DIY SEO: Step 4 – Keyword Density

Oct 28, 2008 | SEO for WordPress

This is the sixth post in our DIY SEO for WordPress series.

Short, but illuminating exercise today: determining your keyword density.

What’s Keyword Density?

Keyword density is how often your keywords appear in your text relative to other words. Let’s say you’ve got a 500-word post and you’ve used your keyword 25 times – that’s a keyword density of 5% (25/500 = 5%) – and that’s the target that’s most widely recommended. Any more than that and you run the risk of Google thinking you’re “stuffing” your post with your keywords at the expense of quality content and treating your page as junk. And it would be junk. Don’t believe me? Pick a keyword, any keyword and just TRY to use it more than 25 times in a 500-word post without ending up with junk. Shoot – depending on the keyword and the post – even 5% keyword density might be pushing it.

Calculate Your Keyword Density by Hand Before You Publish

There are a number of keyword density checkers and tools available online these days, and they are quick, accurate, and for the most part, easy to use. Only one problem: they can’t check pages that aren’t published and ‘live’ on the web. Not much help when I’m writing a new post, right?

So until I publish, I like to roll ‘old school’ on this one, so here’s what I do: I copy/paste my post (title, headings and all) into something like MS Word, where I can click a button and find the total word count quickly. Then, I use Word’s ‘find’ function and search for my keyword or keyword phrase in the text. I just count how many times I successfully ‘find next’. Divide that number by the total number of words and bang ? I?ve got my keyword density calculated!

For example, until this paragraph, there are 309 words in this post. My keyword phrase keyword density appears 9 times, for a keyword density of 2.91%. “But Suzanne, your math is skewed because keyword density is actually two words and it’s counted as two words in your total of 309, yet you’re counting it as if it were one word that appears 9 times…that percentage is a little off…”, I hear you thinking.

Easy fix: use Word’s Find/Replace function to make it one word by hyphenating the two words together. That makes my total word count 300 and my keyword still appears only 9 times, so now I’ve got a keyword density of 3% even.

And now, after that last bit, my keyword density is up to 3.16% (411 words, 13 occurrences). Are you sick of me saying keyword density yet? I’m almost sick of me saying it, and I’m still 2 points away from 5%! Just imagine how awful this would be if I jacked it up to 10%. See why Google would think I was keyword stuffing? It’s just not natural to repeat the same word(s) over and over again.

Turns out, Mrs. Williams, my 7th grade English teacher, knew what she was talking about. She did such a good job encouraging me to expand my vocabulary and use different words to say the same thing (“…to make it more interesting for your readers, Suzanne…”) that I have a hard time getting remotely close to that 5% number. But I’m working on it…

Use Online Keyword Density Checkers After You Publish

Keyword density is impacted by using your keywords in your page title, page description and keyword meta tags, as described in Step 2 of this series, so if you remember to optimize there, your actual keyword density will get a boost.

As I said, there are many tools online, but I like this keyword density checker the best. Just search for keyword density checker and you’ll find lots of options.

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