What Is Keyword Density, and How Does It Help with SEO?

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When you first enter the world of SEO, or search engine optimization, one of the most common terms you’ll hear thrown around is keyword density. It sounds fancy and technical, but it’s actually pretty easy to figure out and do on your own. It’s simply the ratio of keywords in your article to the total number of words.

First, count how many times the keyword (or the keyword phrase) appears on your web page. Then divide that by the total number of words in the article. Now you have your keyword density, but what do you do with it to improve your search rank?

The goal is to have enough keywords on each web page so that a search engine will pick up on it and have your site pop up if someone searches for those words. There are many schools of thought on what the right percentage is, although typically they fall between 1% and 3%. Anything higher will likely be seen as “keyword stuffing,” which the search engines will view as an attempt to cheat the system. This can actually result in your site dropping in rank for that search result. And just because the range is 1% to 3% doesn’t mean that being closer to 3% is better. No one knows exactly where search engines draw the line, so many SEO experts recommend staying closer to 1.5%.

So what if your percentage is nowhere near that amount? Fixing it can be simple. First, look for places that you can naturally add your keyword to what you’ve written. Sometimes just by inserting it once or twice, you’re done. One great way to add them in without affecting your content too much is through headings and sub-headings. Even better, search engines tend to place more emphasis on words that are in bold, italics, or underlined.

If you’re not quite to the percentage you want, look for ways that you can trim the content down. Can you move some of it on to another page or over to another blog? Are there repeated phrases or unnecessary thoughts? Your writing may actually come out better when you are done.

A few other techniques for improving search engines’ ability to parse out the keywords on your site is to include them as close to the beginning and end of every page and also to link the keywords to other pages on your site.

When you’re done doing a keyword pass, give it another read. Are the keywords included naturally, or does it make your writing sound clunky and unprofessional? It may not be worth getting extra visitors to your page if they are turned off by the content when they get there. Your goal should be to find a balance between optimizing the content for search engines and also providing effective, well-written copy.