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Keyword Density and Google

 2:45 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I am reading that Google prefers a keyword density of around 2%. I find that to be a little low.

Do you think a keyword density of around 5% on a page would be ok for Google?



 4:02 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I read almost all of the books on SEO and noticed that the agreement was on seven (7) percent. I inserted keywords into my web pages in several websites in a way to make the content readable for visitors rather than search engines and found out that the keyword density was around 7 percent.

On the other hand, even if your keyword density is less than 7 percent but your information architecture is good and your keywords are surrounded by the right synonyms and your keywords are within phrases composed of three or four consecutive words supporting your theme, then you may get better ranking.


 4:17 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

KW Density sometimes makes a useful test for the webmaster, just to check whether the keywords were overlooked or repeated much too often. However I don't think Google (or any modern search engine) uses keyword density as a metric - at least not directly. The algo's calculations for relevance are much more sophisticated than that.

You can see pages at #1 with very low density and extremely high density. You can see pages rank at #1 for a phrase with only one of the words in the phrase on the page. As a metric, KWD comes from the last century's approach to Information Retrieval. It's an "ancient god" that should no longer be worshipped.


 4:30 pm on Oct 14, 2008 (gmt 0)

I think it would be great if Google likes a keyword density of around 7 percent. I have read that they prefer around 2 percent and that is why I wanted to get opinions on this. I don't want to keyword spam. I have on some of my sites pages in which the keyword density is around 7 percent and I just want to make sure that this is not too much.

I know that many of us have read that as long as the text flows keyword density is not very important but I just wanted to receive some more opinions.

What Ted is saying about the keyword densities of top ranking sites for a keyword greatly differing is definitely true but I just want to sort of see if being around 7 percent if it flows well is ok?


 3:45 am on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't forget about the "`" operator.
Before a search term phrase, place it in front to see what words google suggested as related.
Also, if google says "do you mean", follow suit.
Google's drop down suggestions is another clue to follow.


 5:29 am on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't forget about the "`" operator.
Before a search term phrase, place it in front to see what words google suggested as related.
Also, if google says "do you mean", follow suit.
Google's drop down suggestions is another clue to follow.

Or do you mean the tilde "~" before the term? Notice what is in bold and they are related terms, use them throughout your content and reap the dividends. Content first, related inbounds second. Scrap the keyword density, it's worthless with Google.

I think the only reason you should worry about KD is for Yahoo and other 3rd tier search engines. Nothing else.

[edited by: MLHmptn at 5:32 am (utc) on Oct. 15, 2008]


 6:32 am on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Now that google uses latent semantic indexing (lsi) a page could rank for a term that does not even explicitly appear on the page due to the fact that related terms appear on the page.

One can think of lsi as a massive co-occurrence matrix that gives the probability of that any term would occur on the same page (or paragraph) with any other term.

So yes 2% density for a given term is not really low. More than 4% and they might assume you are spamming the keyword. The key is that your content need to contain "related terms" which is how they determine the theme.


 2:22 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

I can understand gouri's concern. Google either checks for keyword density or they don't. If it doesn't matter, then there's no reason for them to even do the algo calculation. But if they DO check, then on some level it must (potentially) have an impact. Perhaps a perfect KWD cannot help you, but an unusually high KWD can possibly hurt you? If that's the case, then it seems to me that it's worthwhile to at least know the number so you don't get into the red zone.



 7:22 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Maybe I can provide a little more detail. I have a keyword on the homepage of one of my sites and the keyword density for that word might be around 7%.

Every time that the keyword is mentioned, however, it is not by itself. Sometimes it is in long-tail form.

E.g. Keyword density for widget building is 7%. But each time widget building appears it is not by itself. Sometimes it appears as widget building machine, widget building manual and of course sometimes just as widget building. But if you look at the keyword density of widget building it is 7%.

Is having things the way that I describe them ok?

Receptional Andy

 7:29 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

an unusually high KWD can possibly hurt you

Yes, but not directly. A density that was "too high" is likely to be present in a page that contains artificial (i.e. irrelevant) text. But even that doesn't mean pages with seemingly ludicrous keyword densities can't rank well, since it isn't density that's important.

Keyword density may give you an overview of certain aspects of the language used on a page, but it's a crude measure and one that does not reflect the actual aspects that are algorithmically important.

It's easy to test whether there is a correlation between keyword density and ranking. Just take a sample of well ranked pages and measure the keyword density. Do a bit of number crunching. You'll likely find no statistically reliable correlation between ranking and keyword density.


 7:48 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Thanks Andy for your informative reply. Part of the problem that I (and perhaps others as well) have with KWD is finding an accurate measuring rod that actually reflects what Google cares about. Yes, I know there are quite a number of tools available -- some free, some not -- however since we presumably do not know exactly how much emphasis G puts on different uses of the words within a page, it is difficult to get a handle on the importance of the results from these tools.

For example, I may run one tool that measures ALL the occurences of a specific word, including comment tags, file names, folder names, alt tags, meta=keywords, etc. Now my understanding is that G does not take into account meta=keywords or comments tags, so my KWD output will be by definition unreliable. It may be 4% without comments or meta kw counted, but 6% with them.

So in that sense, it's a relief to hear you and tedster and others say to "not worry". Since the measurement itself cannot be based on precise criteria, I'm happy to not think about it anymore. ;)


Receptional Andy

 8:09 pm on Oct 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

You make a good point, Reno and one which works both for and against keyword density as a concept of use for SEO. If a tool is just measuring the number of occurrences of a phrase, I think it's safe to say that it's of limited use - perhaps of some use, but not in terms of hitting a specific number.

Now, for a keyword density tool to be more useful it also needs to account for word stemming, the fact that words not directly adjacent to each other can still increase relevance for a phrase, and the fact that related words and phrases contribute to performance.

IMO such a tool would actually go far beyond the limited definition of density. It's one way in which Google's improvements in terms of language are of great value to site owners. I get much better results asking a copywriter to right x number of words about x topic than by asking people to think about keywords too much. And then I just need minimal editing to ensure the copy is focussed.

[edited by: Receptional_Andy at 8:10 pm (utc) on Oct. 15, 2008]


 5:47 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've got Google penalties on pages lifted by reducing keyword density. (I think.)

I didn't test density percentages. I just tried to review the pages to see if they looked spammy.

Matt Cutts once said Google only needs to see something a few times on a page to know what it's about.



 6:18 pm on Oct 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

My experience is 99.9% of the time, writing naturally wins over keyword density.

Unique, natural writing uses natural semantics and proper stemming, variations - the very thing that Google is searching for.

I do take a quick look over copy to make sure the blatantly obvious is not missing, but the algorithm has evolved to he point where I believe measurement of specific KW density factors is a waste of time if you have good content writers (or you are a good natural writer yourself)


 2:25 pm on Oct 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've found that keyword density requirements have varied between industries...this makes sense if you think about it, in some industries writing naturally causes keywords to me mentioned a lot, in others if you mentioned the keywords more then once or twice in a page it would look odd to a reader. I have always followed the rule of thumb of looking at what kd others in the industry have(particuarly those with good sites and good rankings).


 3:11 pm on Oct 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

My experience is 99.9% of the time, writing naturally wins over keyword density.

And with the rest of CainIV's post that's the way I approach "SEO" writing is today.

The only thing I would add is to use a writing voice that targets your audience.

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