Once the target keywords for an article have been decided, one of the most common questions raised is: how many times should a keyword be used in my content?
Is there even such thing as a golden ratio or percentage for keyword usage?
This article will give you my take on how you should approach keyword density to get your posts and pages ranking a high as possible in the search engine results pages or “SERPs”.
What are Keywords and Keyword Density?
For the purposes of this article, any time I mention keywords, I’m referring to the word or set of words that you’ve chosen to write an article around. The hope, after choosing your target keywords, is that the search engines like Google will use those words to decipher what your article is about and display it to users who are searching for that particular topic.
As a quick example, a website based around helping people build muscle may write an article aimed towards people who wish to grow their arms. In this case, the target keywords/phrase “how to get bigger arms” would make sense for this article.
Keyword density, which is the main topic of this article is simply how often your target keywords should be used throughout the article.
If search engines can determine an article’s subject matter by scanning it for keywords, you might think it would simply be a good idea to try and use your keywords as much as possible throughout your content.
While this used to work, the search engine algorithms have become much more sophisticated and you could now end up being penalized for overusing a keyword (also known as keyword stuffing). This is why the optimal keyword density has become such a topic of discussion; content creators are seeking the perfect balance between enough keyword uses and too many.
Is There an Optimal Keyword Density?
One of the most popular SEO tools available is the Yoast plugin on WordPress. The plugin uses a keyword density counter as a metric for determining how good your on-page SEO is for each article. Yoast states that the keywords density you should aim for is between 0.5% and 2.5%.
Their rationale is that anything over 2.5% starts to look spammy and unnatural, which search engines will not like. So, if you are looking for an estimated range to begin with, this is likely a good starting point.
However, this percentage does not tell the entire story. As Yoast even mentions themselves in this article, there are more factors at play nowadays than simple keyword targeting.
Write for Humans, not Search Engines
Over the past few years, search engines (particularly Google), have been putting a lot of focus into producing algorithms that seek out the highest quality, most useful content and serve it to their users.
These algorithms no longer need to rely on finding exact-match keywords or phrases; they’re able to pick up on synonyms and related topics to get a better picture of what a website is all about.
Along with the fact they have begun penalizing sites for thin-content and are utilizing machine learning to better understand the intent of searchers, it is obvious that writing great content is becoming way more important than how many times you feature a specific keyword throughout your article.
If you’re too concentrated on cramming keywords into your content, it is probably not going to read very well, and people aren’t going to stick around on your website, which will actually damage your search rankings.
On the other hand, putting your effort into creating the most in-depth, valuable piece of content on a subject is much more likely to please the people that find your article. This, in turn, will send good signals to the search engine algorithms and you will be rewarded.
Final Thoughts and Takeaways on the Optimal Keyword Density
There is no optimal percentage for keyword usage in your articles.
The search algorithms consider many more factors. Google has just published a huge file of their guidelines that outlines thousands of different elements their reviewers look at when analyzing a website.
With the big push now being on providing the best content to their users, search engines are developing their systems to align with this. Your focus really needs to be on providing the best articles and content in your industry.
You then just need to be patient and trust that the search engines will rank your content accordingly. After all, if yours is the best content in the industry, it is most certainly in the interest of Google and the rest to serve it to their users if they want those users to keep using their search engine.