What is a Keyword and Why Does it Matter?

The length of a keyword is equal to the square of the hypotenuse.

Obviously that’s not a true statement, but it does illustrate how difficult it is to explain and use keywords. Math does figure into it somewhat, albeit not in something as formulaic as the calculations for a right triangle. Grammar matters, too, along with all of the other typical constraints of good authorship. Writing for online readers involves every standard grammatical requirement employed in print and broadcast, plus the integrated strategy of keywords.


Quality writing alone isn’t enough to make more money. Just as critical are the right combination and frequency of target words and phrases, called keywords.

That’s where things get tricky. Keywords are the word or phrases that really sum up your subject matter. They should be sprinkled liberally throughout the story. If the most frequently used word in an article is you or your, it’s not going to drive web visitors to the site. Using too few of the intended keywords (a low keyword density) diminishes search engines’ ability to find the page. Unlike print and broadcast media, web writing requires that a writer more or less hammers home specific themes, repeating keywords to accomplish that goal.

The most important, search-worthy word or words should make up two to five percent of the total story. That boils down to as much as one word out of every twenty, which should be the same word or phrase – the all-important keyword, the subject of the article. At minimum, one word in fifty should be the keyword, the specific subject that’s the driving concept of the article. A secondary keyword should still be repeated and comprise about two percent of the total story. When writing a four hundred word article, that means the primary keyword should be mentioned a minimum of eight times and a maximum of twenty. For an eight hundred word article, double those figures.

On the flipside, don’t allow keyword density to exceed five percent (twenty times in a four-hundred word entry.) At that point search engines may bump the story to their last page, as it’s considered keyword abuse.

Keywords don’t have to be single words; they can also be a repeated set of words, such as a multi-word name. Just think of author Anne Rice. Searching each of her names individually would bring different results than searching them together.


It’s crucial that the primary keyword or keywords are the kind to drive traffic to the page. Trouble is, how do you know which words will accomplish that goal?

When typing a story about chickens, the most obvious keyword would be chicken or chickens. Taking that a step further, if the story is about Rhode Island Reds, those would be the important keywords. In either case, those words or sets of words should be repeated several times in the article in order to capture the attention of search engines.

Search engines drive traffic to sites, and search engines function on keywords. Web traffic – the number of visitors to a page or site – in turn make the difference in how much advertising a site can draw and how much it can receive for that advertising. Search-engine focused keywords represent real dollars for web sites, especially a site like hubpages. When viewed in that light, it’s pretty obvious why keywords count so heavily in determining the payment offer for an article. It’s the keyword-heavy articles that drive income to hubpages.

Take the point of view of someone looking for information. What words will they type into a search engine? What kind of an article will be bookmarked as a reference site, because it contains clear, concise and precise information on how to do something? Those keywords, and those types of articles, are going to draw the maximum-dollar offers.

Be specific. As noted above, the keyword chicken might generate more overall hits on search engines, but there will also be far more search results for that word. Switching the keywords to Rhode Island Reds, however, increases the likelihood that the keywords will draw readers to your article. If keywords in an article are too generic, it will compete against thousands, and possibly millions of comparable entries across the Internet. Ironically, choosing keywords that are too popular can detract from the value of your work.

As with other aspects of life, with keywords, it’s all in the details.

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