Do Pages Need Exact Keywords to Rank? (Real Examples)

When using SEO tools, it is often recommend that your article contain the exact primary keyword somewhere on the page. While this isn’t particularly bad advice, you can get into situations where you have dozens of clustered keywords to also cover (PS – Keyword Chef does have has a built-in clustering feature). In these situations, do need to mention every single similar keyword in your article?

Well, we’ve explored a lot of SERPs and have done this exact analysis. Turns out, pages will often rank without having the exact keyword mentioned anywhere. This is to say that Google is smart enough to understand search intent and what your pages are about.

This can be seen with some recent examples. For this, we will go to our ‘sleeping bag’ report and go the Domains. This Domains view will organize the results by the ranking domains instead of keywords. Once we have picked a domain, we will be able to see all the keywords from the report it ranks for.

Here, we can see the /how-to-wash-your-sleeping-bag-guide from is ranking for 24 keywords on the first page:

  • can sleeping bags go in dryer
  • how long do sleeping bags take to dry
  • can you get sleeping bags dry cleaned
  • where to wash a sleeping bag
  • can sleeping bags go in the dryer
  • is it safe to wash a sleeping bag
  • should sleeping bags be washed
  • how long to dry sleeping bag
  • where can I get a sleeping bag cleaned
  • do I need to wash my new sleeping bag
  • where to clean sleeping bag
  • where to wash sleeping bags
  • how much does it cost to wash a sleeping bag
  • can you dry a sleeping bag
  • do I need to wash my sleeping bag
  • is sleeping bag washable
  • is it ok to wash a sleeping bag
  • are sleeping bags washable
  • can sleeping bags be washed
  • can sleeping bags be dry cleaned
  • can you wash a sleeping bag
  • can a sleeping bag be washed
  • how much does it cost to dry clean a sleeping bag
  • where can I wash my sleeping bag

Guess how many of these exact keywords can be found on the page? Exactly zero. You can check for yourself – and these keywords aren’t low volume either. The total search volume from these keywords is 1160, and that is just from the questions category. This isn’t a fluke either. We can see rank for nearly the same keywords with their own article, /how-to-wash-sleeping-bag. That article doesn’t have any of the exact keywords on the page either.

So what can we conclude from this? Two things:

  1. There is no need to constantly stuff your article with keywords in order to rank
  2. Google has evolved to understand search intent and understand what your pages are about