Keyword Density - What Is The IDEAL Percentage To Improve Rankings in Google?

“Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.” John Mueller, Google 2014

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Despite what many SEO Tools would indicate, the short answer to this is, in my experience, there is no IDEAL %, and the video above, published many years later after I first collected the opinions in this article, would go to confirm many of the opinions on this page.

There is no one-size-fits-all optimal ‘keyword density’ percentage anybody has ever demonstrated had direct positive ranking improvement in a public forum.

I certainly do not believe there is a particular percent of keywords in words of text to get a page to number 1 in Google. While the key to success in many niches is often simple SEO, search engines are not that easy to fool.

There may not be a perfect % for you to aim for – but I do think you run the risk of tripping keyword stuffing penalty filters if you, for instance, were to keyword stuff a page and every element on it with your focus terms.

I write natural page copy which is always focused on the key phrases and related key phrases. I never calculate density in order to identify the best % – there are way too many other things to work on. I have looked at this, a long time ago.

If it looks natural, it’s ok with me. Normally I will try and get related terms on the page and I might have the keywords I am focused on in just a few elements and on the page text.

I think an optimal % is a myth although there are some who disagree.  I do think if you can pick up page level penalties for keyword stuffing, there must be an amount or ratio that is used to penalise the page, so I can see how it causes confusion.

Q. What is the perfect keyword density for higher rankings in Google?

QUOTE: “KEYWORD DENSITY’ is simply a PERCENTAGE value of the NUMBER OF TIMES a KEYWORD or KEY PHRASE appears on a WEB PAGE compared to the TOTAL AMOUNT OF WORDS on the page.” WIKI

The THINKING is that GOOGLE will order SEARCH ENGINE RESULTS PAGES and reward 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 TWO WEBSITE PAGES –  a page with a keyword density score of say, 2% would OUTRANK a page with a score of 1%. OR – that there is actually a specific keyword percentage that if you score a BULLSEYE on, always results in HIGHER RANKINGS in Google.

We know Google has 100s of potential (and SECRET) search engine ranking factors.

A claim often made is that keyword density is one of these factors.

I do not think that is the case, and there are many other areas of SEO that is far more important than keyword density.

How to Calculate Keyword Density?

There is, of course, a FORMULA to work out the local keyword density of any page. Actually – there are some different variations out there on the web:

  • 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 analysed text

The keyword density score for a page is essentially calculated 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 analysed text.

Its natural to think its then important to try and identify that ’SWEET SPOT’ to achieve high rankings in Google. The question is – what is the optimal keyword density? is it 3% or 0.3% or 33% ??

If you look online – you’ll find a LOT of conflicting OPINION on the ideal keyword density %.

It all sounds very scientific.

What Does Google Say About Keyword Density As A Ranking Signal?

John Mueller of Google stated in 2014. –

QUOTE:  keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.

Before that, in 2011, Matt Cutts went on record to point out the ideal keyword density is a misconception.

QUOTE: “That’s just not the way it works….. Continue to repeat stuff over and over again then you are in danger of getting into ‘keyword stuffing’.”

Google Webmaster Guidelines state:

QUOTE: “Keyword Stuffing…. results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking.”

Google gives advice that can have a few different interpretations.

It’s useful to know what experienced search marketers say about this, too:

What Do SEO think About Keyword Density As A Ranking Signal?

Aaron Wall of SEOBOOK called keyword density an:

QUOTE: “overrated concept”

Jim Boykin noted:

QUOTE:Using a RATIO of keywords to the total text on a page is not a good metric for SEO.”

Bill Slawski said, after seeing very little mention of keyword density in search engine patents over many years:

QUOTE: “I’ve always considered keyword density to be more likely FOLKLORE than fact.”

Rand Fishkin of Moz said that:

QUOTE:the TRUTH is simply that modern search engines have never used keyword density”.

Dr. Edel Garcia (one of the few information retrieval SCIENTISTS whose crossed over into seo) made clear back in 2005 that

QUOTE:  (a keyword density ratio) tells us nothing about:

  1. 1. the relative DISTANCE between keywords in documents (proximity)
  2. 2. where in a document the terms occur (DISTRIBUTION)
  3. 3. the co-citation frequency between terms (CO-OCCURRENCE)
  4. 4. the main theme, TOPIC, and sub-topics (on-topic issues) of the documents

Garcia states this would imply that “KD is divorced from content quality”.”

In his article “The Keyword Density of Nonsense”, Garcia  summed up:

QUOTE:  “the assumption that keyword density values could be taken for estimates of term weights or that these values could be used for optimization purposes amounts to the Keyword Density of Non-Sense.

Top SEOs have been saying that there is NO optimal keyword density for a long time before Google confirmed it.

Q: Is keyword density of any use?

A: It is useful for a copy editor to be aware of 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 text for keyword stuffing, though.

Q: SO – What should your keyword density be?

A: The answer is: There is no optimal keyword density to aim for and that by writing naturally and including the keyword phrase but once or twice will ensure you rank in Google and avoid keyword stuffing problems.

If you read a page and find you are repeating the keyword phrase too often, you are probably keyword stuffing your text.

And that’s probably going to ‘hurt a little’, at some point, just like Google’s Matt Cutts said it will.

When copy is limited, why repeat a 3-word keyphrase 10 times, and risk keyword stuffing penalties for a bad user experience, when there are possibly 10 variations and synonyms of the same key phrase, that when added to the same page, makes the page more relevant, better quality and rank higher for lots of similar keywords?

As Aaron Wall said:

QUOTE: “Each piece of duplication in your on-page SEO strategy is ***at best*** wasted opportunity. Worse yet, if you are aggressive with aligning your on page heading, your page title, and your internal + external link anchor text the page becomes more likely to get filtered out of the search results (which is quite common in some aggressive spaces).

SO – the sensible thing to do would be to avoid keyword stuffing your PRIMARY CONTENT text.

Also – it’s probably wise to invest a little time in making your page RELEVANT but all the time keeping it simple:

I focus on keyword stemming opportunities… with a focus on the LONG TAIL of search as well as the HEAD:

e.g

  1. seo
  2. seo tools
  3. best seo tools
  4. best seo tools for beginners

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

  • Is the key phrase in the