So you’ve built your website, you know what keywords you want to target (i.e. what words your customers are searching for), and you’re ready to write your copy. You’ve been told that you should use your keywords frequently so that you appear in search results for those words. But what does “frequently” mean?
How many times should you use your primary keyword? This case study helps answer that question.
Some background on ”Keyword Density”
In order to understand optimum keyword usage, we first need to have some way of measuring keyword frequency. In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) world, frequency is actually referred to as density. Keyword density is a measure of the number of times your keyword appears on a page expressed as a percentage of the total wordcount of that page. For example, if your page has 100 words, and your keyword phrase appears 5 times, its density is 5%. So when you hear someone say “keyword density”, that’s normally what they’re talking about. (TIP:You can automatically check the keyword density of your page at LiveKeywordAnalysis.com.)
However, there is another, more complex measure of keyword density which takes into account the text components in the HTML of the page (i.e. the meta tags: Title, Keywords, Alt Text, Description, and Comments). When using this measure, you don’t just count the words your visitor sees; you also count the words in your meta tags. For example, if you have 100 words on your home page, 10 words in your Title tag, 20 words in your Description tag, 70 words in your Alt tags, and 10 words in your Comments tag, your total wordcount for the page is 100 + 10 + 20 + 70 + 10 = 210. Similarly, when counting keywords, you don’t just add up the number of times a visitor will see your keyword, you also count the number of times that keyword appears in your meta tags. For example, if your keyword appears 5 times in the home page copy, 3 times in the Title tag, 5 times in the Description tag, 30 times in your Alt tags, and twice in your Comments tag, your total keyword count is 5 + 3 + 5 + 30 + 2 = 45. So with a total wordcount of 210 and a keyword count of 45, your keyword density is 45/210 x 100 = 21%. It is argued that this measure of keyword density is more relevant as the search engines measure density in this fashion. (TIP: You can automatically check the keyword density of your page using this more complex measure at GoRank.com.)
As you can see, you need to be very aware of which measure you’re talking about when you’re talking “keyword density”. But let me reiterate; mostly when people talk about keyword density, they’re talking the simple measure.
What is the optimum keyword density
And now down to business… What keyword density (of either kind) should you be targeting on your website?
There’s a lot of debate surrounding this issue because the search engine companies don’t disclose the details of their algorithms (as that would allow people to abuse the system). Instead, people working in the SEO world are left to figure it out based on their experience.
A recent article by respected SEO and Blog expert, Wayne Hurlbert, (see Keyword Density: SEO Considerations) suggests that Google sees pages with a keyword density of greater than 2% as spam. It was this article which prompted me to analyze the keyword density of my copywriting website.
The Website: This case study analyzes the website for my advertising copywriting and SEO copywriting business, Divine Write –http://www.divinewrite.com. For my primary keyword, my site is now on page 1 of Google.com (out of approximately 900,000 search results).
Number of pages on site: At the time of writing, my website contained a total of 53 pages.
Primary keyword phrase: “copywriter”
Average keyword density: Using the simple measure of keyword density discussed above, the average keyword density of my copywriting website is 1.9%. Using the complex measure it’s 4.9%.
Keyword density range: Using the simple measure, my density ranged from 0.4% to 7.6%. Using the complex measure it ranged from 1.6% to 17.5%
Some comments on the keyword density figures
- The figures and corresponding ranking detailed in this case study may not be directly relevant to every site. There’s a lot I don’t know about the algorithms and there are bound to be other factors at play which I don’t know about.
- With regard to Wayne Hurlbert’s article, it would seem that he is referring to keyword density as calculated using the simple method discussed above.
- The range figures are noteworthy because they suggest that you don’t need to be paranoid about having some pages with a very high density and some with a very low density.
A simple keyword density of 1.9% can be enough for a first page ranking in Google.com (assuming you have enough quality backlinks – see SEO for CEOs and How to Top Google by Writing Articles for more information).
Happy SEO writing!