What is Keyword Density in SEO?

Keywords and keyphrases have been at the core of SEO since Google’s early development. However, algorithm updates and guidelines toward natural keyword placement can mean that too many keyword inclusions can lead to over-optimisation.

This is where keyword density comes into play.

In this post, we dive into keyword density and its role in SEO. We’ll also discuss the best practices to ensure your keyword optimisation efforts drive tangible results.

What is Keyword Density?

Keyword density represents the frequency of a keyword appearing throughout a webpage relative to the total word count. SEO tools often indicate keyword density as a ratio or percentage. 

In simple terms, the higher a keyword’s density is, the more often it appears on your content or page.

Why Keyword Density Matters

Targeting and optimising for the right keywords is key to any successful website. Businesses invest thousands of dollars into SEO to rank for the right keywords that drive high quality traffic and sales.

It’s worth noting that Google doesn’t only use keyword usage as a ranking factor. Everyone in the SEO industry knows it is a thing of the past. Today’s core algorithm considers the user’s search location, Google’s E-A-T score, content freshness, and user search intent, among other vital factors.

Nevertheless, keyword optimisation remains at the centre of general on-page optimisation, which is why keyword density continues to be just as relevant.

But there’s a catch.

You cannot just stuff in high-quality keywords to get a high keyword density and expect positive results. We call this keyword stuffing – a heavily outdated SEO practice that can lead to a Google penalty. The use of your target keyword must be done is a natural manner.

How Keyword Density Differs from Keyword Stuffing?

In a nutshell, keyword density is merely a measurement of a keyword’s frequency relevant to the total word count. On the other hand, keyword stuffing is a spammy SEO tactic that aims to manipulate Google into thinking a page is more relevant than it is.

We advise avoiding keyword stuffing at all costs, it has the likely potential to do more harm than good. You will inevitably have to spend more time and money reversing the work later.

How to Calculate Keyword Density

To calculate your content’s keyword density, simply divide the number of times a target keyword appears over the total number of words in your page or content.

For instance, say you have a 1200-word article, and you’ve written the keyword 14 times. That gives you:

14/1200 = 0.01167

To get the percentage, multiply that value by 100, and you have a keyword density of 1.167%.

Another formula that SEO specialists use to evaluate keyword density: Term Frequency – Inverse Document Frequency (TF-IDF). That sounds quite complicated, but it’s simple.

The idea is to count the keyword frequency on a specific page to get term frequency, then compare that to the IDF or the number of times the keyword appears across multiple pages or the entire site.

While it isn’t a percentage value, TF-IDF scores indicate how relevant a keyword is for specific pages on your site.

TF-IDF ratings are measured between 0 and 1. The closer your score hits zero, the more often a keyword appears across many pages. Conversely, the closer it is to 1, the more unique a keyword is to one page and doesn’t appear on others.

In practice, a common word such as “the” or “is” should approach a zero TF-IDF value. But if your target keyword isn’t close to 1, we recommend seeking professional SEO help to reevaluate your keyword strategy.

What is a Good Keyword Density for SEO?

There’s no one-size-fits-all keyword density for SEO, however, the general guideline is to have a keyword density score of around 0.25-2%. That means placing up to 7 keywords for every 700 words of content.

While this is the general guideline, it’s important to know what the top 10 ranking websites on Google are doing and measure their density score to act as a framework. 

As we say, the more data you have to govern your decisions, the better your results.

LSI Keywords, Plural & Other Keyword Variants

Google considers keyword density as just one of many SEO ranking factors, so your results may differ between different target keywords. 

This is because keyword density only measures exact-match keywords, so we advise using keyword variants to keep your keyword density low while optimising your content for closely related keyword variations.

Let’s say your highest-value keyword is “optometrist Sydney”. Instead of stuffing your content with the phrase, use closely-related keyword variants such as:

  • Sydney’s best optometrist
  • Optometrists Sydney
  • Optometrist in Sydney
  • Optometrist near me
  • Sydney optometrist
  • Sydney local eye clinic
  • Sydney optometrist clinic
  • Optometrist clinic in Sydney

You can also explore other keyword variants by checking searches related to them at the end of Google SERPs. Google looks into popular searches and trends to provide relevant search suggestions and autocomplete predictions which businesses can leverage for keyword research.

Best Keyword Density SEO Practices

To consistently produce content that meets a healthy keyword density, we combined 5 best keyword density practices for SEO.

1. Target low competition keywords with high search volume

Picking a low-competition keyword with high search volume is the best approach to any SEO campaign. Whilst these prove hard to find across most industries, you never know when you may highly lucrative gems. 

Once you find the right keywords, assign them as a primary keyword to each page, so no two content competes against each other for ranking. Thus helping your website and content pages stay unique.

Dividing organic traffic flow into two identical paths can affect your buying journey. If both pages have different quality, you may lose potential leads by having them click on the wrong page.

2. Optimise keyword placements

Keyword optimisation doesn’t only apply to the actual page content but also to page elements vital for SEO and page crawling. That includes placing keywords on the page title, meta descriptions, title tags, the first paragraph of your content, image ALT tags, etc.

3. Maintain natural keyword density, avoid stuffing

As discussed, a proven keyword density falls around 0.25% to 2%. To ensure Google won’t flag your content with keyword stuffing, we recommend staying within the recommended range as best practice.

4. Write long-form articles (1,000+ words)

Since keyword density is a ratio of keyword frequency to total word count, you can keep it at desirable levels even through long-form articles that are more than 1,500 words.

Remember that Google prefers relevant, accurate, and well-written content that addresses a user query completely. So if you can add keyword variants, LSI keywords, and long-tail keyword variations in your article, imagine its potential to rank highly while comprehensively serving the reader’s needs.

5. Publish high-quality content

We cannot stress this enough. Content quality is crucial to rank in Google.

We advise against writing content for search engines and manipulating keyword placement to trick Google. Instead, always place keywords naturally and keep your article easy to read and digest.

Remember that you’re writing for your audience, and if they like it, Google will pick up on that and rank you higher than the rest.

Top 3 Keyword Density Statistics

An industry study by SpyFu revealed five vital keyword density statistics that every business should know. 

We cover the top three findings here:

1. Most website that rank on Google’s first page has 0.25% keyword density

The average keyword density of websites ranking in front of Google SERPs has about 0.25% keyword density. That’s because most of them focused on addressing search intent and have only used exact-match keywords at least once on their webpage.

2. 64% of first-page websites use the exact-match keyword in their titles

Creativity is key in an optimal keyword optimisation strategy. The survey also found keyphrase variants on titles that still included the target keywords. 

It’s also important to keep your titles targeted for search intent – keywords don’t have to be the first words in a title. They just have to complement search intent.

3. 55% of high-ranking pages use keywords on their H2 tags

Keyword optimisation on heading tags improves a website’s crawlability, especially if they follow a logical progression of the main topic. A common practice is using H2 tags to break down the title into smaller components.

For instance, your title is “Why Takeaway Coffee is Popular in Sydney CBD.” Each subheader should answer why:

  • Takeaway Coffee is Served Fast in Sydney
  • Takeaway Coffee is Delicious in Sydney
  • Use Your Own Takeaway Coffee Cup

Note how each subheading reflects the keyword “takeaway coffee” and fits naturally with the title topic.

Final Thoughts on Keyword Density

Keyword density has been the talk of the town for some time. But as Google’s algorithms become more intuitive and user-driven, SEOs will naturally shift their focus towards addressing user intent and natural keyword placement.

Knowing how keyword density impacts your content and website performance is still important. If you want to improve your business website and implement best keyword optimisation practices, speak with our experienced Sydney SEO specialists today.

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