Keyword density is essentially how many times you use a keyword or keyphrase on a webpage.
It has long been thought of as an important ranking factor for Google, and an essential method for helping a webpage’s ranking, but it is not as important as it once was.
In this article, we will explain keyword density, discuss how it relates to SEO, and share some best practices when writing for keyword density.
- What is Keyword Density?
- Keyword Density and SEO
- What is Keyword Stuffing?
- What is a Good Keyword Density?
What is Keyword Density?
Keyword density (also known as keyword frequency or keyphrase density) is a metric that measures the percentage of times a keyword or keyphrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on the page.
Keyword density is often represented as a ratio or percentage, and the higher the value, the more the selected keyword appears on a page. This metric is calculated by dividing the number of keywords by the total number of words on the page and multiplying by 100.
That means that if you have a piece of content 1000 words long and you use a keyword 30 times, the keyword density for that piece of content is 3%.
A keyword consists of an individual word, while a keyphrase can be made up of multiple words.
Keyword Density and SEO
Keywords are an important part of any SEO strategy as they send signals to Google about which types of queries a page should show up for.
Ranking for the right keywords can help your content stand out and rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs).
But how does the number of times a keyword or keyphrase is used factor into SEO?
The truth is, it really doesn’t. Or at least not as much as it once did. Keyword density used to be an actual ranking factor, but that is no longer the case.
Now what Google looks for is whether or not keywords are used in a natural and helpful manner.
If you use too few keywords then Google might not be able to understand what a page is about. If you use too many keywords, Google may interpret that as an attempt to manipulate search rankings, which it may actually penalize you for.
In fact, using too many keywords is known as keyword stuffing. Not only can you be penalized for this, but it can actually lead to your page being removed from the SERPs altogether.
What is Keyword Stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is the practice of writing content with the goal of having a high keyword density in hopes it will boost your ranking in Google search results.
Back when SEO was still relatively new, webmasters would use keyword stuffing as a way to jam as many keywords on a webpage as possible. At the time, Google didn’t have algorithms advanced enough to cope with this so it was an easy way to potentially get your webpage ranked highly.
However, as Google’s algorithms have become better and better at reading and understanding content, not only will keyword stuffing not help, it could significantly damage your SEO ranking as well as lead to keyword cannibalization.
While it is still important to have keywords located in the content for SEO, the most important part of the content is its benefit to the reader. If your content isn’t readable due to keyword stuffing, people that visit your webpage likely won’t linger on your site very long.
Examples of keyword stuffing include:
- Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
- Blocks of text that list cities and states that a webpage is trying to rank for
- Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example: We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at [email protected]
What is a Good Keyword Density?
The truth is, there’s no hard and fast rule for the optimal keyword density. The former head of Google’s webspam team Matt Cutts published a video about keyword density in 2011 that is still as relevant today as it was then.
In it, Cutts confirms there is not an ideal keyword density in Google’s eyes, but he does offer some insight on how to approach keyword density:
“Once you start to mention it a whole lot it really doesn’t help that much more. There’s diminishing returns. It’s just an incremental benefit but it’s really not that large. And then what you’ll find is, if you continue to repeat stuff over and over again, then you’re in danger of getting into keyword stuffing or gibberish and those kinds of things.
So the first one or two times you mention a word that might help with your rankings, absolutely. But just because you can say it seven or eight times, that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily help your rankings.”
That means that the goal for keyword density should be to use the keyword naturally, as it fits into the content. If your content sounds choppy or artificial, you are likely using a keyword too many times.
One good way to shoot for a strong keyword density without overusing a keyword is to use keyword variants.
As the name suggests, keyword variants are variations of a keyword or keyphrase designed to match with related searches that are similar but not identical to the base keyword.
When you use keyword variants, it allows you to target other keywords or phrases users search for when performing a search related to your original keyword, without resorting to keyword stuffing.
Keyword density is not as important for SEO as it once was, but it is still important to use keywords in your content and do so in a manner that is helpful to your readers.
Instead of trying to use keywords where they don’t fit, your focus should be on writing high-quality content that provides searchers with the information they are seeking.
If you want to really improve your SEO, learn how to optimize your meta descriptions and title tags.