Keyword Density: Brief Explanation
Keyword density is a concept within the field of search engine optimisation (SEO), which calculates how often a keyword or phrase appears on a web page or within a piece of content. In the majority of cases, keyword density is expressed as a percentage, detailing the average recurrence rate of a keyword per 100 words. With that said, it can also be expressed based on the total number of words, which calculates the total number of keyword appearances.
In the early years of search engines like Google, keyword density was a vital component of any SEO strategy and went a long way towards determining page rankings on search engine results pages. However, search engines have since updated their algorithms, penalising websites or web pages that are deemed guilty of the practice of keyword stuffing. Nevertheless, keyword density remains a useful metric used within web analytics.
Keyword Density: Detailed Explanation
The concept of keyword density first emerged during the 1990s, as search engines gained popularity. It is used to measure how often a search term, or keyword, is utilised on a web page, document or another piece of written content and is usually expressed as a percentage. So, for example, if a keyword appears six times in a 200-word piece of content, the keyword density would be three per cent.
The basic formula for calculating keyword density is as follows:
(Number of Keyword Appearances / Total Words in Text) x 100
This same formula is typically used, regardless of whether the keyword is a single word, or a keyword phrase made up of multiple words. In this way, the keyword is treated as a single entity. However, in some cases, when the keyword is a phrase consisting of multiple words, the following formula may be used instead.
(Number of Keyword Appearances x Number of Words in the Keyword Phrase / Total Words in Text) x 100
For many marketing experts, memorising the formula for calculating keyword density is not necessary, because modern day SEO tools and analytics software make it easy to calculate keyword density automatically.
In the early days of the internet, search engine optimisation relied upon a high keyword density in order to improve rankings on search engine results pages. However, today, keyword density is also used by search engine algorithms to identify examples of keyword stuffing, which is considered a poor practice. As a result, if a keyword appears too many times on a web page, the page will be penalised in search rankings.
For this reason, some SEO experts have argued that the value of keyword density as a means of improving search engine performance is now much lower than in the past, with other aspects like keyword research, the overall readability of content and mobile optimisation becoming more important to modern algorithms.
Nevertheless, others argue that keyword density remains an important metric to look at when attempting to optimise web content for a search engine. If a piece of content includes a valuable keyword, at an appropriate density, it is likely to be ranked higher on a search engine results page when a user searches for that term. This, in turn, can dramatically increase the visibility of a piece of online content, allowing it to reach a much larger audience.
Although advice varies about the optimum keyword density for web content, most experts suggest between one and three keywords per 100 words of content, or a 1-3 per cent density, in order to reap search engine optimisation benefits without risking being penalised by modern algorithms. Yet, there are instances where a lower or higher density will result in better quality content, so it should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
Limitations and Uses
Over the past few years, many search marketing experts who study Google algorithms have been keen to stress that keyword density is no longer as relevant as it once was to SEO efforts. Certainly, it is true that modern algorithms look to penalise examples of keyword stuffing, meaning the old practice of using a keyword generator tool and inserting the keyword many times within content will no longer produce the desired results.
There is also truth to the observation that search engines place less emphasis on keyword density in general when trying to rank pages, even when the density is within an acceptable range. Generally speaking, the selection of the right keywords and the placement of keywords within titles, meta tags and image alt tags will have a more significant impact on search engine rankings than simply using the keyword a set number of times.
Other aspects that can influence search rankings more than keyword density include hits and bounce rate. For this reason, the general advice when it comes to SEO is to focus less on things like keyword density and more on the actual quality of content. One thing search marketers are increasingly emphasising is the importance of creating content for human beings, rather than search engine algorithms, because genuinely useful content performs better.
With that being said, keyword density is still used to some degree by search engines and the metric is included within SEO technology and web publishing platforms, including WordPress and Google AdWords. With regards to SEO, there is clearly some value in tracking keyword density within content, if only to avoid accidentally crossing into the threshold where search engines will interpret it as keyword stuffing.
Moreover, keeping track of keyword density can also assist when it comes to optimising the actual quality of written content on a web page. For example, it can highlight when a word has been used too frequently, allowing content creators to insert synonyms in order to improve the readability of content.
Keyword density is a metric used within SEO and web analytics to describe the number of times a keyword appears, typically per 100 words. The concept emerged in the 1990s and was important for search engine marketing for many years, but has less significance today, due to algorithms actively penalising keyword stuffing. Nevertheless, creating content with an appropriate keyword density can help to improve both readability and search engine performance.