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What Is Keyword Density? How to Use the Keywords Right

Out there, there are so many essential tools and strategies to help you measure and analyze your web posts keyword density. As well as optimization cheat sheets to put your SEO audit plan in a better SERPs position. But, it’s so unfortunate that not all of them are as successful as they seem.

And it’s for this reason, today I’ll be discussing with you some of the best methods and tactics you could use to solve your keyword density issues. In addition to what it is, how keyword stuffing affects a site in the SERPs — and the dangers involved. As well as how to manage and use keywords right.

What Is Keyword Density?

Sometimes, when trying to optimize your website for search engines, it can be tempting to take shortcuts. You may even want to try tactics that will speed up the process and help you start ranking higher faster. But, shortcuts and black hat tactics like stuffing won’t help — they may actually hurt you.

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It’s not enough to pick an arbitrary keyword and repeat it over and over in your copy. With the hope that you will start ranking on SERPs. That’s why you need to do thorough research and then come up with a good SEO audit strategy. Bearing in mind, this strategy is a very useful tool for your web page’s content optimization.

As it gives your web pages what they need and deserves in order to rank above your competitors. You can also use some of the best content writing tips there is. And as a result, this will help you try to avoid keyword stuffing and improve your SEO strategy in the right ways.

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But for some, it’s even a myth to think that Google (or Bing or any major modern search engine) will order SERPs in any other miraculous way. Like rewarding with higher rankings a page that has a ‘specific’ target keyword density percentage value.

In simple terms — this theory would mean that — if you took web pages from two websites — a page with a keyword density score of say, 2% would outrank a page with a score of 1%. Or else, that there’s actually a specific keyword percentage that if you score a bullseye on, always results in higher rankings in Google. It’s usually not the case!

What Is Keyword Density?

We all know that Google has hundreds of secret search engine ranking factors. And it’s a claim that’s often made — that keyword density is one of these factors. Many SEO experts, including jmexclusives, don’t think that is the case.

Since there’re many other areas of SEO that is far more important than keyword density to focus your efforts on. That’s why even many search engines have indeed moved on from keyword stuffing as a positive ranking factor.

In terms of SEO audit, Keyword Density is the percentage of times a keyword is used in the copy. And as such, it equates the number of words in a web copy — then divided by the number of times the keyword appears in a web copy.

Example 1:

A keyword overuse example would be a page that is trying to rank for the term “laptop model” and using the following copy:

If you’re looking for the best laptop model, look no further. Our brand offers the best laptop model that you could want for business or pleasure. It comes with a free bag with padding in our liners. And a special pocket for your charger, this is the best laptop model for home, office, travel, or even school.

In this example, the copy goes overboard with the use of the keyword. The term is used more than the suggested amount of times to match SEO best practices for keyword density.

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Additionally, there is also a type of keyword stuffing that isn’t visible to audiences. Whereby, this tactic stuffs terms and phrases in places that are hidden from readers. And it includes using text that is the same color as the background. In order to hide words from readers but display them to search engine crawlers.

Or even repeating the keyword text in your web page core code, meta tags, image tags, alt attributes, comment tags, etc. And as a result, both of these types of keyword stuffing may lead brands to think they can trick search engines into giving them higher search engine rankings. But, in the end, both tactics can actually lead to lower rankings for a website.

How Is Keyword Density Calculated?

First of all, it’s useful for a copy editor to be aware of the keyword density values of a particular phrase on a page to avoid keyword stuffing text. Google’s quite possibly, is not using keyword density % values to even identify spam or to apply keyword stuffing filters.

Quality raters are asked to examine the text for keyword stuffing, though. Secondly, it’s natural to think it’s important to identify that sweet spot to achieve higher rankings in Google. The question is what is the optimal keyword density? Is it 1%, 2% 3% or 0.3% or 33% ?

If you look online you’ll find a lot of conflicting opinions on the ideal keyword density %. After all, it all sounds very scientific, too. But, there is, of course, a formula to work out the local keyword density of any page:

  • Density = ( Nkr / ( Tkn -( Nkr x ( Nwp-1 ) ) ) ) x 100
  • Density = your keyword density
  • Nkr = how many times you repeated a specific key-phrase
  • Nwp = number of words in your key-phrase
  • Tkn = total words in the analyzed text

The keyword density score for a key-phrase is calculated by looking at:

  • how many times a specific key-phrase is repeated in a document
  • the number of words in that key-phrase and
  • the total number of words in the analyzed text.

As I said, there’s no best keyword density percent score to rank higher in Google listings. That’s why you should try and write naturally, include keywords, and avoid keyword stuffing!

What Is Keyword Stuffing?

By definition, keyword stuffing is when a brand fills or “stuffs” a webpage with the same target term in hopes of ranking higher for that term in search engines. While not as popular as it was a few years ago, it’s still used by some brands to try to boost their search visibility.

Types of visible keyword stuffing include unnecessarily repeating words or phrases or even adding words that are out of context. As well as inserting blocks of the same keyword or even using keywords that are not relevant to the topic of the page.

Example 2:

Let’s consider the following example:

If you’re looking for the best laptop bag, look no further. Our brand offers the best laptop bag that you could want for business or pleasure. And in addition, our laptop bag comes with padding in our liners and a special pocket for your charger. So, this is your unique laptop bag for home, office, travel, or even school use.

In the example above, the keyword density is 13.75% (there are 55 words, and the keyword appears 4 times). Thus, this percentage is higher than the keyword stuffing percentage threshold.

Unfortunately, there’s no exact number for proper keyword density. But, it is a best practice to stick to a 2% keyword density. Additionally, there is also a type of keyword stuffing that isn’t visible to audiences. Whereby, this tactic stuffs terms and phrases in places that are hidden from readers.

What are the Dangers of Keyword Stuffing? 

As a rule of thumb, there are so many dangers of keyword stuffing and over-optimization. For instance, keyword stuffing is now considered a strictly black-hat tactic. But, does keyword stuffing work? It depends on who you ask. For one thing, it does tend to have some positive short-term effects.

But it’s like playing with fire although it’s rarely beneficial in the long run. It’s important to realize, a search engine like Google will penalize your site if they catch you stuffing your web page keywords. Whereas, your web page could be demoted in rankings, or even removed altogether!

Even Google’s own Matt Cutts warned webmasters about SEO keyword stuffing and over-optimization at SXSW confirmed so. In his statement, he said: “We’re trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site.”

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And also, “We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it. Like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links, or go well beyond what you normally expect. Now that we have several engineers on our team working on this right now.”

So, in other words, Google keyword stuffing is a dangerous game and isn’t likely to get safer anytime soon. Not to mention, how Google dislikes black hat tactics like SEO keyword stuffing. Because those methods focus on beating the search engine algorithm rather than a great user experience.

Without much further ado, let’s look at an example of how keyword stuffing can be used in a selling statement. From the example below, you’ll realize that it’s a pretty unattractive statement. And that’s not even the worst keyword stuffing out there.

Example 3:

There’re some which are even worse than the example below:

”Are you looking for running shoes at a cheaper price? If you’re looking for cheap running shoes, you should look no further. As of today, our running shoes website is the best place to order your new running shoes at a very cheap price. So, feel free to check out our selection of running shoes from our cheap running shoes selection below.”

Obviously, the silly thing is, even if you somehow end up on the first page for your “running shoes,” no searcher who clicks on your site will want to stay there. In short, it naturally repels people, like dog poop left out in the sun.

Surely, no one is going to see that mess and think “Wow, these people really care about me and my need for cheap running shoes.” Instead, they will feel disgusted, used, and itching to get out of there.

How does Keyword Stuffing affect Sites in SERPs?

As I mentioned above, keyword stuffing is the practice of shoving as many SEO keywords onto a page as physically possible. It’s a practice that has long been the bane of white hat SEO everywhere. But, there was a time when the method of keyword stuffing worked somehow so well on a webpage.

And by that I mean, back in the early years of search engines, one could easily manipulate a page’s ranking on Google’s SERP with keyword stuffing. Whereby, many sites were seen to rank on a large variety of keywords in the search results. By simply cluttering them onto a web page.

Even if the keywords were unrelated and the site was absent of any real content. And as a webmaster, you could be (somewhat) classy about it by hiding the offending keywords. As well as matching their text color to the background color, or you could just be blatantly obnoxious.

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Naturally, as a result of this, it led to a terribly massive web user experience. Simply, because most people aren’t looking to find a site that just reads “discount bike tires” repeated 500 times. And that’s when Google and other search engines wised up in order to solve the issue.

And because these pages were largely devoid of useful content, they began filtering out offending keyword-stuffed web pages. With that in mind, let’s have a look at some of the dangers of keyword stuffing below. And then let me know what you think about them in our comments section.

How do you Use Keywords the Right Way?

Well, after reading the keyword stuffing example above, you can see one of the most obvious reasons why this is a bad tactic. First, it creates an awful experience for users. Not forgetting, your website content should aim to educate, serve, and engage your readers.

Secondly, when you stuff your pages with keywords, you are unable to fulfill this purpose. Meaning, you’ve stopped writing for your readers and you’ve started writing for search engines. And this creates a poor experience for your audience.

As a result, this will likely send users away from your web pages. While at the same time, increase your bounce rates, and even drive potential customers away from your business. You may think filling your page with keywords will drive more people to your site, but it could actually do the opposite.

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Significantly, keyword stuffing is widely condemned by search engines, and the activity could lead to a search penalty. So, if you’ll fill your web pages with needless keywords, they won’t improve your chances of ranking higher. Rather, this will decrease them.

Not only that, but you could also be hit with a Google Penalty that removes your page from search engine results pages (SERPs) altogether. Therefore, while it might be tempting to game the system, you should avoid stuffing pages with keywords.

Instead, use the best practices I’ll list for you below to optimize your pages for keywords the right way. For the best chance of ranking, optimize for a keyword instead of stuffing it. Let’s look at some of the methods you can use to improve your organic SEO plan without stuffing your web pages.

How to Manage the Keyword Density of your Site 

First of all, to help a webpage rank for a specific keyword, you should try and focus on “optimizing” for the specific keyword. Instead of “stuffing” in the keyword. And also, you should try and use the target term in all the right places. Just like Google’s quality guidelines explain;

“Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.” So, when your copy is limited, why repeat a 3-word keyphrase 10 times? And then risk keyword stuffing penalties for a bad user experience?

When eventually, there’re possibly 10 variations and synonyms of the same keyphrase? That when added to the same page, makes the page more relevant? With a resulting better quality copy to help you even rank higher for lots of similar keywords?

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So, one of the most sensible things to do would be to avoid keyword stuffing your primary content text. It’s also probably wise to invest a little time in making your page relevant — but all the time keeping it simple. As an example, you can focus on so many other keywords stemming opportunities.

Like the focus on the long-tail of search as well as the head. Let’s say you’re focusing your keyword on SEO tools for instance. From that point on, you can go a long way to distribute your terms so comfortably. As you try and follow the long-tail aspect.

You can consider to include:
  1. SEO tools,
  2. Site SEO tools,
  3. The best SEO tools,
  4. Best SEO tools for beginners,
  5. Why you need SEO tools, etc.

You can also focus on the relative prominence of the term in the document, for instance:

Is the key phrase found in the:
  1. Title <title> element,
  2. Paragraph <p> tags,
  3. Alternate <alt> text,
  4. Site <URL> anchor text,
  5. Heading <h> text, etc.

In short, focus on introducing more unique words, single and plural, abbreviations, synonyms, and co-occurring phrases relevant to the topic of a page.

This is a better version of using your precious time than when calculating the percentage of the keyword density of just one keyword phrase. But, as I mentioned, there’s no magic for one size fits all SEO tactic when it comes to a good keyword destiny. And it’s not that easy too, out-with black-hat tactics.

Not that black hat SEO is always easy, either. Google’s trending towards rating and ranking your pages based on the quality. As well as the reputation your website builds with time, and the quality and relevance of content on individual pages. And all this works together for other search engines too.

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Whereby, they’re more than ever interested in the expertise of the actual person writing the texts being rated. As they also work out if users actually like your page — in relevance to competing pages on the web. They’re also more interested in detecting if users are actually seeking out your page amongst the competition.

Even more specifically, Google is interested in user satisfaction signals, and you should be too. More so than keyword density, for sure! So, having said that, before I list down the other steps to promote a healthy keyword density you can check out the comprehensive guide on How to Do Keyword Research by Alexa.

This guide will help you to learn more about researching and using keywords effectively. As well as how to do keyword research to find powerful opportunities to help reach your target audience. Or even grow your organic traffic, and improve your SEO ranks in addition to the simple steps below:

Step 1: Assign each page a primary keyword 

In order to start SEO for your webpage, you should first choose one target keyword. And the primary phrase should be relevant to the topic or even closely tied to the content. The key term should also be a popular, low-competition keyword to improve your chances of ranking on search pages for the term.

Once you use a target keyword on one webpage, don’t assign it as a primary term for other pages on your site. Each page on your site that you want to rank in search should be assigned its own unique, target keyword. This will avoid your web page content from competing against each other.

While also sending a clear message to search engines about what each piece of content is about. For example, you can use Alexa’s Keyword Difficulty Tool to perform keyword research before assigning a target keyword to a page. Enter a phrase related to your topic and use the report to choose a keyword.

And in order to find the best keywords, you should try and look for the terms with a high popularity score (it indicates that users are searching for the term). Or rather, a competition score you can compete with (the number is close to your site’s competitive power score).

Step 2: Write at least 500+ words with appropriate density

As for this step, you should try to encourage search engines to rank your web page for your target keyword. But, you need to write at least 500 or more words of main body copy on the page. Now that search engines aim to provide users with the most relevant and helpful information available.

In addition to many search terms that they are more likely to rank your content if it is thorough and in-depth. Don’t forget to use the appropriate primary keyword density in the copy too. And as you write, use your target keyword throughout the content. But, don’t overuse it!

Only place the term where it feels natural and relevant. As you also keep your keyword density below 2% to stay within the guidelines for best SEO practices. And there’s even more to that! Let’s say you use WordPress as your CMS, you should monitor your posts keyword density using the Yoast SEO Plugin.

As a matter of fact, it’s a keyword stuffing checker that clearly tells you the density of your keyword usage. So that you can always be sure your copy is within the right range. And once the page is published, you can also run the site link URL through a tool like Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker.

It’ll help you to get even more suggestions on how to improve your web page for SEO purposes.

Step 3: Consider using secondary keywords in your copy

Another way to tell search engines that your page is relevant to its primary keyword is by using secondary keywords on the page. Search engine crawlers use other terms and phrases on a page to get context to help them rank a page.

So, in your copy, you can try to use secondary keywords that are synonyms and long-tail versions of your primary target term. This will greatly allow you to reinforce what your content is all about. And as a result, help crawlers to quickly and correctly rank your web page.

By the same token, using long-tail variations of your keyword can also help search engines identify places in your content that answer search result questions. Giving you the opportunity to have your content featured in Google’s “people also ask” section.

And as a pro tip, you can find related keywords and long-tail keyword variations using the Alexa Keyword Difficulty Tool too. In order to produce a detailed list of options. And also, search for your target keyword in Google and reference their list of related searches to find secondary keywords.

Step 4: Try to place keywords in the right web page elements

Generally, optimizing your anchor text — the clickable, hyperlinked text on your website, might sound like a trivial tactic. However, linking internally — also called “inlinking” — to related pages on your website can actually boost your rankings on Google.

But, it’s only if you anchor these links to words and phrases that relate to the pages you’re linking to. And when you optimize a page for a keyword, it’s not just about where you place the target term in the main body content. It’s also about how you use the keyword in other elements on the page.

In other words, to fully optimize your web pages, you should always try and use the keyword only once. For example, you can use your keyword at least once in your page title and your first or last paragraph — near the conclusion of the post. You can also utilize one keyword in your main heading.

Don’t forget also to include it once in your post subheadings too. Or even in your title tag, meta description, image alt tag, etc. And unlike keyword stuffing, these keyword optimization tactics send positive signals to search engines too. Especially, in order for them to notice and rank your web page for the intended term.

Step 5: Make sure that you check your on-page SEO

Likewise, with all things said and done, even if you go through a checklist to create a keyword-optimized post, it’s still easy to miss or overlook opportunities. Sometimes, a determinant factor that makes your page more appealing to search engines.

So, once you publish a page, always run a report to check on-page SEO and ensure that you don’t miss any optimization opportunities. You should also ensure that your pages are completely optimized for your target keyword by using a tool like Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker.

In order to use this tool, all you’ll need to do is enter your web page URL or your target keyword. And then run the report to get tips on how to optimize the page to get even more search traffic. It’s also common that many SEO Tools would indicate there is no “best” keyword density.

So, try to write naturally and include the keyword phrase once or twice to rank in Google and avoid demotion. All in all, if you’ll find out that you are repeating keyword phrases you’re probably keyword stuffing your text.

Final Thoughts,

Many webmasters practicing SEO think there’s no ideal keyword density percent. Even some top-level search engines have confirmed this. So, instead of using tools to measure your keyword density, you need to think about keyword optimization.

In terms of keyword prominence, keyword proximity, and co-occurring keywords in a web page document. And then again, always remember, that there is a lot of poor SEO ‘advice’ out there. With some of them declaring optimal keyword density to be between 1-2%.

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The truth is, keyword density is probably an SEO myth, according to most professionals. Above all, you should start your keyword research with the right mindset and keyword research tools. So, as an addition, in this article, you’ll find 3 great steps for your keyword research process.

But, if you’ll need more support on keyword density, keyword stuffing, or any other related topics from our blog articles, you can Contact Us and let us know how we can help you. You can also share your additional thoughts, opinions, and questions in the comments section.

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