Keyword Density

Keyword Density - Is It A Thing?

Keyword density. I wish, wish, wish I had a dollar for every conversation I've had on this "ranking factor," "SEO metric," "important optimization technique," - these are terms I've heard describing it and more.

None of them are true.

There is no such thing as keyword density.

Seriously, it's not a thing. It never should have been a part of SEO, but hey...back in the day, you know?

Don't believe me? Here, listen to former Googler, Matt Cutts tell it to us.

To me, this is the last word on the topic, but much like urban myths, this one won't die.

What Is Keyword Density, Anyways?

Basically, keyword density is this: you choose a keyword phrase to optimize a page with. The content is written on the keyword phrase topic. Early in the first days of the internet, there were several keyword density benchmarks to meet.

The one I've always heard was this: for every 500 words of content, you should use your chosen keyword phrase in 2% - 4% of that content block. That's 10 - 20 times. That's keyword stuffing!

Google finally came out and said there's no such thing as keyword density. It's bad for the writers who have to think about where the hell they're going to put that phrase so many times, and how are they going to write interesting content using that tired old phrase repeatedly? They're not.

It's bad for the web visitors who are reading content, and are getting blasted with the same damn keyword phrase every other sentence. The content they're reading is horrible, because this damned phrase keeps showing up!

So please, there's no such SEO metric or practice for keyword density. If you follow keyword prominence and proximity that I teach, you really only need to use your chosen keyword phrase one time in the content (ideally in the first paragraph), and the rest of the time, use synonyms, similar phrases, or related words that support the main keyword phrase.

You'll write more interesting content, won't worry about having to meet some ridiculous, impossible metric, and run the risk of getting your site penalized (manually or via Google's search algorithm) or de-indexed.

Want to know how to tell you're being targeted by an SEO scammer?

If you've ever gotten an email from someone (usually with a gmail account) that's addressing your site's SEO, that person typically trots out the old "and your keyword density is very low, less than 1%," that's a person who's scamming you, either because they still don't know keyword density died with the dinosaurs, or they're counting on you to not know any better.

That person, should you hire them, will keyword stuff your content and eventually earn your site a Google penalty. By then, they'll be long gone, and that phone number and email won't work anymore.

I get former students forwarding these emails to me all the time, to this day. And I tell them AGAIN - there's no such thing as keyword density, so just write your best content and publish it!

Now, here are some actual examples of keyword density gone mad. I was conducting an inbound backlink analysis to help someone determine a sale price for her site and domain name. I came across this site that's been hacked. This is actually keyword stuffing, but you get the idea:

keyword density gone wild

These are links going to other sites that are overly optimized (stuffed) beyond simple keyword density:

keyword density on other sites

And this is the source code. That's some keyword stuffing to satisfy density!

source code with keyword density

If you'd like to learn more about on and off page search engine optimization, and how to do it safely according to Google's guidelines and recommendations, then let's get together for a one on one SEO training class at your location soon!

You can also learn SEO basics, including on-page, in our online training course.

Until next time, stay safely between the ditches!

All the very best to you,

Nancy McDonald

Screen shots courtesy of author, May 2017

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