Does Keyword Density Matter to SEO

Keyword density is one of the most debated topics in search engine optimization.

Some say you should maintain 5%, some say 3%, and others say that you should not even bother.

So, what is the right answer? Does keyword density matter to SEO?

I have been blogging for a while, and I want to share with you what I have learned over the years.

By the end of this tutorial, you will have a good foundation about keyword density, what to do with it, and how you should use keywords appropriately.


What is keyword density?

Keyword density refers to the percentage of the keyword against the total word count in your article.

If you used a keyword ten times in an article with 600 words, your keyword density is 1.67%.

How did we get that number?

The formula is 10/600 = 0.016666667 x 100 = 1.67%.

Keyword density does not only apply to blogs; they also apply to web pages.

What this means is that keyword density is also measured on your Home page, About Us, Terms and Conditions, etc.

Some people refer to keyword density as keyword frequency.

The main difference is that frequency refers to the number of times it appeared.

It is a whole number, not a percentage.

What many SEO experts are concerned about is the density.

Many people claim that 3% is the best, while some say it is 5%.  

Now, here is the bomb: no one really knows.

What we do know is that Google measures it. Also, we know that Google hates keyword stuffing. 

But what is keyword stuffing, and how does keyword density come into play? 


What is keyword stuffing? 

To understand keyword density, why it matters, and what keyword stuffing is, we have to go back to how the Google search engine works.

Google, as a search engine, has robots that crawl the entire world wide web.

For every page that it “reads,” it determines what words are in there.

If your blog has the word Katy Perry in it, Google will index that page as a page that as the words Katy Perry.

It will index all the pages on the internet that has Katy Perry.

Now, if someone searches Google and types the words Katy Perry, Google is going to show the users all the websites that have the word Katy Perry in it.

Katy Perry is the keyword.

In the early days of Google, the way the algorithm worked was that if the words Katy Perry appeared many times in the article or web page, then Google “thinks” that it must be relevant to what the user is searching for.

As such, many webmasters “stuffed” their contents with keywords.

For example, let us say that a person has a website about “cat collar for sale.”

If he stuffs his blog post with this keyword, the blog post will look like this:

We are a company that specializes in cat collar for sale. If you are looking for cat collar for sale, then you are in the right place because we have a cat collar for sale. Visit our website often if you like cat collar for sale. You can also email us at catcollarforsale@catcollarforsale.com. 

See what they did there?

It is stuffed with the keyword “cat collar for sale.”

Normal people do not converse that way, but they found out that if they do this, Google will rank them higher.

The problem with this kind of writing is that it is not really useful to the reader.

To say the least, it is spammy. Google, on the other hand, wants its users to get more value out of the content that it recommends.

So, Google released an update after update to fight keyword stuffing.

Today, keyword stuffing no longer works. If you do that, Google is going to penalize you.

Penalty refers to a situation where Google is not going to show your website on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Why?

Because Google thinks you are spamming the system and people, and that you are gaming it. Being penalized is the last thing you want to happen.

If you get penalized, it will take a long time before Google eventually removes the penalty—even after you have complied with the rules.

Now, keyword density is no longer about ranking high on search engines.

Instead, you want to have the right keyword density to avoid a penalty.


How does keyword density affect SEO?

Google has updated its algorithm many times.

What Google wants is to dominate the search space online.

They can only do this if the search results are great.

Today, Google takes keyword density into account to decide how to rank your website.

However, you need to understand that it is not the only thing Google looks for.

Nobody knows what Google wants as far as the keyword density is concerned.

As you know by now, Google never releases any formula about how its algorithm works.

So, why does it still matter?

It still matters because even if you wrote a long and useful article, the Google machine still counts your keywords.

And if you stuffed your article with keywords, Google will not even bother ranking your page.

This is the complexity of search engine optimization.

It is also what makes Google a reliable and functional search engine.

In essence, out of the 200+ attributes that Google checks, you have to meet the basic expectation from all of them.

If you fail on even just one, your chances of ranking will get hurt.


What is the best keyword density?

So, what is the best keyword density?

Nobody agrees on one number, but the general consensus is between 1% and 3%. Some say that it has to be lower.

The general advice I can give you is to use your keywords at least once for every 200 words. This gives you a keyword density of 0.5%.

This density percentage is small, but it is safe.

A keyword density of 0.5% will never make your site get tagged with keyword stuffing.

When calculating and implementing keyword density, consider these tips:

  • Forget about the technicalities of keyword density
  • Use keywords sparingly but only on places that matter
  • Position the keywords carefully
  • Use LSI or latent semantic indexing

LSI simply means keyword variation or keyword extension.

For example, if your keyword is “cat collar for sale,” you can use other keywords like “best cat collars,” how to buy cat collars,” etc.

As you can see, you do not have to use your main keyword many times.

Instead, you are using other relevant keywords so Google can understand what your page is about.

Using other keywords also allows you to get indexed or other keywords.

Remember: there is no single magic number about keyword density that will help you rank.

However, anything more than 3% can be marked as keyword spamming or stuffing.

And you do not want Google to flag your site as a spammer.  


Where should you use keywords? 

Keyword density matters, but we now know that keyword density should be approached with care.

Your goal is not to use it to rank, but to prevent penalty.

So, if you could only use the keywords a few times, where are the right places to use them?

Here are my tips on proper keyword placement:

  • Headline or title – your keyword must be in your title; this is one of the places that Google will check and index. Also, the keyword on the title makes a human being think that your article is spot-on with what information he is looking for.
  • Meta-description – this is the text that is found below your title. This is not a text that is visible on your blog page but only in SERPs. You can put meta-descriptions in your blogs by using plug-ins like Yoast and RankMath.

Here is an example of a meta-description where the keyword was used:

  • The first part of the article – whether it is on the first or second paragraph, it does not matter. Use your keyword here because both Google and the user will skim through these parts. As such, you are merely reinforcing to the user and to the machines that this keyword is covered in your blog post.
  • Sub-heading – you must use your keyword at least once on your sub-headings. What this does is it tells users that you are really covering the topic they are looking for.

As you can see, this keyword placement strategy helps you meet a keyword density of less than 3%.

It allows you to tell both Google and users that the topic or blog you are offering is what the user is looking for, but you are also not committing keyword stuffing.

This strategy is not a guarantee that you will rank high on the SERPs.

What they do is that you are taking advantage of what users need.

Also, you will know that you are not violating Google’s expectations about keyword density and search engine optimization best practices.  


Keyword density analyzer tools

It is not practical to do the math on your own as far as the keyword density is concerned.

Below are some tools you can use to find out the keyword density for your article or blog post.

Word Counter – this is a free tool where you only have to paste your article, and it will show you your keyword density. It checks for the density of one word, two words, and three words. It also shows you reading time and how easy your article is to read.

SEO Review Tools – it is a free tool you can use to check keyword density for your entire website. What you have to do is to put in your domain name and then run then program. With this tool, you cannot measure the density of a blog. Instead, you can measure the density of the keyword for one page.

Internet Marketing Ninjas – like SEO Review Tools, this allows you to check the keyword density per page. You can also check the density of the keywords for the entire site.

The best of these three is Word Counter.

I strongly recommend it if you want to ensure that your keyword density is less than 3%.


Summary: does keyword density matter to SEO?

My final verdict is that yes, it does matter.

However, it does not matter for the reasons that many people think.

What really matters is that you do not spam your articles and blog posts with too many keywords.

Three to four should be enough.

Instead of merely focusing on keyword density, you should also pay attention to LSI or latent semantic indexing.

The keyword density is merely a guide, so you do not commit the number one crime in publishing blog posts: keyword stuffing.

Do not worry too much about keyword density.

What you have to worry about is the quality of your content.

Keywords are just used for indexing, but they do not comprise a big chunk of how Google will rank your site.

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