One signal to search engines of a page’s purpose is the frequency with which keywords appear within the body of a page. It stands to reason that a page about photography will mention words like “camera,” “picture,” and “photograph” relatively frequently. Search engines understand this tendency and will take how often words appear within content into consideration as part of their ranking. This is often referred to as “keyword density,” reflecting the ratio of keywords to other content on the page.
Given the importance of keywords and of keyword density to search engine ranking, some content creators use keywords far more often than would naturally happen in writing or speech. Most search experts refer to this behavior as “keyword stuffing.”
Using keywords in your content is a very good idea. In fact, on-page keywords represent a critical component to help your pages rank within search engines (for more on this topic, see “How Do I Optimize My Page for Search?”). It’s also important that you’re not loading your page with keyword unnaturally simply to drive rankings as this creates a bad user experience once searchers visit your page.
Keep the following tips in mind as you create content for you page to help both search engines and searchers have the best experience when reviewing your content:
- There is no “optimal” keyword density. The frequency with which words appear varies widely depending on the term itself. For instance, a page about a common topic like “cooking” may have a much higher keyword density than a page about a highly technical topic such as “cerebrospinal fluid cytopathology.” Keyword densities in natural speech ranging from as low as 0.05% to a high of 7% or, in certain cases, somewhat higher. Focus less on driving keyword density as a metric and more on including keywords wherever possible while still maintaining natural readability.
- Content with low keyword density may miss answering the user’s question. A page containing only a single reference to a user’s chosen keyword may leave that user wondering whether they need more information or if something is missing from the page. Look for opportunities to include the keyword on your page where it fits naturally. For instance, instead of simply writing “Our Products,” consider placing keywords about your services in that section of your page (e.g., “Our <keyword> Products”). Due to the nature of how people read on the web, it’s better to have slightly more keywords on-page than slightly fewer. Adding keywords to image alt text can also help you improve keyword density without harming readability. See “What is Alt Text?” for more information on this topic.
- Overly keyword dense pages often appear robotic or unnatural. By contrast, don’t insert keywords unnaturally simply to artificially boost keyword density. Just as a person who stated your name at the end of each sentence in a conversation would appear robotic and unnerving, seeing a keyword repeated every sentence or two on a page hurts readability and, ultimately, credibility for your content.
Natural levels of keyword density play a critical role in helping search engines and searchers alike evaluate and make use of your content. Place keywords throughout your content where appropriate to aid your users in finding the information they’re looking for. Read your content out loud to yourself to see if the frequency of keywords feels natural or begins to move into the realm of keyword stuffing. Again, a somewhat higher than normal keyword density usually will offer more benefit to searchers than an unusually low frequency of terms. Just be aware whether your content remains readable, natural-sounding, and, ultimately, useful to your searchers.
Review “How Do I Write My Content for a Search Engine?” for more insights on how to improve your search engine ranking, while also writing for the needs of your users, as well as these articles to learn even more: