A Guide to Keyword Density: Is It Still Relevant for SEO?

When you're creating SEO-friendly content, a common puzzle is figuring out the right keyword count. Too few, and you might not rank as well as you'd like. Too many, and you risk Google’s wrath for overloading your content.

That's where our guide to keyword density comes in. We'll break down the essentials, explain why it's a big deal, and throw in some handy formulas to ensure your keyword tactics hit the sweet spot.

What is Keyword Density?

Also known as keyword frequency, keyword density is about how many times a specific keyword pops up on a webpage compared to the total number of words. They usually express it as a percentage or ratio. The higher this number, the more that keyword appears on your page.

Keywords are vital in your SEO strategy. Together with having relevant content and a slick and fast-loading website, using the right keywords helps your site rise above the rest and inch closer to the top spot on the search engine results pages (SERPs). It also cranks up user engagement and gives your sales a nice little boost.

But here's the catch — you can't just go nuts and stuff your content with as many keywords as you can find. That’s keyword stuffing, and it's a one-way ticket to SEO jail. It could land you with penalties or even a full-on eviction from the SERPs. 

SEOLeverage lets you check the performance of your keywords to make sure you’re on the right track to ranking well. Learn more about how we can help you by taking a look at our interviews.

Does Keyword Density Matter in SEO?

The big question is… does specific keyword density still matter as a ranking factor for SEO these days?

Not really — at least not as much as it did before. Modern search engine algorithms have gotten clever. They can now figure out what a web page is all about and how well it matches what people are looking for without obsessing over keyword density.

Google has pretty much confirmed this. Matt Cutts, one of Google's SEO gurus, once said, "I would love it if people could stop obsessing about keyword density. ... There’s not a hard and fast rule."

And John Mueller, another SEO expert from Google, chimed in with, "Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn't focus on. Make sure your content is written in a natural way."

In a nutshell, there’s no need to lose sleep over keyword usage. 

Ideal Keyword Density Formula

Aside from using a keyword density checker, calculate keyword density by dividing the number of times the keyword was mentioned by the number of words on the page, then multiply it by 100 to get the percentage.

So if you have 1,000 words on the page and you repeated the keyword 10 times, then the equation is:

10 / 1000 = 0.01

0.01 x 100 = 1%

Your keyword density is 1%.

Another way to determine optimal keyword density is through TF-IDF, which stands for "term frequency-inverse document frequency." It helps you figure out how important a specific keyword is within a document. 

TF (term frequency) checks how often a particular keyword appears in a single document. If it's all over the place, it's likely important. 

On the other hand, IDF (inverse document frequency) takes a look at how rare that keyword is across multiple pages on your site. If it's popping up everywhere, it's less special.

So, when you put them together, you get a sense of how crucial that keyword is for a particular page. If your keyword's TF-IDF score is close to 1, it means it's an important topic on the page.

Best Practices for Keyword Density

Keyword density for SEO may be less relevant than it was before, but it still pays to know the following strategies in ensuring your pages are keyword-optimized.

Prioritize Your Audience

Forget writing solely for search engines; your audience should be your muse. When you pen content catering to your readers, the keywords naturally find their place. 

Ditch the urge to stuff keywords unnaturally, as Google will penalize you faster than you can publish your page. Focus on providing a great user experience rather than keyword optimization, as that's what matters most.

Dive Deep into the Topic

Instead of obsessively repeating your main keyword, aim to delve deeply into the subject matter. That involves incorporating relevant subtopics that searchers naturally anticipate.

To find subtopic ideas, check out what's already ranking high. When you search your target keyword on Google, open up a few of those top-ranking pages. Take a good look, and you'll notice common subheadings. Those are golden nuggets of information to sprinkle throughout your content.

Place Your Keywords in Strategic Spots

Where you put your keywords is vital. It's not just about sprinkling them throughout the text. Make sure you place them in the:

  • H1 tag 
  • As many H2 tags as naturally possible 
  • At the start and end of your content
  • URL
  • Title tag
  • Meta description 

Google loves context, so feed it well.

Embrace Keyword Variations

Don't box yourself into a keyword corner. Embrace variations of your core keyword. 

If you're gunning for "cheap hotels," don't just repeat it with different cities if you don’t want to end up being penalized. Instead, use terms like "affordable hotels" or "budget-friendly stays." 

These variations won't bloat your keyword density but will expand your search reach.

Test and Tweak

Don't assume your keyword density is a one-size-fits-all magic formula. Test, analyze, and adjust. See how your pages are performing in the keyword density department. Check metrics, rankings, and traffic. 

Google Analytics is your trusty sidekick here—experiment with adding or reducing keywords and monitor the impact. 

Google Search Console can also be your compass for evaluating your site's position in Google's search results.

And the SEOLeverage app helps you perform in-depth keyword research and analysis so you can score high-potential and quick-win keywords. Schedule a call so we can help your brand grow through search engine optimization.