Keyword Density: Frequently Asked Questions

How frequently should you use your keyword to rate highly for it in the search engines? How can you avoid penalties for keyword stuffing? Do the different search engines have different standards for the amount of times you can use your keyword on your site without invoking a penalty? Wayne Hurlbert tackles these and other questions in this article.

What is keyword density?

Keyword density is a combination of the number of times a keyword or a keyword phrase, in proportion with other words, appears on a Web page. The more times the keyword appears in relation to the total number of on page words, the greater the overall keyword density. The more times that other words appear, the lower the proportion of keywords, resulting in a lighter keyword density.

Does keyword density make a difference?

The various search engines, including Google, Yahoo, and MSN Search consider keyword density as part of their search algorithm. Each search engine has a different mathematical equation regarding the density of keywords that is rewarded with higher search ranking placement. There is also a different level of tolerance between the different search engines as to the degree of density permitted before a penalty is imposed.

Okay, so what are keywords anyway?

Keywords are the terms that searchers enter into the search engine’s search interface when seeking information, products, or services. The keyword is entered into the search engine algorithm as a mathematical calculation, to determine relevance of the many billions of Internet pages to that particular search. The pages the algorithm deems most relevant to the search for those keywords are ranked accordingly.

How are keywords different from keyword phrases?

A keyword can be one single word or a phrase including that word. Searchers use both types of entries when seeking information. As a general rule, the longer the phrase, the more specific the returned information will be from the search engine index.

{mospagebreak title=Do different search engines treat keyword densities differently?}

It’s generally thought by search engine optimization experts that Yahoo and MSN Search tolerate heavier keyword densities per page than industry leader Google. As with all areas of SEO, there is some debate on this issue, and counter examples are very likely to be found. Generally, however, Google is less tolerant of heavy keyword usage than Yahoo or MSN.

Is there a formula for keyword density?

There is no hard and fast formula for keywords but it’s probably best to keep the keyword percentage below five percent of the total number of words on the page. Any more words could potentially trigger a keyword stuffing filter. Too many keywords in any on page copy can also work against the page’s readership retention and its conversion rate from visitor to paying customer. After all, the purpose of a Web page, for any commercial website, is to convert visitors to customers. For an informational website, the goal is to have as many visitors as possible read the available information. Badly written copy precludes those things from happening.

Is keyword density different from keyword placement?

Keyword density refers to the amount of keywords used on the page, in relation to the total number of words on the page in question. Keyword placement refers to the location of the words on a Web page. That placement could be in the title tags, links, headings, main body of copy, or anywhere else where wording appears on a Web page.

Does the order of keywords make a difference?

Some SEO experts believe that placing keywords higher on the page gives that page a boost in the search rankings. That opinion is not shared by all search engine observers, however. In general, it’s better to sprinkle the keywords throughout the on page copy in a normal writing fashion. Natural sounding content is much easier to read, and could even score as well in the search rankings as any special placements on the page.

Can keywords help as link anchor text?

Link anchor text is a common usage of keywords and has little effect on keyword density of the sending or receiving page. For purposes of SEO, link anchor text, comprised of the receiving page’s most important keywords, is probably more powerful than heavier use of keywords in on page copy. Keywords in link anchor text tell the search engines what the receiving page is about in terms of themes and topics. A form of keyword stuffing, that appears unnatural to the search engines, is the use of exactly the same keywords in all incoming link anchor text. Keywords and phrases are best mixed and matched, with several variations of link anchor text employed.

{mospagebreak title=Are keywords important in title tags?}

The use of keywords in title tags is a powerful placement of the page’s most important search terms. In title tags, the placement of keywords is important. The most important keywords should be placed at the beginning of the page title tag. As with all keywords, there is danger of keyword stuffing in the title tags themselves. Be sure to refrain from using any word more than three times in the title tag. A maximum of twice would be even safer to prevent triggering a keyword stuffing filter.

Does the keyword form make a difference?

Keywords can be written as planned for the search engines. They can also be organized into desirable search phrases. Plural and singular forms of the words should also be utilized as many searchers will choose either one form or the other. Additional ways of writing keywords include adding -ed, -ing, or other related suffixes to reflect different searches.

Plural and singular forms of a keyword will often result in vastly different search results in Google, making it important that both forms of a keyword be part of the copy if well written content is the result. If different word variations become too difficult, and if the keyword is highly competitive, it’s preferable to create an entirely new page for each alternative form of the word, to concentrate the keyword power of the page.

Should different keywords be used in the on page copy?

It’s a good idea to use different keywords on the Web page. By doing so, the page could rank well for other searches, many of which might result in more traffic or sales than the originally targeted keyword or phrase. The different words also make the page more pleasant for visitors to read, greatly enhancing the site’s length of stays and sales conversion rates. In highly competitive situations, however, the best course of action is often to create separate Web pages for each different keyword or phrase.

What is the best way to write on page copy?

The best way to write Web page copy is in an easy to read format. The copy should flow freely, and lead the visitor either to convert to a customer, or to seek even more information from the website. Placing the sought after keywords in natural locations throughout the information, in the page headings, and title tags will enhance the page’s keyword value. It will also prevent keyword stuffing possibilities as the keywords are not all packed into the page’s informational or sales copy.

{mospagebreak title=Are there any tools for calculating keyword density?}

A number of good keyword density tools are available. They include:

Search Engine World’s Keyword Density Analyzer,

Keyword Density Analyzer,

and SEO Chat’s SEO Tools – Keyword Density

There are many more good tools available with a simple search.

Can a Web page have too many keywords?

In theory, a web page can have an almost unlimited numbers of keywords provided that the page contains enough other words to balance them. In practice, however, a page should most certainly contain five percent keywords or fewer. The reason for restricting the number of keywords is not strictly to avoid Google filters. It’s also to keep the copy easily readable for the visitors. Badly written copy is not informative or good sales or marketing material. Any minimal benefit derived from slightly higher search rankings is more than offset by a rapid loss of visitor traffic and potential customers.

What is keyword stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the very intensive placement of keywords within a Web page’s copy. In general, the level of keywords would be so frequent as to overwhelm the rest of the copy. While the overuse of keywords is likely to trigger a Google filter, the potential loss of visitor traffic due to hard to read content is a much larger problem. A searcher finding a Web page consisting of keywords obviously jammed in everywhere is highly unlikely to remain and convert to a paying customer. The loss due to keyword stuffing is therefore twofold.

What are some common forms of keyword stuffing?

Keyword stuffing can result from jamming as many of the keywords into the page’s informational copy as possible. The copy reads like a string of keywords and little else. Another form of keyword stuffing is to pack the word or words as many times as possible into the page title tags. The search engines will often downgrade the page in the search rankings, or perhaps ignore the keywords entirely. Neither result is beneficial to the website. Keyword stuffed doorway pages or cloaked pages are not only examples of keyword overuse, but are also penalty causing items in their own right. The constant and complete usage of the same link anchor text for all inbound links can be considered a form of keyword stuffing as well.

Can a site be penalized for keyword stuffing?

A site can and will be penalized by the search engines for keyword stuffing. Google appears to be very sensitive to overuse of keywords on the page, as a filter will be triggered. Penalties ranging from a downgrade in the search results, to the loss of Google PageRank, to possibly being banned are options that the search engine giant could consider imposing on the site. As with all search engine optimization efforts, common sense and thinking of what benefits your site’s visitors is the best action for any website owner to use.

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