How to Decide Keyword Density and Avoid Stuffing?

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So, you’re about to set out to write your next blog post and you’ve chosen your primary keyword. These questions may come to mind: How do you know how many times to use a keyword in a piece of content? Is keyword density important for search engine optimization?
Read on to learn more about keyword density, keyword stuffing, and how to find the right balance of keyword usage for your content.

What Is Keyword Density?

Keyword density is the number of times your keyword appears in a single piece of written content compared to the total word count. Meaning, if you use the keyword 10 times in a 1000-word piece of content, you can calculate keyword density like this:

 10 / 1000 = 0.01 x 100 = 1% keyword density 

This also can be called keyword phrase density since in many situations your “keyword” may actually be a long-tail keyword or a phrase. Whether it is a keyword or keyword phrase doesn’t change the measurement.

Any given piece of content should have a primary target keyword or “seed keyword.” This is the main focus of the content and matches what users on Google are searching for when they find your page. You will use this keyword throughout your content a certain number of times.

Now that you understand what keyword density is, let’s answer the question of how many keywords you should use in your content.

How Many Keywords Should I Use in My Content?

Generally, you will want to choose one primary keyword to target and then have three secondary or supporting keywords that are associated with that primary keyword. These secondary keywords may be other seed keywords or long-tail keywords, such as questions or related phrases.

Try to stick to focusing keyword usage on one to three secondary keywords along with a primary or seed keyword. This is how you lay the groundwork for developing content with a clear hierarchy of information that can be categorized into topic clusters on your site.

Next, we will take a look at keyword ratios and what keyword frequency is optimal.

Keyword Density Ratios

There isn’t one sole perfect keyword ratio, however, there is a recommended range.

YoastSEO recommends that the ideal keyword density range is 0.5% to 3%. For reference, this means using your primary keyword 5 to 30 times in a 1000-word piece.

We believe Yoast’s suggestion to be pretty accurate, but we’d even say that up to 4% is a good range for balanced content. It will depend on the specific keyword, its difficulty level, and the type of content sites are using to try to rank for the keyword.

Many times, you can use relevant keywords variations of your primary keyword to keep from keyword stuffing. However, this isn’t always the case. We see this often in niche industries that really don’t have many keyword variations.

If there are no alternatives for the keyword that you can interchange, then you may have no choice but to publish content with a higher keyword density.

If you are in the 5% density or above range, you are teetering on keyword stuffing. We will share why you want to avoid this in the next section.

What Is Keyword Stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is simply when you use your keyword excessively throughout a piece of content in hopes to rank higher on SERPs. Let’s say someone used a keyword 200 times in a 1000-word blog post. That would be considered keyword stuffing because it exceeds an appropriate keyword ratio.

So, why would someone do this? And does keyword stuffing matter for SEO? Yes, it matters and we will explain why.

SEO Implications of Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing used to be an effective means to get a piece of content to rank higher in search results. With the evolution of Google’s algorithm and its many updates, Google has gotten smart enough to detect this Black Hat SEO tactic.

Now, keyword stuffing usually will not help a piece rank higher. In fact, it’s possible it will likely lower your chance of ranking due to Google and users reading the content as spam. Users who land on a keyword-stuffed piece of content will have a negative experience and bounce from the web page quickly.

User experience is a ranking factor for Google, so keyword stuffing will ultimately decrease your chances of ranking on search engines.

Another possible outcome is a manual action from Google. A manual action is when Google determines that your site has not been following the webmaster quality guidelines and penalizes you. You will want to avoid this, so follow the webmaster quality guidelines and don’t keyword stuff any of your content.

Example of Keyword Stuffing vs. Appropriate Use

Let’s say our keyword for this example is “custom kites.” Read the paragraph below to see an example of keyword stuffing:

Custom kites are the best kites for kids. Custom kites are great because they are unique and custom. Custom kites have many benefits such as being custom kites, flying higher, and being sturdy. Kids will like custom kites because custom kites are beautiful and colorful. Custom kites come in thousands of designs for custom kites. With custom kites, the possibilities are endless. Custom kites for the win!

This paragraph mentions the keyword “custom kites” 10 times within 65 words. That means the keyword density is:

10 / 65 = 0.15 x 100 = 15% 

This is clearly over the 3%-4% mark that we and Yoast have recommended and is definitely keyword stuffing.

Now, for an example of the appropriate use of a keyword.

Custom kites are the best kites for kids because they are sturdy, beautiful, and unique. Kids will love the custom designs of these kites. They can get custom kites in the shape of a dragon, butterfly, unicorn, and many other styles. The possibilities are endless! These specially-made kites fly higher, last longer, and are more beautiful than store-bought kites for kids. They are worth the investment for years of fun in the sun.

This paragraph mentions the same keyword twice within 73 words. That means the keyword density is:

2 / 73 = 0.02 x 100 = 2% 

This percentage is appropriate for the number of words in this paragraph. The content is balanced and has a higher chance of ranking on search engines than the first example.

Read on to learn some helpful tips for maintaining balance in your content.

How To Avoid Keyword Stuffing

There are plenty of ways to avoid keyword stuffing your content. Use these tips below to make sure your SEO content is balanced.

Write like a human.

The easiest way to avoid keyword stuffing is to write like a human. Write as if you were speaking to a friend or acquaintance. In your normal speech you wouldn’t repeat the same word or phrase over and over, right?

Translate this into your writing. Use keywords when fitting but don’t intentionally try to include it as many times as you can. It’s not a competition. It’s an art.

Check your keyword density before publishing.

It’s always a good idea to check the keyword density of a piece before publishing it on your website. If it is over 3%-4%, consider cutting some of the keyword usage to lower the density. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Increase your word count.

If you notice you have mentioned your keyword too many times in a piece, you can always expand and add words. This is a simple fix to balance your ratio. Add more content without using your keyword to increase the word count.

Do good keyword research.

Keyword research will help you to find effective and relevant keywords with high search volume and lower difficulty. This will help you to use keywords appropriately and find ones with alternative phrasing.

Write Like a Pro

Since you understand the importance of proper keyword density and balance, you are ready to write like an SEO pro. Keywords are just one part of an effective SEO strategy, so check out some of our other resources such as our guide to anchor text to learn more.

If you need help with more Technical SEO or Content Strategy, trust the experts at Markitors to help your small business. Schedule a consultation or contact us today!

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