tags and on-page was out of date because of all the advances in search. John affirmed the value of using keywords (within limits) and of correctly mapping words to the topic.

Question About Keyword Counts

The person asking the question mentioned that he had a “directive” specifying the use of keywords in the content. He suspected that the directive might be outdated.

Here’s the question:

“I have a directive to use keywords, specifically target keywords in meta tags, use it here in the H1, use it this many times in a piece of content.

And that really just seems outdated to me, especially with all the advances in semantic search and all the cool MUM and all that other stuff that’s coming down the pipe.

…Basic question, do you think that’s still a legitimate SEO tactic?

Or should we not be focused on using this particular keyword this many times on a page?”

Related: How to Do Keyword Research for SEO: A Step-by-Step Guide

Keyword Ratios in Content

John Mueller first answered the part about the requirement that keywords be mentioned a certain amount of times in an article.

This is a reference to keyword ratios, which is the percentage of times that a keyword phrase is mentioned on a web page.

There is a belief that Google’s algorithm responds well to content that features the target keyword a certain percentage of times on the page.

For example, there are some content writing software that crawl the top ranked sites and suggest keyword ratios for target keyword phrases and other recommendations.

The idea of mentioning keywords a certain amount of times goes back to the earliest search engines, from before Google.

John Mueller’s answer:

“In general the number of times that you use a keyword on a page, I don’t think that really matters or makes sense.

When you’re writing naturally usually that resolves itself automatically.”

Using Keywords is Important… But Don’t Over Focus

Mueller next affirms the importance of using keywords but also cautions about obsessing too much about it.

Mueller’s response:

“And also with regards to the individual keywords, I think that’s something where I wouldn’t disregard it completely but at the same time I wouldn’t over focus on exact keywords.

So in particular, things like singular and plural or kind of like the different ways of writing individual words. That’s something that you probably don’t need to worry about.

But mentioning what your site is about and kind of like what you want to be found for, that’s something I would still do.

So in particular, what we sometimes see when we look at things like news articles, if a news site doesn’t really understand SEO, they might write in a way that is more… almost like literature in that you read it and you kind of understand what it means, but the exact words that are used on a page don’t really map to exactly that topic.

So that’s something where, from an SEO point of view, if there’s something you want to rank for, I would still mention that on a page.

I wouldn’t go overboard with the number of mentions. I wouldn’t go overboard with all of the synonyms and different ways of writing it.

But like mentioning it at least once definitely makes sense.”

Keywords Matter But Word Counting Does Not?

Mueller affirmed the value of using keywords in content, saying that it’s important for the words used on a page should map to the topic. That seems like an interesting topic to hear him expand on in the future.


Watch John Mueller answer the question at the 2:16 minute mark:



Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

Google on How to Use Keywords in Content

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