Shattering The Myth About The Keyword Density Formula

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Keyword density—anyone who is into SEO knows what these two words stand for, and recognizes the fact that this is one of the most talked about topics in the SEO world.

There’s a reason for this: Keyword density is the basis for a successful SEO campaign.

For those of you who are new to SEO, keyword density is the percentage of how many times a keyword or a key phrase appears on a page in comparison to the total number of words on the page. Keywords are key concepts (without which, SEO would never even exist) in SEO copywriting.

But keyword density is the “rule”.

Keyword Density Formula
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Importance of keywords

Most information on keyword density recommends always maintaining a percentage of between 3 and 5. However, not everyone seems to have the same success with this neat little rule.

So, really, does keyword density affect your page ranking? Does higher density also mean higher page ranking? Or is this formula simply a myth?

The Truth About The Keyword Density Formula

Keyword amount can be computed by taking the number of words in the article and dividing it by the density required.

So in a 500 word text with the goal of 5% keyword density, your formula would be:

500 x .05 = 25

So you would need to use the keyword 25 times to get about a 5% density.

You can also take the total number of times a keyword appears in the text, multiply it by the number of words in your keyword phrase, divide this by the total number of words on the page, and then multiply by 100.

If your keyword is “brochure printing”, and it appears 5 times within a text of 350 words, then your formula would be:

(5 x 2 / 350) x 100 = 2.85

Your keyword density for this page is about 3%.

A lot of SEO professionals have been using these keyword density formulas to optimize their web pages for content, but very few seem to actually make it on top of the list.

Why is that?

Let’s do an experiment. Pull up your preferred search engine. Type in your keyword or key phrase and hit “Search”. Check out the first five sites that are listed. Do all of these sites contain the same keyword density?

The answer is a big “NO”. You might notice that each site has a different keyword density, perhaps higher or lower.

What does this say about the magic formula for keyword density?

If the keyword density formula is indeed true, then the first five sites that turned up in your search should have the same keyword density. But they didn’t.

All Men Are Created Equal, But Keywords Are Not

When using a keyword or key phrase, you have to first think of how many other sites will be using the same keyword as yours (i.e. keyword competitiveness).

For instance, if you’re going to use “SEO articles” for your key phrase, then you are actually using a very competitive key phrase because a lot of sites are also using that same phrase as their keyword.

However, if you use a more specific key phrase like “SEO articles written by Mark Zuckerberg”, then that’s not very competitive, and the ONLY site that uses that key phrase will likely turn out on top of the list.

One of the keys to getting the most out of keywords and key phrases is to choose the less competitive ones, at least at first. It will take a very aggressive campaign to beat out the big dogs who have nearly unlimited time and resources for their SEO campaigns.

But you could easily get your site on top of Google by using keywords that are relevant, but much less competitive.

Location, Location, Location

Where you put your keywords is important in building a strong, optimized website.

There is a lot of talk that keywords that have special formatting (bold, bulleted, italicized, tagged, or otherwise) will attract more web spiders than those which do not.

Again, performing the same experiment that we did on keyword density, if all of these special formatting rules matter, then the first five sites on the list should have their keywords specially formatted.

Interestingly enough, they don’t.

So Should You Consider Keyword Density in SEO?

The answer to this question is:

Yes… with strings attached.

Any successful SEO professional will tell you to never rely on keyword density and special formatting alone. However, in combination with meta tags, deep linking, multiple domains, and more, the keyword density formula will aid you in a successful SEO campaign.

So go ahead. Follow the keyword density rule.

But don’t let this single part of SEO be your only effort. Take a class, read plenty of expert articles, and then put keyword density in its rightful place- alongside the numerous ways to effectively optimize your website.

Recommended reading:

Let us know what keyword density formula you use. Do you also consider other words which are on your sidebar, widgets, and footer in this formula? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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18 thoughts on “Shattering The Myth About The Keyword Density Formula”

  1. Jack Woods

    I’ve increasingly seen clients requesting technical pieces of 1000+ words and wanting key words used only 2 or 3 times. I think they are getting too hung up on LSI optimization. Some technical terms just don’t have synonyms. I think Google has always wanted natural key word usage, but lately, clients have wanted them very unnatural because of LSI optimization.

  2. Pramendra Singh

    Thanks @Tara, I was not aware about this formula before. Though, I used, words/combination of words appeared on the page divided by total no. of words on the page and finally divided by 100. I knew this this from you that we need to multiply it by no. of words in the phrase too. thanks a lot for sharing.

  3. Goran

    So you are saying that we should calculate this math “If your keyword is “brochure printing,” and it appears 5 times within a text of 350 words, then your formula would be (5 x 2/ 350) x 100 = 2.95.” for quote: “KEYWORD PHRASES” which in this case is “brochure printing” and only for one word keyword the usual math whih would be example: (5 / 350) x 100.

    Thanks and indeed this had cleared a lot for me, just this what i’ve write here and the cube will get perfect.. 🙂


  4. Tara Hornor

    @Aficionada – Ah! You are so right! A text with 500 words needing a keyword density of 5% should include the keyword 25 times. I’m so sorry about the very obvious math error; thank you for pointing it out so graciously. 🙂

  5. Aficionada

    I enjoyed this article and the comments, but I hope you will check and correct the 5% example you gave in the body of the article. 5% = .05, not .005 as you stated in the article. So, in a 500-word article, you would need to have 25 keywords (not 2-3) in order to achieve a 5% keyword density. And, of course, a keyword made up of several words would alter the exact application of that formula, as you showed so clearly in the 350-word article example.

    I’ll look forward to reading more articles like this.

    1. Goran

      I agree with you @Aficionada
      So @Tara, now which one of the maths are right as there are diferent results when calculating by both:
      I’ll take your example above: keyword “brochure printing”
      Formula one:
      5 – is the number of keyword
      2 – is the words in the keyword phrase
      500 – is the article word count

      (5 x 2/500)x100 = 2%
      and without counting the words in a keyword phrase would be:
      (5/500)x100 = 1%

      Here is what wikipedia has to say about that too:

  6. Tara Hornor

    @Amrish – Thanks for the comment! And, yes, you are correct in that search engines often mistake pages that have more than 5% (sometimes higher) keyword density as spam.

    @Nihar – I’m glad you enjoyed the post! While some argue that 5% should be the highest, others argue up to 8% is okay, so it sounds like you are within the right range. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Nihar

    Great post. Thanks for this. I am using keyword density and rely on the %ge and reduce if it exceeds 5 to 7.5%.

  8. Tara Hornor

    Tecj, thanks for the tip! Yes, you are right in that choosing the right keywords makes all the world in keyword density; however, in my experience it has taken more than just focusing on density to get ranked at the top of Google.

  9. Amrish Singh

    I am agree with you Tara .Keyword density is the main factor of on page seo .don’t more the 5% of density because it will be a part of keyword stuffing and you site will not get good ranking in search engine

  10. Tecj@Blog seo

    Hi Tara, First thing you look lovely..
    second thing. keyword density is important thing and that is called niche…like you are blogging in seo niche so targeted keyword are like seo, search engine, google search, Blog seo,
    rest you need is to stuff your blog with this keyword and density should not be more than 4% and you will rank top on google..easy…

  11. Kimberly Castleberry

    Tara you bring up some good points with this but I think a huge one was also missed. It’s important when discussing density that “more is not always better after a point”. In terms of density anything over about 8% and certainly over 10% is seen as spammy. Infact some SEO types recommend not to exceed 5% as it may also be being flagged as its an unnaturally high level. Indeed, density has some BIG strings attached and these things are important to know before just throwing our keywords around. Good stuff!

    1. Tara Hornor

      I completely agree, Kimberly. I’m sorry this was not clear in my article, but I am with you in that usually exceeding 5% density can be harmful to an SEO campaign.

  12. Suresh Khanal@Bivori

    Hi Tara,

    After reading your whole post may I conclude that keyword density is an important factor though this is not everything to determine ranking?

    I understood deep linking and by multiple domains do you mean to build back links from different domain names?

    1. Tara Hornor

      Yes, Suresh; you are right in your conclusion. Yes, I did mean building back links from different domain names. One fast way to build page rank is by creating somewhere around 3 different websites with 3 completely different domain names. Then you can use back links to connect the 3. Keep in mind that you do not want to duplicate your content on these sites; make sure that each one has its own unique content.

      1. Suresh Khanal@Bivori

        That’s a good tips! Thank you Tara for the response.

        The blogs will be pointing each other and crawlers must go through all of them.

        And, is there any difference if all those three blogs are hosted on same account or we need different hosting for each of them to get SEO benefit? It would certainly cost too much buying different hosting for each of those blogs. I use hostgator and they say I can host unlimited blogs with one hosting account. Shall I gain by creating multiple blogs and interlinking them even all of them are on same server?

        1. Tara Hornor

          Having dedicated servers may actually bring you better results, but for now you can just start out with different IPs. You do not have to have a different hosting service for each blog; as a matter of fact, hostgator allows you to purchase separate IPs for your domains. Check out their VPS Hosting plans – they allow you to purchase up to 4 IPs and an unlimited number of domains.

          1. Suresh Khanal@Bivori

            Thank you Tara, it was a real worthy discussion for me. Thanks for enlightening me!

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