What Is Keyword Density?

Brody Hall
Apr 5, 2024
what is keyword density

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Ever stepped barefoot on a LEGO brick? That’s how search engines and readers feel when encountering a keyword-stuffed webpage. It’s painful, jarring, and leaves a lasting impression—just not the kind you’d like.

Enter keyword density. A method long used to keep your content reader, search engine, and, well, foot-friendly.

But hold up—long considered an SEO cornerstone, the relevancy of keyword density is now debated. On the one hand, search engines claim keyword stuffing is a punishable tactic. On the other, some experts hint that Google’s algorithms no longer pay attention to keyword density.

So which is it?

Well, read on as we

  1. unravel these contradictions,
  2. answer the question “What is keyword density?”
  3. and navigate the often-misunderstood terrain of keyword density.

What Is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is the percentage representation of how often a specific keyword or phrase appears on a web page relative to the total word count. The idea behind keyword density goes like this: be too shy with your keywords, and search engines may miss them—overdo it, and you could get penalized for stuffing.

Supposedly, it’s about striking a balance where your keywords are present just enough times to make your content relevant but not so much that it becomes off-putting to your readers—or worse, considered spammy by search engine algorithms.

Learn more: SEO glossary 250+ terms explained.

Why is Keyword Density Important (or Not Important)?

So here’s the question we should ask ourselves—is keyword density still relevant, or have they fallen into the old wive’s tale category?

Why don’t we turn to the experts and see what they say about keyword density?

Here is Google’s former head of webspam, Matt Cutt’s take on keyword density, “So if you think that you can just say, I’m going to have 14.5% keyword density, or 7%, or 77%, and that will mean I’ll rank number one, that’s really not the case. That’s not the way that search engine rankings work. There are diminishing returns. It’s just an incremental benefit, but it’s really not that large… So the first one or two times you mention a word, then that might help with your ranking, absolutely. But just because you can say it seven or eight times, that doesn’t mean that it will necessarily help your rankings.”

Matt goes on to say, “I would love it if people could stop obsessing about keyword density. There’s no hard and fast rule… Just make sure you have the words that you want to have on the page. Make sure that they read naturally. And you should be in pretty good shape.”

And John Muller, a Senior Search Analyst at Google, says, “Well, no, Google does not have a notion of optimal keyword density. Over the years, our systems have gotten quite well at recognizing what a page is about, even if the keywords are not mentioned at all. That said, it is definitely best to be explicit. Don’t rely on search engines guessing what your page is about and for which queries it should be shown.”

What’s our read on the keyword density landscape after these comments? It appears that keyword density isn’t unimportant. As John mentioned, it’s good to be explicit. However, there’s no point obsessing over it.

The Dangers of Over-Optimization: Keyword Stuffing

Over-optimization is akin to forcing a square peg into a round hole—it’s unnatural, awkward, and ultimately unsuccessful. At the heart of over-optimization lies an unscrupulous practice known as keyword stuffing.

Back in the 90s, keyword stuffing was a common tactic used by some webmasters. The risks associated with keyword stuffing were once steep. Penalties like deindexing weren’t uncommon.


And although, in this tweet, John states that “…IMO keyword stuffing shouldn’t result in removal from the index,” that’s John’s stance, not Google’s.

On Google Search Central, Google defines keyword stuffing as “Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate rankings in Google Search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, unnaturally, or out of context.”

So just as a poorly written book is likely to gather dust on a shelf, a keyword-stuffed webpage may suffer a similar fate in the realm of search engines. Google and other search engines value user experience above all. When they detect keyword stuffing, they might penalize the page by demoting its rank or, worse, removing it from search results altogether. Plus, human readers, the ultimate consumers of your content, might find your page unengaging or even irritating, leading to high bounce rates and a tainted brand image.

Ideal Keyword Density: Finding the Sweet Spot

So, where does this leave us?

Some people use an equation to help them work out the “sweet spot.” Here’s how you calculate it:

(Number of times the keyword appears / Total number of words on the page) * 100 = Keyword Density (%)

So, let’s just say you’ve used your target keyword 30 times in 1,000 words. In that case, the calculation would look like 30 / 1,000 = 0.03 x 100 = 3%.

The thing is, as Matt Cutt mentioned, instead of obsessing over keyword density, why not just focus on creating top-tier content?

Let’s find out how you can do this.

Best Practices for Keyword Use

Instead of over-focusing on keyword density, use these best practices instead.

Avoid Chasing an Exact Keyword Density

As we’ve seen, no magic number for keyword density will guarantee top-ranking results. Trying to achieve a specific keyword density might just lead you into the rabbit hole of over-optimization. Instead of fixating on a number, concentrate on producing engaging, helpful content that follows on-page SEO fundamentals and is backed by off-page SEO efforts, like earning yourself some high-quality backlinks. Ensure your keywords emerge naturally within your text. It’s the context and relevance of your content that will ultimately impress both your audience and search engine algorithms.

Learn more: what makes a good backlink?

Prioritize Comprehensive Topic Coverage

The broader and deeper you delve into a topic, the more likely you will organically include relevant keywords and their variations. This not only aids in enhancing your content’s keyword density naturally, but it also boosts the value of your content. Search engines are more interested in the overall context of your content rather than isolated keywords. Google, for example, focuses on ‘Topic Clusters’ in its algorithms. So, the more holistically you cover a topic, the better.

Learn more: how to create topic clusters.

Strategically Position Keywords in Crucial Areas

While we’ve cautioned against over-optimizing, we also recognize the significance of keyword placement. Including keywords in specific parts of your content can help search engines understand what your content is about. The most critical areas in which keywords should be incorporated are title tags, meta descriptions, headers, and within the first 100 words of your content. But remember, your keywords should flow naturally in these areas—forced keyword insertion will be more harmful than helpful.

Learn more: how to choose keywords for SEO?


To give your content the best chance of performing well, remember that your main ingredients are originality, relevance, and value to your audience. That’s what both your readers and search engines crave.

At Loganix, we specialize in creating harmonious SEO strategies that strike the right chord between keyword usage, value-driven content, and comprehensive topic coverage.

🚀 Don’t just play the SEO game—master it with Loganix’s content marketing services. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Brody Hall on April 5, 2024

Content Marketer and Writer at Loganix. Deeply passionate about creating and curating content that truly resonates with our audience. Always striving to deliver powerful insights that both empower and educate. Flying the Loganix flag high from Down Under on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.