Keyword Density

What Is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is a term to describe how frequently a keyword is used on a singular webpage.

Look at this equation ⁠— it should help you understand the concept.

Keyword density = no. of times keyword used ÷ total no. of words on webpage x 100

If I wrote a 100 word blog post and used my keyword twice, the density would be 2%.

It’s also important to note that a keyword can be one word, or many in a “phrase.”

A keyword that is 10 words long, used 5 times in a 100 word article, is still 5% keyword density.

Why Is Keyword Density Important For SEO?

Why is keyword density important for SEO? The simple answer…

Keyword density is important for SEO because keywords are important for SEO.

Keywords are a fundamental aspect of SEO — always have been, always will be. They are your chance to tell search engines (like Google) exactly what your webpage is about.

How many times you use your keywords (keyword density) can give Google even more hints and clues.

However, it needs to be said — keyword density is not nearly as important as it once was.

Back in the early days of the internet, keyword density was a viable SEO strategy. It was a way to put your website/webpages at an advantage.

A number of different Google algorithm changes over the years have changed this.

Google Panda in 2011 punished low quality, “spammy” websites/webpages that prioritized keywords over content quality.

Then in 2013, Google Hummingbird was released — the most significant algorithm change in years.

Google Hummingbird built upon Panda — punishing cheap tricks to game the system.

The Wikipedia article on the update put it quite well.

“Hummingbird” places greater emphasis on natural language queries, considering context and meaning over individual keywords.

Over time, search engines have become more and more “semantic” or logic-driven. An unnaturally high keyword density (keyword stuffing) once a viable SEO strategy, is now blackhat (illegal.)

This is true for all search engines (not just Google.)

The bottom line — keyword density is not as important as it used to be, but it still needs to be addressed.

Best Practice

Aim For 1-3% Keyword Density

Before those big Google updates, it was common to see high-ranking content with keyword densities as high as 50%.

That’s definitely not going to fly today.

You want to aim for a keyword density of 1-3% to start, but like all things in SEO this can vary from keyword to keywords, and certainly from industry to industry.

That’s a rate of 1-3 keywords per 100 words.

However, if you want to take a more advanced (and frankly better approach) you will want to analyze the top ranking URLs for any given keyword and see what their average keyword density is. Then, sculpt yours to fit in somewhere in the middle. Blend in. Always blend.

Popular WordPress SEO plugin Yoast recommends 0.5% to 3%.

RankMath (another plugin) says 1% to 2.5%.

The Wikipedia article on keyword density suggests 1-3%.

The key really, is to not focus on keyword density. You should be prioritizing writing useful content that helps your readers.

If you do this, naturally your keyword density will fall between 1-3%.

Long-tail keywords are obviously going to be used less than short-tail keywords.

How often do you think you can use “how to create a wordpress website” compared to “wordpress website.”

Again, the key is naturally flowing.

Takeaway: A 1-3% keyword density is an optimal baseline, but the KEY is to blend in.

Put Keywords In The Right Places (Keyword Placement)

These days, it’s not really how many times you use keywords, but where you put them.

There are a number of critical places you must have keywords featured.

These include:

Page Title (Title Tags)

The page title — also known as title tags — is the most important place to have a keyword.

In case you didn’t know, the page title is the title of your webpage on SERPs (search engine results pages.)

It’s what tells search engine users exactly what your webpage is about — just like a headline of an article.

Google (and other search engines) will look at the title tags and see if you have a keyword here. Make sure you do so, and front-loaded if possible.

H1 Header (Headline)

You’ll also want to put a keyword within your h1 header — this is your actual page headline.

The h1 header is often confused with the page title — it’s important to know the difference.

The page title is the headline for your webpage on the SERP.

The h1 header is the headline for your webpage, on the actual page.

They are often the same because they are both headlines — just in different places.

Just use the same copy for your page title and h1 header — both featuring keywords.

Subheader (H2, H3)

You should feature a keyword in at least one subheader — these are usually the H2 and H3 tags.

This article is a great example of this.

Yoast recommends this as well.

It’s not going to have any dramatic SEO benefit, but it might help you generate site-links on Google.

Meta Description (Meta Tags)

Although your meta description does not directly influence SEO, putting a keyword here is good practice.

A good meta description can increase click-through rates, indirectly impacting SEO.

The meta description acts as a blurb, or preview of sorts. It lets search engine users know what your webpage is about.

If you’re accurately describing your webpage, you’ll most likely use a keyword.

Image Alt-Text

Google (and other search engines) don’t see images visually — only the HTML.

For this reason, you’ll want to throw a keyword in at least one image alt-text.

Image Filename

You’ll want to do the same with the image filename.

Putting keywords in your image HTML is going to help search engines better understand and rank your content.

URL Slug

Putting a relevant keyword in your URL slug is good practice.

Remember to keep it short.

Takeaway: Put a keyword in your page title, h1 header, h2/h3 subheader, meta description, image alt-text, image filename and URL slug.

Use Various LSI Keyword Variations

Modern keyword strategy is less about using the same keywords frequently, but using different variations of your keyword.

These keyword variations are known as LSI keywords.

LSI (latent semantic indexing) keywords are words or phrases that are semantically similar, or highly correlated to your main keywords.

Search engines (such as Google) are intelligent — they look for these related LSI keywords.

This gives them a better understanding, a better idea of what your webpage is about.

Google even states so in this 2016 research paper.

It’s also important to note that LSI keywords are not synonyms.

Synonyms — words that have similar or same meaning.

LSI Keywords — words or phrases that are related to your keyword/keywords in search engines.

Sometimes, they might be the same. If a synonym is not relevant in search engines, it is not a LSI keyword.

There are many strategies you can use to find LSI keywords.

The easiest way is to use the Google “autocomplete” feature.

The words suggested — these are LSI keywords.

Another strategy you can use is

Simply type your keywords into the tool — a list of LSI keywords will appear.

Takeaway: Use LSI keyword variations to make your keyword SEO more semantic.

Target Multiple Keywords (Keyword Clustering)

In the early days of SEO it was commonplace to target only a single keyword.

It kind of still is today.

However — if you look at a high-performing webpage with Google Search Console, you’ll notice it ranks for many keywords/search queries.

Why target a single keyword, when you can target many?

The SEO strategy of targeting many different keywords is called keyword clustering.

More specifically, keyword clustering is a keyword research technique that groups together similar keywords that have varying levels of SERP similarities (first 10 results.)

Keyword clusters can be either weak, or strong — this depends on how many of those first 10 results are matches.

1-3 matches would be a weak cluster.

8-10 matches would be a strong cluster.

The amount of matches is known as the clustering level.

The entire process of keyword clustering goes like this:

  1. Your seed keywords are typed as search queries into Google
  2. The first 10 results for each keyword are pulled from Google
  3. The results from all keywords are matched
  4. Keywords are clustered together based on the matches

That’s the basic gist of it.

Now you’ve got these keyword clusters you can use — more search queries to target.

When you target more than just one keyword, you open up your webpage to a lot more potential traffic.

Keyword clustering can be done manually, but it takes unnecessary time. There are free (and paid) tools you can use.

Wordstream’s free keyword tool has a cluster function.

It gives you a list keyword clusters groups based on your seed keywords.

SpySERP is a paid option you can use.

It has a really clean, easy-to-use clustering function.

It will give you a number of different cluster groups.

Takeaway: Use a keyword cluster tool during keyword research to target multiple keywords.

Final Thoughts

In this post we covered keyword density as a concept, its history and its current state in the SEO world.

Keyword density is not nearly as important as it once was — search engines have gotten smarter. The strategy has shifted from using the same keywords over and over.

These days it’s more about targeting multiple keywords, putting them in the right places and using different variations.

To learn more about SEO, continue reading the guides in our learning hub, and join our mastermind community group here: SERP University.
Lars Erik Larson

Lars Erik Larson

Lars Erik Larson is a digital marketer specializing in writing long-form B2B Marketing and SaaS content that builds brand and ranks highly on Google. Lars runs Wordsmith Method, a content marketing business targeting small businesses and startups. Lars also acts as one of the expert mentors at SERP University.

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