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Acceptable Keyword Density %'s
Related to December Obliteration?

 4:57 pm on Dec 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

As I'm trying to figure out why my site has plummeted from the Google ranks this Decemebr, I'm starting to review aspects of my site that I haven't looked at in years ('cause it didn't matter to me, since rankings were strong).

In regard to Keyword Density % for keyword terms on a page, are there any defacto standard known percentages as far as 1-word, 2-word, and 3-word key phrases are concerned?

On my largest effected site, the worst keyword density %'s that I have are:

- 1-word -> I have one word that shows 30.77 %, with next highest
as 6.73 %

- 2-word -> My worst is 6.21 %, followed by 5.06 %

- 3-word -> My 2 worst are 2.95 %

Do any of these wreak from over-abuse? Keep in mind that the densities have been this high for the last couple of years, will no ill effects until this December.

Thanks in advance.



 9:23 pm on Dec 29, 2006 (gmt 0)


I posted earlier on the Dec 20 2006 data refresh thread (http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3199412.htm), about a site I know that got hit bad. Besides the duplicate content problems, this site has high keyword density for the keyword searches that dropped so badly.


 11:41 pm on Dec 29, 2006 (gmt 0)

trakkerguy, was that "high keyword density" in the anchor text, or just regular body content?


 1:03 am on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Both body text (about 15%), and more for anchor text (maybe 70%). Also has links to subdomains with the keywords, which seemed to help in the ranking previously and still does for Yahoo and msn.


 1:15 am on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've been seeing a lot of changes in the past few months that look like "heavy keyword use in anchor text" is a target -- you've just give me a new data point, thanks. I also noticed that the newly published patent application [webmasterworld.com] has a specific section about "anchor phrases" and spam detection.

I once got a site nailed for anchor text stuffing. I didn't even think about it as spammig when I first did it, and I was irate when the penalty first hit my beautiful white hat site. Then I highlighted the keywords on the page and I had to admit, it did look mighty spammy.


 7:55 am on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)


How does one handle the issue of unrelated links in this context? Without the key word, the anchor text in a link may look unrelated to the topic but in fact be a link to important added information.


 2:37 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Moderation was the key for me, I think.

In the case I metioned above, I assumed that via many factors (titles, backlink influence, directory entries, plain text content on the page, meta descriptions, etc) the fact that the entire site was about widgets was clearly established. But I had links for "imported widgets" "widget manufacturing" "history of widgets" and so on -- and the actual word "widgets" did not need to be in every anchor phrase. Indeed it was some serious overkill and looked like I was assuming that the visitor was some kind of idiot. It was clearly not natural language -- it was more like Infoseek speech.

So I reworked the anchor phrases, removing "widgets" where it was really redundant information, using synonyms in some other cases, and so on. I kept the word in some links where it seemed to be natural and needed for clarity.

I this process I also relaxed my obsession with getting every page to rank - clearly they no longer were ranking anyway, so I had to do something different. With these changes made, many rankings did come back, in stages. In fact, without me trying to force-feed the keywords, the overall traffic and sales reached new levels within a few months - and on a wider variety of searches than ever before.

At that time, I had recently noticed that internal anchor text seemed to be a highly "dialed up" factor in the algo and I had gone overboard trying to leverage that fact, forgetting that anchor text is also an on-page factor, not just an influence on the target page.


 2:43 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Here's a bit of food for thought. Someone I know lost a VERY nice position on a good keyword earlier this month (december).

She did nothing at all.

Now it's back...

I also personally noticed keyword fluctuations this month. Did nothing at all..

All back to normal now.

Be careful that you are not fixing what is not broken.


 3:14 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

MThiessen - Very true and good advice..... however, sometimes things are rolled back only to be applied again later, perhaps when they have got it right. I think this recent episode has highlighted some areas to consider for the future. We certainly found some mistakes in our site to do with word density way to high and orphan pages getting crawled. It is not a bad thing to panic occasionally and have a wake up call. Having said that, I'm still waiting to recover ;/


 3:19 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Be careful that you are not fixing what is not broken.


my site is currently #2 for my main keyword. A month ago, I got a case of itchy fingers and tweaked the homepage. This altered the KW density from 1.19% to 1.98%.

Dropped to page #2 2 days after that.

Reverted back to the un-tweaked version and 3 days later was back at #2.

I'm not suggesting the sweet spot for KW density is what I mentioned, but I ain't gonna tweak what don't need tweaking no more!


 4:01 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

regarding itchy fingers ... I have done the same thing as posted above with the same results. In another case, I did nothing and kept the changes I had made. This reduced my rankings, but only temporarily. They came back with the changes intact.

I have a theory that anytime density or site wide navigation with regards to anchor text is changed, they will temporarily reduce the rankings as if to see wether or not you will change them back or wether or not you are trying to game them. In my case, the results were the same.. but who knows!


 4:33 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well gang, I'm proud to say that as of this morning, my rankings appear to be back to what I'll call early December (after December 3rd) levels. Looks like Google may be turning the fine-tuning knobs as we speak.

Based on another topic that you replied to today, it looks like things are going back to normal? We're you able to figure out what happened?

After this experience do you think it would be advisable to panic like this when short term indexing issues occur? Just think, if you were making knee jerk reactions (and changing your site) during this time, you would have probably lost what you had prior to the issue and would still be trying to figure out what happened. ;)

P.S. In regards to keyword density, it is not the magic bullet. In fact, it is one small part of the total equation. There is no magic number. Take a look at those top 30 results and look at the keyword density numbers, they will be all over the place.

Write naturally and don't let density dictate. It's all about balance.


 5:46 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

pageoneresults - You are 100% out of order.

Doug did not panic nor make any changes, I was in email contact with him and I know he did nothing. The 'panic' as you put it, was an extremely useful exercise in trying to find out what hapenned.... you then have the cheek to ask him!

> There is no magic number. Take a look at those top 30 results and look at the keyword density numbers, they will be all over the place.

Err... yes, noone was suggesting otherwise.


 5:52 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

MHes, you are out of order! Sound of gavel in background. ;)

After this experience do you think it would be advisable to panic like this when short term indexing issues occur? Just think, if you were making knee jerk reactions (and changing your site) during this time, you would have probably lost what you had prior to the issue and would still be trying to figure out what happened.

After reading different topics where various people involved in this topic have participated, there was a general sense of panic as to what to do or what it could have been that caused the problem. So much so, that it was labeled the December Debacle.

It wasn't directed at one person, it was a general statement.


 6:08 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I think you under estimate the maturity and quality of all the members participating in the debate. It has been one of the best for a longtime, no panic, just some gems of observation.

If people contribute and discuss in a lively fashion on a current event, this should not be interpreted as 'panic'. It is very comforting to be able to discuss events with others effected and I think your comment is both patronising and inaccurate. By the way, it's not over yet.


 6:54 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am seeing just the opposite than many of you.

If you keep to the "rules":

1) Title with no more than 3 repeated keywords

2) Four times per paragraph EITHER an H1 for the keyword or bold plus emphasis or link text.

3) Actually concider DESCRIPTION META as part of the page (in your mind break the page down to 3 sections and include in the description CONTENT)

4) Sites linking to your page have the keyword

5) You REFRESH the site content at least every 6 days if you tell google to crawl every 10 days.

6) The keyword volume is NEVER more than 15% on my pages with a tool I use.



 7:53 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Tedster - in the light of what you are saying about anchor text would you encourage or discourage navigation menus with variations on the same word.


Red "Widget1"
Blue "Widget 1"
Green "Widget 1"

I'm seeing sites which seem to benefit from this internal linking in their rankings.


 11:41 pm on Dec 30, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hey guys,

No need to beat each other up. We're all in this together. In the grand scheme of things, it is doubtful that we are competitors of one another, so we should all try to get along and help each other out wherever possible. That is the true spirit of the Internet.

Yes, I was panicked (sp?). In the last several years, I have NEVER experienced what I experienced over the last 10 days, which was total elimination of Google organic traffic. Sure I have dipped and lost ranking many times before, but never to the extent of this December 20th - December 30th timeframe. To be blunt, I was scared ****-less!

The good news (so far) is that my rankings are back to what they were at, at the beginning of the month, and I changed absolutely nothing. Hence, my baseline remained constant, and whatever Google did appears to have been rolled back. Whether this sticks or not, remains to be seen. Regardless, aside from adding some necessary content to my site, I plan on doing nothing over the next month or so, until things have been deemed to be stabilized.

There are some things I would like to address over time, and that includes keyword density, internal linking, etc. But, now is certainly not a good time to be making changes, IMO. Making changes during times of flux are probably the absolute worst thing that any webmaster can do. Baselines need to be established, and then applied to non-moving targets, as best as possible. There are hundreds of factors that go into ranking, and changes should always be made in baby steps, IMO.

I hope that all that have been effected return to their original rankings, and hopefully we can call continue to help one another in times of crises and during passive times. This is a benefical message board, to say the least.

Happy New Year to all!



P.S. I definitely take credit for the name, "December Debacle". I like it, and stand by it, and may very well copyright it. When I Steven Spielberg asks me to use this copyrighted name for his next movie, I will sell him the rights to it for a few mil :)


 12:04 am on Dec 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

Hmmm ..... no need to panic, but some DC's are more sensitive than others, when the dials are tweaked higher. It indicates to me that you may be in for a permanent filtering which may revert your results to the bottom of the tank, so work needs to be done [ careful work ].

I'd be examing duplicate content issues and be aware that there is the possibility [ IMO + i picked up on Tedster's comment over on another thread on dupe content / Adam Lasnik ] that we may be moving towards an update aimed at repetitive internal content [ particularily boilerplates ]and "empty pages" which provide no value [ "stubs" ]

The keyword density looks a little high, and I'm kind of wondering why you need it to be so. The keyword density could potentially be an aspect of "duplicate content" which reflects in other angles that have been discussed on the subject. - Just my hunch [ IMO ]

[edited by: Whitey at 12:07 am (utc) on Dec. 31, 2006]


 3:29 am on Dec 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

I'm seeing sites which seem to benefit from this internal linking in their rankings.

It's a question of balance. Certainly internal links with keywords can help, but you can also go overboard. In the site that I put in jeopardy, I had the same keyword 28 times in anchor text alone - I'm not even talking about body copy or title elements here. I backed it down to something like 8 in my "fix".


 5:34 am on Dec 31, 2006 (gmt 0)

I've said and seen it said elsewhere and here by good folks , but i think anyone who is seeing variations in results needs to view this as the next level of duplicate content filtering, which will shortly be introduced - many members have alerted us to the signals.

The term "keyword density" is just a detailed component/sub set of duplication on the same page and between pages.

Sorry to play on semantics, but i think the focus will help a lot of folks concentrate ever increasingly on the uniqueness and quality of their content.

Good preperation will save a lot of sites from an impending tumble i think.

[edited by: Whitey at 5:36 am (utc) on Dec. 31, 2006]

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