What is the Proper Keyword Density for SEO?

The discussion of keywords always seems to begin any SEO chat. Whether you’re new to SEO or a veteran in the field, keyword density in a piece of content will always be important. The keywords that you decide to target, which should sum up the content on a particular page, is what search engine bots will use to determine where to index your website. In other words, keywords work like little symbols for to help determine the topic of your content.

It’s important to give the search engines this signal in order to help make sure your website is being put in front of the eyes of the right audience, but you don’t want to overdo it. You want to avoid keyword stuffing because this seems unnatural to readers (thus bringing down the quality of your content). At the same time, you want to make sure that that the keywords you are targeting are prevalent enough so that a search engine will be able to index your content correctly. Therefore it’s hard to avoid the inevitable question: What is the proper keyword density for SEO anyway?

What the Top Experts Are Saying About Keyword Density

Those who are familiar with SEO know that SEO never has a clear-cut answer. Unfortunately, keyword density also follows this pattern—there is no one right answer to this question. Back in December of last year, Matt Cutts gave this statement regarding keyword density:

“the first time you mention a word, you know, ‘Hey, that’s pretty interesting. It’s about that word.’ The next time you mention that word, ‘oh, OK. It’s still about that word.’ And once you start to mention it a whole lot, it really doesn’t help that much more. There’s diminishing returns. It’s just an incremental benefit, but it’s really not that large.”

Cutts continued to discuss the importance of making your keywords sound natural. However, although he may have given his usual vague answer, experts who have studied keyword density have come up with a few more concrete theories for business owners to consider:

  • The Specific Search Engine Matters – Sean Si of SEO Hacker  put a lot of emphasis on the idea that keyword density varies between search engines. He used pictures from to determine that Yahoo recommends a keyword density of about 3% while Google seems to like sites that have a 1-2% keyword density. Below is an example of the chart he used to form this opinion:

  • A Few Times Is Enough – Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz has come to the conclusion that putting your keyword in your content just a few times (in a “sensible way”) is enough to get you an 80-90% on-page optimization value. He explained that links are far more important for competitive search results (who links to you, what do they say about you, where do they come from, etc.).
  • Position Matters – Aaron Wall of SEOBook agrees with most experts that keyword density isn’t the number one thing to worry about when trying to optimize a page. He explained that keyword presence is more important than keyword density. Two articles with the same keyword density could be filtered differently by Google simply because of the position of the keywords. If one article puts the keywords at the start of the title and their h1 tag, it will get filtered by Google better than an article that uses the same amount of keywords in odd spots of the content.
  • It’s Too Tough to Calculate – Matt Ridout of SEO Unique Blog statedthat worrying about keyword density is “like saying to an artist you have too much red on your canvas, use a calculator to work out how much more to add or subtract from the painting.” Although keyword density matters, knowing the exact amount is irrelevant.

The vast majority of SEO experts, myself included, agree that keyword density is not something that should be overly important. Instead, a website should focus on where these keywords appear. Putting keywords in the Meta descriptions, title, and tags will give Google more than enough clues about the topic of the content.

Most importantly, content should be written for readers and not for search engines. It makes sense that an article about SEO will include the keyword “SEO” within the content.

What are your thoughts on keyword density? Is this something that you worry about or something that just comes naturally?

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