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August 9, 2007

Understanding the Keyword Density Curve

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A question popped up over at LED Digest yesterday asking if there is a perfect keyword density. Okay, so I was originally going to be all snarky and comment that, no, there is no magic number for how many times you use a keyword on a given page. Why would that have any affect on search engine optimization at all? But then I realized I’ve already used up my allotted percentage of snark this week so instead I’ll just be helpful.

Yes, dear friend, keyword densities do matter. They actually matter quite a lot.

The LED Digest subscriber didn’t just want to know if they mattered (otherwise this would be a really short entry), he specifically asked what the perfect keyword density is for any given page and what is the maximum/minimum a search marketer should try and achieve.

Well, if he’s looking for a number, we can’t give him one. While it would be super great if there was magical number for how many times you had to use a keyword to rank for it (37!), there isn’t. And how could there be? Imagine someone came out and said in order to rank for the phrase [huzzah] you have to use it 4 times on your 250-word page. Then everyone in the free world would be filling their pages up with exactly 4 huzzahs. How would that help Google to understand what page is the most expert? It wouldn’t. Search engine optimization will never be even remotely that easy.

How many times you must use a keyword in order to rank for it is going to depend on a million different factors. One of the obvious is how competitive the term is. If you want to rank for a total left-field term like "puppydogsareawesome" then you may only need to throw it up in the title in order to rank for it. However, if you want to rank for something more competitive like "car" or "SEO" or just plain "puppy", then it’s going to take a much more concentrated effort, consisting of many, many, bundles of pages all focused on that one term.

Bruce is currently in Australia for SEO Training, but if he were here, he would tell you that keyword density is like a bell curve. The ideal keyword density will never be a static number and your goal isn’t necessarily to get to the peak of the curve. Most sites will find themselves falling either over or below the optimum mark. True keyword density goals will always be determined by the index as a whole. Your job is to be "least imperfect" and get your site closer to the engines’ ‘optimum’ mark than your competition. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but each of your keywords is going to have a different optimum density, and so will each search engines. I know, it’s annoying, but every search engine touts a different optimum keyword density level and will give terms a different level of importance based on where they appear on the page.

Isn’t search engine optimization fun? Totally!

If you’re an SEOToolSet subscriber we make finding the optimum keyword density level for your targeted terms considerably easier thanks to two of our SEO Tools: the Single and Multi Page Keyword Density Analyzers. While both are top notch at measuring your site against your top ten competitors, the Single Page KDA is best suited to help you get your page competitive and then the Multi-page KDA will step in to help you take over fine tuning your pages to take those top positions.

If you’re not an SEOToolSet subscriber you can still get all this information, it’s just considerably more time consuming. We recommend you study your competitors’ sites and get an idea of how many times they’re using the terms in order to rank for them. How are they using them? Where are they putting them? What other kinds of related terms are they using? It’s all part of the puzzle.

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3 responses to “Understanding the Keyword Density Curve”

  1. Pete Prestipino writes:

    Great point – “keyword densities are like a bell curve”

  2. keyword density writes:

    Hope that many will read your posts.
    There are many Google engineers still do not follow the instructions of google, so I think SEO is the experience more than skills!
    Thanks

  3. Itzo writes:

    Keyword density is out of date idea. It was useful before, but not Google do not follow it anymore.

    Just like the meta-tags, they are not what they used to be back in the days, keyword density had the same karma.

    Do not follow the keyword density rules! If you do, they will distract your readers from your marketing message. And you will be hosed :)

    I am not trying to be “cute” here, SEO rules change, just as Google policy changes.

    Frankly, I do not know what’s the deal with Yahoo & MSN, but keyword density for Google is “no mas.”



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