What is keyword density?

When you are optimising a landing page or blog post for keywords, you may be tempted to cram as many of them in as possible.

However, adding keywords to a page is a balancing act. If you don’t use enough of them, you won’t rank in the search engines. If you add too many, your website may be penalised.

In this article, we are going to find out more about keyword density and how you can use it to make sure your keyword usage is on the right track.

A little more about keyword density

Keyword density (sometimes referred to as keyword frequency or keyphrase density) refers to how many times a specific keyword or phrase appears on a webpage. Keyword density is typically expressed as a percentage.

For example, if you have a 500-word article and you use your selected keyword 20 times, the keyword density is 4%.

There is another formula used for calculating keyword density – term frequency-inverse document frequency (TF-IDF). This assesses the keyword frequency on a specific page of your website and compares it to how often it is used on other website pages. The logic here is that your keyword should appear more on one specific page than on other pages of your website.

The problem with using too many keywords

Using too many instances of a keyword on your page can hurt how you rank in the search engine results.

‘Keyword stuffing’ is a black hat SEO technique that is often used by unscrupulous agencies and freelancers. This is when a keyword is used as many times as possible, in a way that may feel mechanical and forced.

Keyword stuffing used to be a common SEO technique several years ago. However, as it was used by many low-quality websites and led to users not being able to find the right content, search engines like Google decided to take action.

If the search engines find that a web page has too many keywords, it may lead to a manual action. This means your page will be demoted in the search engine rankings or even worse, not be available at all.

Your page not being available in the search engines can mean you lose out on website visits, leads and most importantly, revenue.

What is the ideal keyword frequency?

Search engines like Google and Bing do not offer any specific advice on keyword density. However, many SEO experts recommend the ideal frequency for keywords is 1 or 2%.

This means for every 100 words; you should be using your keyword of choice once or twice.

How to find out keyword density

Finding the keyword density of your content is much easier than you might think. If you are using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, just press CTRL + F and type in your keyword of choice. You can then see how many times your keyword has been used and compare it to the overall word count of your document.

Alternatively, if you are using WordPress, a plugin like Yoast can automatically calculate your keyword density for you. Just type in your keyword, and it will let you know if you need to increase or decrease the frequency of that specific word on your page.

How to ensure good keyword density

If you have searched your web content and found you have used too many examples of a particular keyword, you may be wondering how to fix it. Here’s how to ensure good keyword density on your page, without risking search engine penalties.

1. Write for people rather than search engines

When you try and force your keyword of choice into your page, your writing will appear stilted and forced. This will not only be a red flag to the search engines, but lead to a high bounce rate, as your website visitors will quickly leave your site.

Our top tip is to create your content without worrying about keyword frequency. When you’re done, you can review what you have written and see if you can naturally slot your keyword of choice in anywhere.

2. Use keyword variants

The easiest way to reduce keyword density while increasing the chances of your page ranking high in Google is to use keyword variants.

A keyword variant is a slight variation or synonym of your keyword. For example, ‘keyword frequency’ is a variant of ‘keyword density.’

Before you write your content, think about some of the keyword variants you can use. That way, if you find you have used your primary keyword too much, you can substitute these alternatives into your website copy.

3. Use keyword stemming

Keyword stemming is when you add a prefix or suffix to a keyword, or pluralise it. For example: ‘keyword frequencies’ or ‘keyword densities.’

Search engines recognise these stems and will associate them with your chosen keyword. This means you can use keyword stemming, alongside keyword variants, to add variety to your copy and reduce the risk of search engine penalties.

4. Don’t forget the rest of your SEO

Keyword density is only a small part of the search engine optimisation process. Don’t forget to review the rest of your page for SEO too. Here are some of our guides to help:

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