Relevance and Salience and Significance, Oh My -- Do Your Keywords Have These Traits?

7 Nov 2014


Recently, I’ve been talking with psychotherapists about confusions around the old notion of keyword density – the practice of try to have a certain high percentage of website content repetitively use the same primary keywords as a search engine optimizing trick.  



The conversation reminded me how easy it is to come across information that is no longer current and may well get punished by Google.



The density quest created paragraphs in which words like anxiety or psychotherapy were used multiple times in sentences and paragraphs so that a webpage might have dozens of those keywords in hopes that this would increase chances of getting more traffic to your website.



The problem was that the density drive created very stupid sentences that read as if written by a robot or someone whose first language was not English (or whatever language the content was in).  And in fact, a whole industry had grown up around software and outsourced SEO “writers” that guaranteed high keyword density.



Unfortunately, what those efforts did not produce was intelligent content of professional quality that enhanced the clinician’s public image.



So here’s the most current facts on keyword density.



Keyword density is out. Forget any notion of trying to have any certain number of the same keyword on any one page or on your site overall.



Density bad. Natural conversational use good.



Google is trying to get content writers / website owners -- and the SEO techies who prey on them -- to put well written, intelligent sounding content on the internet.



So, the way understand it -- and I just posted a great article on this on my Facebook page -- Google's algorithm now looks particularly for relevance, salience, and significance.





Relevance is when your website uses the same word that a Google user has used in a search. Someone feeling anxiety does a search for help with anxiety. Google matches that search with website pages that use the key phrase help with anxiety, as well as just the word anxiety and probably also the phrase anxiety treatment. 



And even though the person searching may not have used the term counseling for anxiety, Google is likely to understand that term as having anxiety relevance too.



By the way, the second sentence in that too long paragraph has a keyword density of 12.5% -- way too high for one sentence! 



Imagine how this similarly dense sentence would sound to a potential client:



If your anxiety is pushing you to the point of having anxiety attacks, and you’ve tried medications for anxiety and counseling for anxiety, but still suffer from the nervous feelings that anxiety provokes, then Austin Anxiety Treatment Center is your solution for ending anxiety once and for all.  (Density=14.58%)



Don’t write like that!



Google also looks for what it calls natural variants. The word anxious would be a natural variant of the keyword anxiety. So is the word anxiously, and the phrase anxiety treatment, etc.



Natural variants are useful to intelligent writing and to professional reputation.  They keep us from looking like we have such a limited vocabulary that it’s a wonder anyone gave us a graduate degree.





Salience has to do with the expected or natural relationship between your keyword and other terms that make sense in context. Words like scared, fearful, or worried may also have salience for the keyword anxiety.



The word depression may have salience for the keyword anxiety as well, because both are terms relating to emotional distress or mental health. Salience works in our favor when we write with vocabulary that the average person uses, instead of the stiff, formal terminology of clinical jargon.



This helps us write like real people who did earn graduate degrees, instead of like robots. Salience contributes to you sounding warm, friendly, and approachable on your website pages.





Significance has to do with how precisely or well defined your key phrases are. Therapy is not as precise as psychotherapy, which is not as precise as psychotherapy for depression, which has less significance than psychotherapy for teenage depression.



Likewise, mental health treatment is not as well defined as anxiety treatment, or anxiety treatment for divorced parents.



This factor of significance raises the importance of niching, and writing in a detailed manner about the problems and desired outcomes of your ideal client.



Keyword relevance, salience, and significance work together to get a marketing message across to our ideal client that helps them feel seen by you. Feeling seen generates rapport and the beginnings of trust, and leads website visitors to wanting to set an appointment.



Aren’t you glad you know all this SEO stuff now? 



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