Q and A: What are the search engine preferred limits for keyword density?

QuestionDear Kalena

I have been following you for some time now; your articles are awesome and I usually find in them the necessary info to boost my website. It has now a PR of 5 and is very reputed in its niche. We do not do business through it (only Google Adsense but it does not pay the rent); it is only an information service, but we are very happy with its performance.

The question is, I have been reading lately about keyword density, and I find the information a bit messy. In some articles a KD of 1-2% is recommended, while others advise for a KD of 8-12%, with anything in between (1-3%, 3-7%…). I reckon that Google has a narrower margin for this factor, and it does not like it to be higher than 4%.

I have been optimizing my pages for a KD of 1-5%, but if some authors recommend it to be between 8% and 12%, I feel that my entire work is useless!

You are one of the most reputable SEO specialists I read, and I have looked for your opinion on KD in previous articles but could not find a fringe you recommended. So I am asking desperately: Which are the preferred limits?

Oh, btw, I am buying you a cup of coffee. A big one!

Warm regards from snowy Spain,

Marcela

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Hi Marcela

Thanks for the generous donation to my coffee fund.

Regarding your question, you won’t find much from me about keyword density percentages, because I don’t place much faith in KD at all. I tend to go by my gut, but having been in this biz for 12 years I have a pretty good sense for what’s going to work and what isn’t. I have a benchmark of no more than 3 repetitions of a keyword or keyword phrase per optimized page, not including contractions or variations.

That said, I held a poll on Twitter to see what my peers do and many have the same attitude to KD that I do. Percentage responses ranged between 3 and 8 percent. Others said that it depends on:

  • the site niche
  • the search engine
  • the competition
  • the number of words on the page
  • the number of other pages optimized
  • keyword proximity and prominence

Personally, if I was you I would develop a few versions of your page that contains different density levels of your target keywords and run each one for a test period to see which one ranks better in Google.

Don’t forget that keyword density may impact the usability of your site and your conversion rate as well as your site’s search engine ranking. You could run an experiment using Google Website Optimizer to test which page version gets the best reaction from your target audience.

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