How does keyword density work?

Keyword density and SEO history

Today, it's nearly hard to discuss keyword density without referring to the early days of SEO. Early web crawlers were nothing more than enhanced library card catalogue systems in the beginning.

Enterprise SEO is always changing. Nuance has been added to previously basic ranking variables. The most important of these is keyword density, which has been ingrained in SEO recommended practises since the beginning.

So, in 2022, what is the optimal keyword density percentage?

How does keyword density work?

The amount of times a desired term appears within the overall number of words on a page is referred to as keyword density.

Keyword phrase density, also known as keyword frequency, is computed as a percentage of the total word count on the page. It's not just about the number of keywords on your page; it's about the ratio of all your content to your keywords.

For instance, if your goal keyword is "cold weather running gear," and it appears three times in a 300-word piece, the key density is 1%. The density climbs to 2% if it appears six times in a 300-word post. You get my drift.

Key Points

  • The frequency with which your term occurs in a piece of material is referred to as keyword density.
  • The TF-IDF formula for keyword density is a weighted formula that has become the industry standard in data mining, user modeling, and information retrieval.
  • Until SEO strategists discovered how to scam the system with keyword stuffing, keyword density was an objective metric Google utilized to determine the relevancy of a page.
  • There's no evidence that Google's algorithm still considers term density. However, there is evidence that including keywords in a natural way boosts the relevancy of a term.
  •, Yoast, and Moz are some of the tools that can assist you in determining a suitable keyword density.
  • The creation of high-quality content and a positive user experience should always take precedence over keyword density.

Keyword density and SEO history

Today, it's nearly hard to discuss keyword density without referring to the early days of SEO. Early web crawlers were nothing more than enhanced library card catalogue systems in the beginning. They sought a mechanism to provide consumers with the information they required. As a result, they used the meta data from each site as a "file tab" in their catalogue. Websites may update the file tabs with their most important terms, which would help Google order the site in the index.

Even the earliest algorithms, however, realised that the site's on-page content should match the meta tags. Google, in particular, desired a mechanism for content to reign supreme, even if sites' meta tags were not updated.

Then came keyword density, which gave Google a measured, objective way to figure out what each page in its index was about. If a user searches for a specific term and a website's density for that keyword is high, Google may conclude that the website is a good match for the user.

Then there was the early SEO consultant who figured out how to take advantage of Google's well-intentioned guidelines.

Stuffing keywords

SEO webmasters soon recognised they could cheat the system by stuffing as many keywords as possible into a single piece of content.

Do you want to be found when people search for "best keyword density checker"? Simply include it in your heading tags, title tags, meta descriptions, and body text. This inevitably resulted in jumbled, forced, and unnatural content.

They'd also include lengthy footers at the bottom of the page with dozens of keyword variations. They'd even cover the keyword-rich material with white lettering on a white background on occasion. People wouldn't be able to read it this way, but search engines would.

Stuffing keywords worked so well in on-page SEO that it spilled over into off-page SEO, resulting in backlinks filled with exact match anchor text.

Google rapidly realised what was going on.

It didn't take long for Google to notice and respond. Sites with sparse content and exceptionally high keyword density were penalised by the Panda update. It also went after sites that were clearly using deceptive techniques like masked text. They didn't, however, abandon the keyword density metric entirely. They just developed more sophisticated methods for detecting unusual metric manipulation.

Then they started looking for trust signals off-site to balance out their on-site characteristics. As a result, we now have the Google we know and love. Now, Google uses a combination of trust and usability cues, as well as a deeper understanding of search behaviour, to determine a page's relevancy for a specific keyword, allowing it to provide users with the best possible experience with the highest quality content.

Keyword density is still incorporated into Google's search algorithm in several ways. It's simply gotten a lot more complicated.


Some information retrieval systems use the TF-IDF method to measure keyword density. "Term frequency and inverse document frequency" is the acronym. The keyword frequency in a document is calculated by the system using a simple formula. The number is then offset by an inverted document frequency number. Commonly used words are de-prioritized, and the relative weight of unique keywords is increased.

The formula that resulted is now widely used in data mining, user modelling, and information retrieval. And, certainly, search engines are included in that latter category. We don't know if Google's algorithm incorporates TF-IDF in any way. We do know, however, that TF-IDF is a safe bet for determining relevance in simpler vertical search engines.

Does keyword density have an impact on Google search results?

As a result, it should be self-evident that keyword stuffing will have a detrimental impact on your search engine rankings. Is keyword density, however, still relevant?

Both yes and no.

This basic approach to keywords is unlikely to remain a Google ranking component. However, there is lots of research to suggest that adding keywords and writing in natural language enhances SEO rankings. This improves the visitor experience while also reinforcing your site's importance for a specific term.

It's also a vital SEO metric to consider when analysing your competitors. Use a tool like to dive into the facts behind the results that display on Google page one, or Google your intended phrase. This covers content length and type, inbound link quantity and type, and, yes, keyword density.

Take note of the keyword density in material that is performing well in search engine results pages for your target term. That's a wonderful target to shoot at while creating your own content.

Keyword equivalences

Google processes about 5 billion searches every day, with 15% of those searches being brand new every day. "Completely new" in the sense that no one has ever looked for such keywords in human history.

What gives that this is possible?

People don't search the same way they used to, so it's plausible. Users' interactions with search engines have evolved as a result of voice search and artificial intelligence. Hyper-specific search phrases, statements, and inquiries are now being used to drive organic traffic.

As a result, long-tail keywords have gained in importance, while focus keywords have taken on a new function. Relevance isn't just determined by keyword repetition. Each target keyword is effectively a "bucket" that contains plurals, modifiers, rephrased searches, inquiries, and other search phrases that are closely related (but not synonyms). When a keyword becomes a bucket, determining the true keyword density for that term becomes difficult.

You can still optimise for particular keywords with a demonstrably high search volume, and you should. Only keep in mind that you're not just optimising for those terms. You're also optimising for the hundreds of related keywords and queries that a main keyword generates. While high-opportunity anchor phrases are a sensible approach to arrange your site and give a basis for your SEO strategy, genuine keyword density is tough to reverse-engineer.

User experience is everything.

Let's return to the 15% of all searches that are brand new. As Google's RankBrain system improves, these searches have led them to begin indexing more semantically.

When someone searches for "where to locate bats," they may be looking for baseball bats. Alternatively, they could be planning a day excursion to view their beloved fuzzy, flying mammals in the wild.

Google will use tailored context such as the user's Google search history and location to evaluate which is true and give the best information.

Google, on the other hand, has methods for detecting whether your web page is contextually relevant for a certain keyword.

Assume you're attempting to rank for the phrase "best project management software." There isn't going to be any aid from keyword density optimization. That's because when consumers search for "best," they're more likely browsing for third-party evaluations than the sales page of a particular platform.

However, if your site delivers the contextual signals Google is looking for, it has a chance to rank for that keyword. An in-depth blog post containing comparison keywords, reviews, and platform kinds will be far more in line with search intent in this scenario. This is an oversimplification, but it's the most straightforward way to think about semantic indexing. Google considers subject clusters for making decisions. The more thematically organised your content is to provide context, the more relevance your target term will gain.

How to figure out what keyword density is best for SEO

So, where does this leave us in terms of determining the ideal keyword density? It's not a metric you should dismiss out of hand. Instead of aiming for a certain proportion, utilise it as a general guideline for your material. Here are some best practises for keyword density:

  • Google does not have a set keyword density recommendation.
  • Calculate and compare the keyword density of the top-ranking content for your target term on Google.
  • You may also use the keyword density for similar themes in your own top-ranking content.
  • Keyword density tools such as Yoast recommend a density range of.5% to 3%, but you should go with what seems natural and delivers the greatest user experience.
  • Map out a few keywords that are contextually or semantically similar to your goal term (synonyms, variations, closely related topics, etc.) and work them into your content as you build out the topical focus of each page. Use tools like to scan competitor content for relevant terms and keywords used by the top-performing pages. 

Your top priority should always be to develop high-quality content that provides an exceptional user experience. For whatever page you create, this is more crucial than keyword density.

Tools for determining keyword density

To determine the appropriate keyword density, you can utilise a variety of SEO tools. The following are some of our favourites:


Yoast is a WordPress SEO plugin that does a lot more than just evaluate keyword density. However, when you build out your content or page, it's a terrific method to obtain a fast, no-nonsense read on your focus keyword density. Just keep in mind that Yoast's purpose is to make the SEO process easier by using objective data. As a result, its suggestions may not always make sense on a case-by-case basis. Yoast Premium has gone to great lengths to recognise many word forms as a single keyword. Your keyword might also be divided up into multiple phrases inside the same sentence to count as a "mention." However, if your term is spread across numerous sentences, the programme will not recognise it. It also has trouble with synonyms and can't tell how well your material reinforces the focus keyword in context.

Yoast's tool, in general, isn't an ideal match for Google's semantic indexing strategy. However, it's a simple and quick approach to keep track of any unique goals you create as a result of your SERP research. And if you go over Yoast's upper limit, you'll almost certainly need to make some changes and add some variation to your content.

Moz's On-Page SEO Grader costs 

The On-Page Grader from Moz gives you a more detailed look into keyword density. In the tool, enter a URL and a focus term. Moz will then grade the page based on a variety of characteristics, including keyword density, page title, and more. The tool also looks for keywords relevant to the focus keyword that your competitors are using. This provides you with content ideas and increases your topical authority. Because of the SERP-based competitor analysis, this is an excellent tool to use in the beginning of your keyword research, not simply at the finish.

In short, keyword density is considerably more than meets the eye. Producing high-quality content for a positive user experience should always be your primary goal. As long as you keep context in mind, you may use the keyword density metric to generate content that delights your audience and converts them.