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Keyword Density: SEO Considerations

Wayne Hurlbert
Expert Author
Published: 2005-05-01

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Most website owners talk about their most important keywords, but very few really do anything about them.

Those often overlooked search terms, that are so important to a website's placement in the search rankings, are a vital component of any search engine optimization (SEO) effort.

Without keywords for the search engines to index, there is literally nothing to find in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Keywords are the function of the search engines. As a result of those searches, the your most important keywords are what lead potential customers to your web pages Take care of your keywords, and they will take care of you.

The importance of keywords to a website is felt in two ways. The first area of consideration, when writing the on page and off page content, is keyword placement on the page. Where the keywords are located is important, to varying degrees, with the major search engines.

The second area of importance for keywords is their density on the page. How many keywords appear on the page, makes a difference to all of the search engine algorithms. The choice of which keywords to target on a page is often of vital importance, especially for highly competitive keywords.

Keyword factors for consideration

Each search engine, from industry dominant Google, to Yahoo, to MSN Search, to the various other search engines, has a different keyword calculation. Some search engines permit heavier keyword numbers and density on the page, while some like Google, have much stricter allowable density levels. The placement of keywords, in any number of locations on the page, has different results in the various search engines as well.

Consideration must also be given to such additional on page keyword modifications as bolding, italic, and actual keyword type size used. Other factors include the use of page titles, and their relative importance to the various search engines, as keyword delivery vehicles.

Consideration has to be given to the incoming link anchor text to a web page. Any linked off page content is, in fact, part of the receiving page's total content.

Taking into consideration, both the placement and density of a web page's keywords, will pay dividends for any website owner. Fortunately, keywords can be used in such a way as to propel a site higher in the search engine rankings.

While there are certainly no magic formulas, a few common sense ideas will pay off for most web pages.

Laser targeting the keywords

When planning which keywords to target on a page, a plan of action should be the first step. Be sure to choose only one, or two at most two keyword, for the focus of your efforts. In highly competitive keyword situations, no more than one keyword should be the topic on any page.

Keep the long term goal in mind, of ranking high for a particular keyword or keyword phrase. To score highly for that selected search term, a concentrated effort is essential. Think one keyword, with accompanying phrase, maximum for each page. In a competitive search field, the single keyword approach is the only one worth employing, if you want to rank well at all.

The site's home page and internal pages should have slightly different focus, but should be created with the overall goal in mind. This is especially important for highly competitive keyword situations. Often a series of pages, each one supporting the others in an overall theme, is necessary to provide added keyword power. Since low, medium, and highly competitive keyword conditions require differing strategies, they need individual consideration.

For lower competitive search terms, there is no real need to concentrate a page's entire effort on a single keyword. In fact, it might not be the best practice in that case at all. A website owner can target two or even three low competition keywords on a page.

With few webmasters targeting those search terms, the page can be focussed on all of them, ensuring the page be found by many different searches. Of course, not all keywords are that easily optimized.

Moderately competitive keywords comprise perhaps the largest category of search terms. A helpful practice, in the case of medium level difficulty keywords is to use them all on the home page. By placing the keywords front and center on the website's home page, they become the focus of several themes on the site.

Each targeted keyword should then be provided with individually linked, and theme clustered internal supporting pages. By providing additional theme and topic related pages, the keywords are given extra support, and overall on and off page density.

For highly competitive keywords, much more concentrated effort must be applied, to the highly sought after search term. In heavy competition, only one keyword per page may be targeted. Any more than that, and the page's keyword focus is lost. The entire effort of that page must be on that one all important search term.

Many additional focussed pages, perhaps even starting on the path to an authority site, must also be created to support that highly competitive keyword as well. The object is to create a powerful website theme, built around that single keyword. Anything less, and the site will not be able to compete for that term at all.

Regardless of the level of competition, it's a good idea to become dominant in as many search terms within the site's topic as possible. Once top search rankings are achieved with an important keyword, move to the next one. The more keywords are controlled, the more paths are available to enter the website, resulting in huge increases in visitor traffic.

Applying the tools to the job

There is no magic keyword density formula. There are only some guidelines to consider, when deciding how heavily to place keywords on a web page. Google has the strictest requirements, regarding keyword density. No more than 2% of a web page's words should be the targeted keywords. Any more will be considered spamming.

On the other hand, Yahoo and MSN Search have much higher keyword density tolerances, perhaps as high as 5% of total words. That difference leaves quite a distance between the optimum limits for Google and the levels permissible in Yahoo and MSN. A prudent webmaster will recognize that a tradeoff will be necessary, while ensuring that the copy reads well for potential customers and clients.

The ideal compromise is to maximize the keyword levels for Google, without writing copy that doesn't read well. Use the keywords only where they make sense when reading the copy. Poorly written copy might draw some extra visitor traffic, but is unlikely to convert that traffic into sales.

A website owner should be certain that the page's most important keyword is included in the page title. Each web page should have a unique title, providing an extra keyword boost to that page. Titles are a very crucial part of the various search engine algorithms, and are an important way to prominently display the most sought after keyword on the page.

A good plan is to have a well linked site map, connecting the various supporting page, to the main targeted page. The links to the targeted page should contain appropriate anchor text, emphasising the main keyword. Each supporting page should be part of the overall theme, and provide additional keywords, for the focus page. It is especially important, to have as many theme related pages as possible, in highly competitive situations.

Try to get your linking partners to use link anchor text that contains your targeted keywords. For highly competitive keywords, strong anchor text from as many incoming links as possible, is vital for your pages to appear in the search rankings at all. While it's highly unlikely that all inbound links will contain the same link text, be sure it's not all identical in wording to avoid triggering any link text filters.

While it is debatable whether placing keywords early in the on page copy is helpful in Google, higher placement does appear to have some benefit in Yahoo and MSN Search. Those search engines give some additional weight to bolded keywords as well.

With keyword placement, early positioning is probably a good idea, provided the text flows well to the reader. Keywords sprinkled appropriately throughout the copy provides the best of both worlds.

Bolding keywords appears to help rankings in Yahoo and possibly MSN Search as well. The practice seems to have less influence in the Google search placements, however. Larger size fonts provide similar results. Enclosing the most important keywords in h1 and h2 tags to add extra keyword density, works with all search engines, provided the tags are used sparingly. Overuse could result in a loss of search rankings.

Adding a blog or forum component to a website significantly increases the overall site total of keywords. The additional keywords help to enhance the overall themes of the site.

With its regular, almost daily postings, a blog will add huge numbers of well themed keyword rich pages to the site. The frequency and freshness of the postings gives the site very favorable treatment in the search engines. The naturally attracted incoming links, a hallmark of blogs, are often accompanied by keyword anchor text and theme related sending pages.

Adding a forum to the site lets the forum's own visitor traffic add unlimited keyword laden pages to the website. The additional pages move a site further along the road to authority site status, with the many keyword rich incoming links provided by referring forum members.


Keywords are the reasons that people discover a website. Through searches for information, visitors are led to a website. It's important that a site provide as many opportunities to be included in those search results as possible.

By using the many tools at a webmaster's disposal, a site can rank well for its most important keywords. By watching the density of the keywords on the page, and maximizing their effectiveness, a site can take full advantage of the various search engine algorithms.

Proper keyword placement, both on and off the page, will provide an additional keyword boost as well.

Take care of your most important keywords, and they will take care of you.

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About the Author:
Wayne Hurlbert provides insigtful information about marketing, promotions, search engine optimization and public relations for websites and business blogs on the popular Blog Business World.

Check out Blog Business World for yourself.

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