Does Keyword Density Matter For Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

keyword density

Yes, keyword density matters in SEO. However, there is no absolute fact about how many keywords should be in your blog article. Some say it does not matter, but I beg to disagree.

Today, I will share with you what I have learned in the past several years of blogging. I will talk about what keyword density means, what others say about it, and why it matters.

What is keyword density?

Keyword density refers to the percentage of the keyword against the total words on your page. All throughout this article, I will use the term for blog posts, but the principle also applies to all types of web pages.

Sometimes, people call it keyword frequency. To be technically correct, frequency is a whole number. If you used a keyword ten times, the frequency is 10. Density, however, requires a formula. If you use a keyword 10x and your total word count is 1,000. Your keyword density is 10 / 1,000 = 1%.

It is this percentage where SEO experts do not agree on many things. Some say that 3% is the right number, while some say it must be less.

The true answer is that no one really knows. Google is mum about it—they do not suggest any kind of keyword density. In Google’s eyes, what really matters is user experience.

Does keyword density affect your SEO?

There was a time when it meant a lot. When Google was not as mature as it was today, keyword density mattered a lot. Seemingly, your web page was more likely to rank if you use keywords more often.

This is the reason why a decade ago, it was not unusual to see pages like this:

“We offer custom dog collars for all kinds of dogs. All our customer dog collars are made by hand, not machines. If you have dogs that need custom dog collars, please give us a call, and our custom dog collars experts will answer your inquiries. You can also send an email to customdogcollars@customdog”

Now, I want you to guess what the keyword is.

You are right: custom dog collars.

At that time, many blog pages were written this way. They spammed the reader with keywords. But who cares—they worked. This kind of keyword usage is called keyword stuffing.

They used to work because a keyword is one of the fundamental things that Google looks for in a web page. The more keywords there are, the more seemingly relevant the page is to what the user is looking for.

Google realized that this does not do anything good for the reader. The articles were spammy, short of being completely meaningless, and the users are the ones that suffer.

So, Google updated their algorithm. Today, keyword stuffing no longer works.

However, this does not mean that Google no longer takes a look at your keyword density. Keyword stuffing is bad, and your page is not likely to rank if you do this. On some occasions, you may still rank, especially so if you are using a keyword that is not competitive.

Today, there are still many sites that spam their content with keywords. You will normally find keyword stuffing examples for sites that offer local services.  

Since Google still checks for keyword stuffing, you have to be cautious with your keyword density. A blog page with stuffed keywords puts Google off. Google does not like pages with too many keywords that offer no value, so your blog page will not rank.

What is the optimum keyword density?

There is no hard and fast rule about keyword density. The thing to remember is that you should not stuff your article with keywords. If you do stuff your blog post with keywords, Google will not like it.

So, as far as being optimum is concerned, what is the right thing to do, then?

SEO experts recommend that you use a keyword for every 200 words. If we follow this recommendation, the density is going to be 0.50%. If you have a 1,000-word article, you have to use the same keyword five times.

Here are some tips:

  • Do not focus too much on keyword placement, but use LSI where you can
  • Write in a natural manner; only use keywords where they rightfully belong
  • Do not repeat the same keywords or key phrases over and over again
  • Create high-quality content that adds value to the user

The keyword density of 0.50% is not a magic number. This does not mean that your article is going to rank high on the search engine results pages (SERPs). It merely protects you from being penalized by Google.

And when I say penalty, I do not mean an actual penalty. What I mean is that you are avoiding the possibility of being marked as a keyword spammer.

Where should you put the main keywords?

In the last five years or so that I have been blogging, I have a standard practice that has helped me use keywords in an optimum way.

What I do is to use the keywords in the right places. Check out the following:

  • Title – use the keyword in your title; preferably, it must be at the beginning
  • Meta description – use the keyword once in your meta-description; search engines and people read this in the search results.
  • The first part of the article – mention your main keyword in the first part of the article; it does not matter if it is in the first paragraph or second—it reinforces the topic to the reader and to the search engines.
  • Middle of the article – mention it once somewhere in your article.
  • In one sub-heading – use it in one of your sub-headings only if it sounds natural; Google and other search engines read the sub-headings and try to make something out of it as far as relevance is concerned.

I am not claiming any scientific back-up to prove this claim. To me, it makes sense because the keyword usage is spread out evenly all throughout the article. If you are the reader, it helps keep you engaged. For search engines, they are not going to treat my placement strategy as spam.

Summary: Does Keyword Density Matter for Search Engine Optimization?

Yes, it does matter, but not really for the reasons that you think. Keyword density is no longer used by Google to decide if your blog page should be shown to people based on keyword count. Google has long addressed the issue of keyword stuffing.

What you have to focus on today is to avoid filling your blog post with keyword nonsense. Speak naturally, and avoid being too repetitive, or Google will not find value in your article. Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs, and keep your keyword usage to an acceptable level.  

So, in summary, use the keywords in the right places. Keep them to a level like 0.5% so as not to be penalized, and then focus your writing strategy on user value and content quality.

Do not sweat it out too much. Keywords are not the only things that matter to Google anymore—there are over 200 things that Google takes into consideration as far as ranking is concerned, so you also have to focus your attention on site speed and other things.

John Kilmerstone

I'm an Aussie living in Japan who enjoys traveling, photography, and blogging. Please visit this website and explore the wonderful world of blogging. Discover how to turn your passions and pastimes into an online business.

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