When writing the content for your website, one of the most important considerations is how to increase its exposure in the search results, and this is where search engine optimisation comes in. After all, most people visit a webpage for the first time having started by entering a search query in Google. You’ve probably already heard of SEO and how targeting certain keywords can help to increase your ranking in Google and other search engines, however, putting it into practice is quite another matter. One of the most often asked questions about SEO refers to keyword density, but the answer is commonly misunderstood.

What Is Keyword Density?

Assuming that you’ve already chosen suitable keywords for your content, you’ll now need to take them into consideration when optimizing your webpages. Simply put, keyword density refers to the percentage of times that your keyword appears in a piece of text. Note that a keyword can consist of either a single word, but more often than not, it consists of a phrase of three to five words. Longer, more specific keywords tend to be far less competitive.

Google uses hundreds of ranking factors in its algorithm to determine which websites should take priority in the search results, and it is always reinforcing its emphasis on quality over excessive optimisation. However, Google’s crawlers still don’t read your website in quite the same way as humans do. Instead, they try to determine what the subject matter is by picking out certain key words and phrases that appear frequently enough in the written content.

There are many free online tools that can help you to perform a quick SEO audit of your website or individual webpages, including providing you with an overview of keyword density.

What Is the Optimal Keyword Density?

The short answer to the question is that there isn’t an optimal keyword density, and in fact, paying too much attention to keyword density often leads to poor-quality, over-optimised content. For each webpage, you should ideally focus on targeting a single keyword phrase, but remember that overusing your targeted keyword can get your content flagged as over-optimised, or worse still, spam. Keyword stuffing refers to using keywords excessively to such an extent that it will be obvious to your readers, and the results are counterproductive anyway. The search engine algorithms are rather more sophisticated than they used to be, and having more mentions of your keyword in your content will not magically increase your ranking.

The most important consideration is your human readers, and you should be writing exclusively for them rather than for the search engines. In other words, keyword phrases should fit in naturally with the rest of the content to such an extent that your visitors won’t even notice them. Google recommends that no more than 2% of the words on a single page be the keyword that you are targeting, a higher density being considered spam.

How You Should Use Keywords

While keywords are undoubtedly an important part of SEO, many novice marketers overestimate their importance to such an extent that the result is clearly over-optimised content. The most important step is to conduct your keyword research carefully to find the sweet spot between competitiveness and the number of global and local monthly searches. You can use the free Google AdWords Keyword Planner to help you. As a general rule, you’ll need to avoid targeting shorter, single-word keywords, since they are usually far too competitive.

Armed with your chosen keywords, you’ll be able to start optimising your content. However, instead of paying attention to keyword density, think about keyword placement. It is widely believed that keyword phrases get the most attention when they are located in the page title, first paragraph and in the meta description and URL of the webpage. Most importantly, make sure that your keywords read naturally and do not look repetitive, particularly if you have a long keyword phrase. You shouldn’t have to think about keyword density at all if you have already included your keyword phrase in each on-page element. In conclusion, make sure that you keep writing for people, since quality, relevant content is what impresses Google most of all.