For many, their SEO journey starts with learning about keywords. Often, the next step is trying to understand keyword density. It sounds simple, but it’s easy to end up confused. So, if you’re struggling with what is keyword density, let alone if it matters, don’t worry. We’ve all been there.
The good news is that keyword density matter less than you think or what you might read online. However, the bad news is that it isn’t as clear-cut as some SEO blogs will have you believe.
In this article, I hope to explain what is keyword density, why it matters and how to apply your new knowledge to your website.
So, what is keyword density?
As the name suggests, keyword density is the number of times you use a keyphrase within a block of text.
Let me illustrate with a quick example. Say you’re writing an article about Lindt Chocolate. Our keyword might be Lindt Chocolate. If our piece was 1,000 words in length and we used our keyword 10 times, the keyword density would be 1%
If we wrote a 500-word blog post on Dua Lipa’s love life and use that keyword 20 times, our keyword density would be 4%.
How to calculate keyword density
We can use a simple formula to calculate keyword density:
Keyword / Total word count = Keyword density
Using the search function (Ctrl+F), you can find the number of times you’ve used the keyword. If you write your articles in Word, Google Docs, or Grammarly, you can easily see the total word count.
Finally, divide the first number by the second and you have your keyword density.
Why is it important for SEO?
If you only use your keyword in the title, the search engines will struggle to understand the intent of that page or post. So, you want to use your keyword frequently and naturally throughout your page.
I often see clients create pages that barely use their target keyword. They wonder why Google doesn’t send them any traffic for that or other related queries. After slightly increasing how often the keyword appears, they start to see a steady flow of traffic.
Is there any ideal keyword density for SEO?
Here’s where the debate really starts! There is no ideal keyword density. Don’t believe the SEO bloggers who state there is or give a figure.
As Shaun Anderson from Hobo SEO states: “There is no one-size-fits-all optimal ‘keyword density’ percentage anybody has ever demonstrated had direct positive ranking improvement in a public forum.“
I have written articles with a keyword density of 1%, 0.33%, and 2% that have all ranked in the top spot. Also, I’ve created pages with a keyword density of 0.5% and 1% that haven’t ranked in the top 100 results.
As a rule of thumb, I try to stick within the 0.33% to 2% range. However, I carefully observe the top 10 results for the query and how often they use my target keyword. Using this data, I model how often I should use the keyword.
With this figure, I have a rough idea of how many times to use the keyword on my page and so, I set about writing.
What is keyword stuffing?
It’s easy to understand the concept of keyword stuffing, but it can be tricky to apply. Keyword stuffing is when you force your keyword into every sentence or paragraph. I think of it as meaningful overuse.
While this sounds good, how do you know if you’re keyword stuffing, especially as there’s no magical number for keyword density?
As a rule of thumb, if you have a keyword density of 3% or higher, you’re stuffing, whether you’re doing intensionally or not.
So, watch how often you use your keyword phrase and ensure you stick within the 0.3% to 2% range. If you feel that you’re stuffing, take a second to calculate your keyword density to confirm your suspicions.
How many keywords should I use when writing?
You should aim to use the keyword within the 0.3% to 2% range. But, what does this in real figures? Again, these are rough numbers and shouldn’t act as a hard and fast rule.
With 1,000 words, your keyword should appear between 3 and 20 times.
If you aim for a keyword density of 0.33%, means you’ll use it 3 times. You can use it once in the title and two times within the body of the page.
Using your keyword 10 times, or a keyword density of 1%, means you’ll use it in the title and nine times within the article. Within these nine, you’ll want to include your keyword within a subheading.
Again, there’s no magic formula or ideal keyword density. Instead, trust your gut and analyze how often the top 10 search results use the keyword.
What about keyword variants?
Some writers and SEO professionals really care about keyword variants, so much that they specify them in their article outlines. Usually, they’ll also state a hypothetical density. I’m not one of these.
While keyword variants are super important, as a topic expert, you’ll naturally include them. So, there’s no reason to specify keyword variants, unless you’re working with a completely new writer or one that isn’t a topic expert.
Of course, if you accidentally end up keyword stuffing and realize this before hitting the publish button, you can go back and use keyword variations.
Any best practices for keyword density?
Over time you’ll get a good feel for the right keyword density. However, if you’re just starting out and finding it hard to get your blog posts and pages ranking, you’ll want to follow these tips.
Write for people
Many beginner writers end up keyword stuffing or miss the mark completely with keyword density as they focus on a number. Typically they look at their SEO plug-in, which gives them a figure, based in fantasy, and off they go.
The result is an article that’s written for a machine, not a human. By taking the opposite approach, you can ensure your blog post is written for other humans and not to hit some imagination target.
Search engines mimic human behavior. They are incredibly smart and can tell if a sentence doesn’t make sense. You’ll never rank your content if the search engine smells something fishy or is confused. So, write for humans!
Use keywords correctly
Understanding how to SEO optimize a page involves knowing where to put keywords. You might technically understand that a keyword density of 0.5% means using the keyword 5 times. But, where should we use it?
Here are the vital places to use your keyword:
- H1 tag
- H2 tags
- Beginning of your article
- End of your article
- Title tag
- Meta description
You can’t use your keyword once and expect to rocket to the top spot. Instead, you need to spread it throughout your post/page and in key locations.
If you’re writing for humans, you’ll probably include keyword variations without thinking. That’s great. Otherwise, you can search your text for the keyword and see if you can change it for a variation.
Again, don’t go over the top as you’ll weaken the keyword density of the phrase you actually want to rank for!
Check your density, often!
Before hitting the publish button, you should check that you have the keyword in all the right places and that you’re not overusing it. So, check your keyword density often and adjust to ensure you don’t stuff!
Using keyword density in your SEO strategy
As you now have a better understanding of what is keyword density, you can ensure your SEO strategy and processes will work in today’s market.
Don’t be like many would-be writers who get caught out as they fixate on using their keyword a certain number of times. Instead, study what the competition is doing and write naturally.
The basics of SEO are about placing your keyword at the right points on your page, building internal links, and getting some backlinks. Don’t stress too much about keyword density, and don’t blindly follow an SEO plug-in that uses a traffic light system!
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