Keyword Density: Is It Still Relevant? And How to Get the Most of It?

In the early 2000s, there was an SEO strategy known as “keyword stuffing.” The idea was to fool search engines into thinking that content was more relevant to the query through keyword density. The reason such a strategy was popular back then was because it actually worked, for a while. Search engines, like any technology, started with simple algorithms and built from there. The initial algorithms cross referenced what you search for directly with web content and ranked according to density. However, over the years search engine algorithms became more and more complex. To the point where they don’t only search for the words you typed in. They also look for other related words to give you more reliable conclusive results. So does this mean that keyword density is no longer important in content writing? The answer is: It’s complicated, let’s uncomplicated it.

First: What Are Keywords?

keyword density

To the average Internet user keywords are the words you type in the search engine in order to find information. Obviously, not everything you type in the search bar is considered a keyword. In fact, there are people that can use google better than other. There are many Tips & Tricks to Searching Google Like a Pro available online.


To the search engine, keywords are those words that are unique to your query. They use complex algorithms to associate what you are looking for to keywords that can be found in content. Then the search engine shows you results based on what is most relevant to your search.

To the content writer the keyword is a tool that when strategically placed gets their articles flagged as relevant to the user. In other words, they are the signs that tell the search engine “I have what your user is looking for.”

What Is Keyword Density?

Simply, it’s the amount of time the focus keyword is mentioned in an article in relation to the whole content length. As mentioned before, in the past it used to be the name of the game. But is there a certain ratio that would boost your SEO score and consequently your ranking? Search engine technology evolved way beyond being tricked so easily.

Recently, Google started applying Semantic Search algorithms like Google Panda to better search results quality. Semantic search basically means trying to figure out the users’ intent with the query, rather than the literal meaning. This is done by studying people’s search patterns and associating keywords together. For example: You search for “best sushi bar in Manhattan.” The search engine will not only look for articles on sushi bars and Manhattan but also for “Japanese restaurants” and “Wasabi” and so on.

ALSO SEE: Understanding Google Algorithm Updates

So Is Keyword Density Relevant?

It’s clear that search engine optimization isn’t as simple as throwing around a single keyword as much as possible anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. This just means that there are other more important factors considered before deeming your content worthy.

After search engines wised up, it’s actually very bad for your article and even your whole website to keyword stuff. You can get penalized for excessive use. This doesn’t make keyword research obsolete, in fact Keyword Planning is much more important than before. So how exactly can you play these new changes to your advantage? Here are some things to consider:

1. Optimum Keyword Density

It’s true that being density oriented is not a winning strategy anymore. But you still need a way to flag your content as relevant. According to YOAST, one of the leading SEO tools in the business, keeping your keyword density between 0.5% and 2.5% is just enough. This makes your content relevant but in other words, not trying too hard.

There are free keyword density tools that can help you keep track of your keywords like

2. Keywords Are The New Topics

After planning your keywords you can use the generated keywords as guidelines to your articles. They still are the most indicating tool to where your readers are interested. Use them as the backbone and build your articles around them. You may also use minor keywords as checkpoints to map your article flow.

3. Quality Not Quantity

Search engine focus shifted from “how much” to just “how” you use your keywords. This means that you are no longer bound by a minimum number of times to mention the words. Instead, you are now free to let the keywords flow naturally in your text. This is both creatively liberating and makes your content more valuable to readers.

4. Minor Keywords

Instead of repeating the same words over and over again, try using minor keywords. Minor keywords are basically the other words that the search engine associates to the focus keyword. This gives your content a much stronger case during the selection process. Minor keywords can be synonyms or words that go hand in hand with your topic. The same keyword density rules apply to minor keywords.

5. Keyword Placement

What’s even more important than keyword density is where you insert them in your article. Your title should always contain the focus keyword, preferably in the beginning. This isn’t just good for your SEO but don’t forget that titles are what readers see first in the search engine. You should also incorporate the keyword in at least one H2 header or more if you can. Use your keywords in places that are noticeable. That way the reader can always make sure you’re still on topic and that they’re in the right place.

Welcome to the New Age

Yes, keyword density isn’t as important as it once was, but it still plays a role in SEO. According to Searchmetrics Ranking Factors the top search results have the keywords mentioned between 8 and 10 times. It’s important to keep track using a keyword density counter or tool to make sure that you aren’t under or over using.

These new complex SEO guidelines are there to enhance the process of bringing people to the content they really need. This isn’t much of a move against content writers as it is a move forward. In that sense, it’s better for everyone that you as a writer create more valuable content that is rich in information instead of keywords. Marketing using content is now a very creative process. This makes content writers’ value to businesses increase. A good writer knows how to build an article around a keyword in a natural, unforced way.

SEE ALSO: Content Marketing: The Power of a Story.