When you started your online business years ago, chances are, you were adding content to your website that had a keyword density rate of around 5% or more. There were plenty of online businesses using keywords to try to trick the search engines into thinking they were somehow superior on specific topics simply because they outweighed the competition with their keyword usage. The truth is, that may have worked then, but it is certainly not going to work now…or in the future.

Keyword Density Definition

The percentage of times that a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a webpage in comparison to the total number of words on that page.

There is no magic formula that tells you how many keywords should be in a body of text to get you on page one of the search engines, so how are you supposed to know how to write your content?

Google has been working hard to eliminate keyword stuffers, with the algorithms in place, and constant updates and refreshes, they have done a good job so far, and in future months, you can expect them to do even better.

Let it Flow Naturally

Whenever you are writing, let it flow naturally. The best writers are those who can write as if they were having a conversation, if that is not you; find someone else to write the content for your site.  Of course, you have a keyword or keyword phrase in mind when you are writing your copy, but it should not be the focus of the piece. The main focus of the content should be to offer value to the reader of some sort. Value could be to entertain, inform, invite, sell, or to create some sort of interaction between the reader and your business.

When you are reading content on a website, how do you view it? You need to have the same objective with your own content, and if you are unable to be objective, again, find someone else to do it for you. You do not have to be an established author, no one is expecting Stephen King quality content on your garden décor website, but they do expect the content to make sense, be easily readable, and offer value.

Where Keywords Must Be in Order to Rank

There are a few places that the keyword must be in order to see good rankings or to rank at all for that matter.

  • The keyword must be on the page somewhere at least once
  • The keyword must be in the title of the page
  • The Keyword must be in the URL

Some other places for the keyword to appear to help boost rankings, but that are not mandatory, are the headers, and in the anchor texts. Some SEO specialists insist that the higher the keyword is placed on the page, the better the rankings, but at this point, there is little proof of that.  But, for good measure, strategically placing keywords spaced throughout the page is never a bad idea…unless they are forced where they create unnatural content.

What About Penalties?

There is a fine line when it comes to keyword density, so how do you know if you crossed it? There are some very helpful tools offered to show you the keyword density of your site, such as www.seositecheckup.com. There are plenty of other places online to give you an insight into your site's overall performance, but Seositecheckup is one of the best, and it is free!

When it comes to Google, they do penalize you for overly using a keyword or keyword phrase, and on the other spectrum, your site may not rank well, or at all if you do not have keywords or keyword phrases in the right places. This is why natural content is so important to your site. Yes, as an SEO specialist or webmaster, you do have to ensure keywords are incorporated in your titles, URLs, heading, and of course, your content, but the main goal is to create content that is natural, and Google does reward for that.

So, where is the line between good rankings, no rankings, and spam?

As I stated before, there is no magic formula for the perfect keyword density. The old days of "keyword stuffing" are over, so expect penalties if you are forcing keywords and keyword phrases into your content, no matter what the density.

If your content flows naturally, and you feel it offers value for your readers, then Google will most likely view it the same way. If you attempt to increase keyword density by editing out important keyword modifiers and semantically related phrases, you could experience lower rankings and possible Google penalties.

Use Words with Weight

There is a science in measuring keywords and keyword phrases when it comes to search engine algorithms. The words that are used less frequently on the Internet weigh much heavier, so they must be sprinkled lightly throughout the content. This rule does not apply to most sites, especially since the Internet is over-flooded with content, and there are very few words that are not excessively repeated online.

Now, for those who are creating content with commonly used words, what is the right density? There have been top SEO specialists who say 2%, some say 5%, some 8%, and some even 12%, and in actuality, they could all be right. The magical number you are looking for is ever-changing based on factors related to your page, or to the search term for that matter. The competitiveness of a phrase or term is an issue to consider, as well as how much content is actually on the page. A page with 100 words and a keyword density rate of 6% may seem spammy and possibly end up penalized, but a page with 1,000 words and a keyword density rate of 6% could be considered the "sweet spot" for good rankings.

What This All Means

Unfortunately, if you were looking for a straightforward answer, one that gave a magic formula for the perfect percentage of keywords to use on your site, there is not one. The only real answer to the question of how many keywords are enough, and how many are too much, lies in the value they add to your page, and to your readers.

Google has changed dramatically over the years, and one of the ways the change is mostly noticed is how the search engine giant views content on a web page. Google actually looks at content more like a human these days, and you can expect it will continue to broaden that technology in the upcoming months and years.

So, do not write robotic-sounding text just to meet a certain quota on keyword usage, otherwise, Google's robots will penalize your site. Write content that is natural, only place keywords where they flow naturally, never stuff them into the content, and make sure your content answers a question, informs on a topic, or at the very least, is entertaining.

Throughout this article, the term "keyword stuffing" has been mentioned several times, and for those of you who are not exactly sure what that term means, here is a quick definition:

"keyword stuffing" is the practice of loading a webpage with keywords with the sole purpose of manipulating the rankings within a search engine. The words often appear in a list, group, or out of context, and in some instances, as hidden content behind the scenes of a site.

For the best practice, follow a few simple rules:

  • Avoid picking a single word or word phrase, use several for more leverage in the SERPS
  • Use synonyms when possible
  • Optimize titles, H1, image, and alt tags with keyword or keyword phrase

But the most important lesson to be learned when it comes to keyword density….is BE NATURAL!

So, what is the formula you use, and how is it working for you? In order to find the best method to use, it is important to share your mistakes, and your successes with others…otherwise, we all keep making the same mistakes, and that "sweet spot" will never be found!