For bloggers who are new to SEO, and for SEO practitioners who are new to blogging, keyword density can be somewhat of a mystery. In this article I’ll try to demystify this often thrown-around phrase and look at its relevance in a post-penguin search world.
What is Keyword Density?
Quite simply put: it’s the percentage of times a key word or phrase shows up on a web page out of all the words used. For this article, the keyword density for the word “keyword” is 1.77%. Search engines will strip down every word available on the page, from menus to author credits, and look at the words in one unformatted block. From this the search engine can establish what keywords are relevant to the page, and use this information to help users find your site.
Bloggers will often lose sight of the importance of search engines and simply write for their audience – which is great, and exactly what Google is trying to encourage – but you can drive more traffic to your site if you take into consideration the importance of keywords.
Likewise, SEO practitioners who take up blogging may find themselves writing solely for search engines, and the content that they produce will suffer as a result. Both sides would benefit from occasionally checking out the keyword density of their blog to ensure it isn’t too high or too low.
Keyword Density & Penguin
The penguin update from Google was intended to crack down on spam websites that offer nothing but low quality links and keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is the practice of writing content that focusses on specific keywords, in an attempt to get the site to rank high for those terms. The content was generally low quality and of little use to anyone, so users would be irritated to be directed to it from Google.
This focus on Keyword stuffing made many website owners cautious about the new updates, as their hard work creating content with a specific keyword density could now lead to penalties from Google. Google has reminded us time and time again that the changes were not intended as a punishment, and we actually haven’t seen the drastic fall in traffic that we were expecting.
So What is the Ideal Keyword Density?
I would advise people to focus on the content over the keywords, and to think about semantic variations of your key words and phrases to help users find your content. If you absolutely must aim for keyword density, between 1 and 2% is widely considered an acceptable percentage. It’s high enough to make it clear to search engines what’s important, while low enough to not arouse suspicion of keyword spamming. Previously, website owners were aiming for a density of around 8%!
If you want to check out your keyword density and other neat SEO tricks, download SEOquake for Google Chrome and get wrapped up in all the statistics!