You already know that you need to use focus keywords and longtail phrases to improve your overall search engine ranking.
But how many times should you use those terms and does it really even matter?
The short answer is yes. It does indeed matter. In fact, there’s a term for this called keyword density.
To help you understand the process fully, our team of digital marketing experts at Rock Content has put together this short guide explaining what it is and why it matters.
Plus, we also dive into why you should avoid tactics like keyword stuffing and how the practice can harm your Google rank.
Let’s get started.
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What is Keyword Density?
Keyword density is the number of times a specific keyword is used on a page of content.
It is usually expressed in a percentage of the total number of words on a page.
Essentially, this helps search engines and site visitors understand what a particular page is about.
After all, if you’re using a certain keyword as a focus point, you’re likely writing content that coordinates with that term.
Generally, the rule of thumb is that you should have one focus keyword that serves as the primary search term for your content.
However, you’ll also want to include multiple secondary keywords, which help enhance the overall understanding of the main topic.
It is important to also remember that not using enough keywords or a low overall word count could be perceived as thin content, which is often excluded from SERPs.
Defining Keyword Stuffing
In the early years of search engine optimization, the more times you used a keyword the better the ranking you could achieve for that page.
Sounds pretty easy, right? It was. In fact, it was too easy.
This is why unscrupulous webmasters just started adding entire paragraphs of keywords in pages to help boost rankings.
No context or readable format. Just lots and lots of keywords.
This is what is referred to as keyword stuffing. In more simple terms, it means overusing keywords to the point of making the text unreadable for the human user.
As you can bet, Google decided this wasn’t an okay practice. Thus, they started downgrading pages that actively keyword stuffed in this format.
Instead, they focus more on the context of a page and whether it offers useful information in an easy-to-read format.
What is the Importance of Keyword Density for an SEO Strategy?
The process of ranking and keyword density isn’t what it used to be.
After Google wised up about keyword stuffing and made a few algorithm changes, search engine optimization became far more about creating engaging and informative content than the number of times you can stuff a certain word into a blog post or article.
Does that mean that keyword density isn’t important? Actually, it means the exact opposite.
When Google or another search engine looks at content on a website, it isn’t reading the actual words on the page.
Instead, it scans the copy to find specific words that come up more often than others.
Naturally, it skips those little terms that are found in normal everyday language. But it is searching for potential keywords that stand out.
If you’ve done your keyword research and written the text accordingly, you should have individual keywords that take up a certain percentage of all words on the page — i.e. your keyword density.
The higher the density for a keyphrase, the more likely the whole page is about that topic.
Thus, paying attention to keyword density is still important for SEO. But, unlike times in the past, it is more about the overall context of the copy and not using the term as many times as you can.
Do You Only Rank for Just the Focus Keyword?
It’s important to note that a focus keyword and even secondary keywords are just the terms you hope to rank for.
There is never a guarantee that it will happen.
And sometimes it is possible to rank for keywords on your page that you didn’t even mean to show up in the SERPs for.
It is also possible to rank for keywords that closely relate to your topic but aren’t 100% the same, too.
As we mentioned above, Google looks at all words on the web page in the same context and breaks each one down to the number of uses.
That means you could accidentally rank for a term that isn’t necessarily your focus phrase, but still relates to the topic in a meaningful way.
This is great, as it means you can rank in multiple ways with the same piece of content over time.
How to Calculate Keyword Density
Typically the formula for calculating keyword density is the number of times a focus keyword is used on a page divided by the total number of keywords on the whole page.
For example, if you used a specific keyword ten times in a thousand-word blog post, your keyword density would be 1%. (10 / 1.000 = 0.01 = 1%)
So, what is the best keyword density to use? This is a really subjective thing.
Some digital marketers swear 1% is the sweet spot. Others agree that no more than 4% is fine.
The real answer comes down to the overall length of your post.
Obviously, a 4% density on a 1,500-word article is going to be more naturally spread out than that same amount on a 100-word blurb.
Just aim to make your content sound natural and aim for consistent keyword use throughout the entire piece.
Where to Add Keywords
In addition to your overall keyword density, you’ll want to also keep an eye on where those keywords are used.
Remember, these count towards your total in terms of usage within a web page, too.
The most common areas you want to include your focus keyphrases within your page are:
This tells both search engines and users what your page is about, so it only makes sense to include it here.
- Meta Description
Remember, this is the little blurb that ends up in the SERPs. Including your focus keyphrase is important here.
- Heading Tags
Make sure you’re attempting to use at least one H1 or H2 with your desired focus keyword.
- Body Content
Don’t forget to use it a few times spread throughout the body copy of your page.
Why Use Keyword Variants and Keyword Clustering on Text?
Of course, search engines are a lot smarter than many digital marketers give them credit for.
As Google has evolved with algorithm changes over the years, the semantic capabilities of their bots have dramatically increased.
In plain speak, this means they can tell that two different keywords are variations of the same thing.
Need example? Let’s say your focus keyword is the term dog breeds.
Search engine spiders know that this is the same as types of dogs or canine breeds. And there are dozens of other related terms that it sees as a linked term.
That said, it is important to realize that sometimes it is better for SEO to use keyword variants and keyword clustering within your text.
What this means is, instead of focusing on just one primary keyword in your copy, you use several related terms together in an effort to rank for multiple terms.
Keyword clustering can be as simple or as complicated as a digital marketer wants to make it.
While there are plenty of tools out there to help you determine the best terms to group together, often it is just general understanding of a particular topic and how people might use vocabulary terms interchangeably that works best.
Avoiding Keyword Stuffing
Remember, keyword stuffing is bad.
Using a term over and over again is what can really harm your rankings in the long run, as well as make it harder for someone to read your content.
Thus, we remind you to avoid keyword stuffing whenever possible. That includes when using clusters and variants.
However, remember that these interchangeable terms each have their own density.
So, if you feel like your percentage for a particular term is too high, consider replacing a few instances with a semantic alternative to balance things out.
Wrap Up: Using Keyword Density in Your SEO Strategy
As you can tell, keyword density is still a very integral part of a competitive SEO strategy.
By keeping track of both the keywords you use and how they are utilized, you can rank more effectively for a broader range of terms.
Ready to increase your search engine optimization capabilities and better refine your overall organic traffic strategy?
Our Rock Content guide to SEO can help give you the knowledge necessary for success.