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SEMrush Blog

Optimal keyword density: does it affect search engine rankings?

SEMrush Blog
Optimal keyword density: does it affect search engine rankings?

There is one belief about keywords density that Google can check keyword density in the text and, based on this, evaluate the rankings of a page. Consequently, the higher the keyword - the better the rankings. In this post we will look at this theory more closely to find out whether or not it works for the site search engine optimization these days, and whether an optimal keyword density really exists.

Is there an optimal keyword density rate?

Firstly, what is keyword density? In SEO, keyword density is the percentage of times a particular keyword is mentioned in the page text. According to the opinion of most of SEO experts, an ideal keyword density is a myth. Leading specialists advise paying more attention to whether or not the keywords exist in the text or not. As long as keywords are there, everything is ok with your text. After you have made sure your keywords occur in the main text body at least once, you should switch the attention to another element of on-page optimization which will have better impact on rankings in the search results. For example, it could be including keywords in the page titles and headings.

As to the exact rate, it is difficult to find a certain answer. You frequently hear the percentage between 1-5 % of the whole text, but as many experts assert, there is no ideal rate. The main principle they advise to keep is mentioning these keywords in the text body, nothing more. Usually it works the next way: the first time the keyword occurs in the text is a good sign - it helps search engines judge the page relevance, if this keyword comes up once again, it is not bad too, but when it gets repetitive, it causes the opposite effect.

What are the negative effects of high keywords density?

Firstly, a text with constant repetition of the same words stops being a piece of writing and becomes a copy written by machine. Such writing loses its primary value to the users and turns them off, which ultimately may result in higher bounce rate and lower traffic conversion.

Secondly, when you deliberately take out some words from the text in order to substitute them with desired keywords, you let some very semantically important words slip by (or phrases), which bears the essential meaning of the content and relevancy to the page. In this case, you may end up with lower page rankings and lower traffic as well.

Does Google penalize for keyword stuffing?

There is some point with keyword density when the constant occurrence of the same keywords are not only unjustified, but constitutes a threat to the whole site. An excessive keyword density is known as keyword stuffing and Google penalizes sites for it.

Keyword usage in a spammy way is considered to be a violation of Google's webmaster guidelines, and in response to such actions the search engine essentially lowers the rankings of the sites that break the rules.

How to make sure you do not overuse keywords?

The best piece of advice to create quality text with embedded keywords you need is to keep it natural. The text should have a natural feel. To make sure every used keyword is justified and do not interfere with the main idea of the copy, you can read the text yourself or have someone else revise it. If no word strikes the attention and falls out the context, you are probably on the right way.

What factors contribute more than keyword density?

As frequently noted by SEO specialists, there are many other methods of keyword optimization, which work way better for more prominent ranking results. For example, it is really important to include keywords in the header marked with H1 tag and page title. Similarly, it will help if you incorporate keywords in the alt tags for the page images. Another effective method is to make sure some keywords are mentioned in the page URL or in the domain name of a site. Specialists also advise to use synonyms or similar words throughout the text.

How to know which keywords to include?

You can look up keywords for your site in the special programs that work like keyword suggestion tools. For example, you can use SEMrush keyword ranking software which will help you find the most suitable keywords in no time.

There are a couple of ways how you can go about this. The first – you can type your site name in the search field and see what competitors you have in the organic search. Based on the keywords that your site is being currently ranked for, the keyword analysis software will give you the list of your closest competitors. You will be able to choose any of them and check the whole list of keywords thanks to which site appears in the search results.

And another one: if you already know which site’s keywords you would like to incorporate in your own promotion, skip this step and just type your competitors name in the search field to check all data related to its SEO promotion.


The majority of SEO experts tend to think that there is no optimal keyword density rate. Keywords have to be included in the text; however, they should not be overused. In most cases mentioning keywords once in the main text body is perfectly fine. To increase the effect, you can also embed some synonyms. After you have done this, specialists advise turning attention to other elements of on-page optimization, such as titles, alt tags, and headings.

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