What does keyword density mean?

A page’s keyword density tells you what percentage of the text on a page is made up by a certain keyword. It is important to note that there is no optimal frequency for a word on a page, and posts should always be written with their target audience in mind.

What is keyword density?

Keyword density is a percentage that represents how often a specific word appears in a text or document.

( # word “A” / # of all words in the document) * 100% = %keyword density “A”

( # word "A" / # of all words in the document) * 100% = %keyword density "A"

Why does keyword density seem to be so popular with SEOs?

It would be too easy to have a checklist to work to, with fixed target values for how often certain words should appear in a text so that that text ranks for the desired keyword. Such a checklist would bring with it the promise of consistent standards and unlimited scalability.

Unfortunately, this is not feasible in reality. Not every language uses words with the same frequency and even within a language, texts will often differ substantially from one another due to different dialects.

What is a good keyword density?

Let’s start with the bad news first: there is no ‘one value’ that is always the same across texts, languages, topics and target groups. In a scientific text, for example, certain terms occur with a completely different frequency than they would in a travel report or a recipe.

There are also no fixed guidelines even within the same subject area. In the case of travel reports, for example, a hiking report about the mountains can have a completely different keyword density than a report about an amusement park.

So it is very important to dispel the notion that the distribution of certain words within a document can have a positive influence on the rankings of a page.

With that said, there is no doubt that the use of keywords in a text has a considerable impact on page rankings. A keyword must appear at least once in a text for Google to even consider the page for a possible ranking for that keyword. Keywords may also be used more than once, provided that this happens in a natural way.

The hazards of keyword density

Structuring or adapting one’s own texts so that they correspond to a certain keyword density can, in the best case scenario, make no difference – and, in the worst case scenario, cause enormous harm to a website’s rankings.

When a certain keyword density can lead to Google problems

A keyword density that is too high can give Google the impression that the text is unnatural and was only written for ranking purposes. This may well be penalised as an offence against the Google Webmaster Guidelines.

When a certain keyword density can lead to dissatisfied readers

In the German language, it is okay to mention keyword density more than once in a text about keyword density. However, if keyword density is mentioned too often in an attempt to prove how important keyword density really is for a text about keyword density, this artificial increase in keyword density for the keyword keyword density is a real problem when reading an article on keyword density.

The paragraph above contains 61 words in which the key phrase keyword density appears eight times. This corresponds to 7.625% of the entire text. This may still be grammatically understandable, but it is not nice to read.

And this is exactly where the danger lies. If I write a text for search engines so that they rank my document better, I forget the actual target group of my own page: people.


A ghost is haunting search engine optimisation – the ghost of keyword density. Even in the new decade, the myth about the one key figure that helps every text to rank higher has not yet been laid to rest. In general, a simple trick helps: read the text aloud. If what you read sounds funny or is difficult to read or understand, it is probably not a good text!

Steve Paine