What is the "industry standard keyword density"?

What Is The Industry Standard Keyword Density?

In the world of SEO, everything is all about keywords. Whether it’s research & planning, writing content, tracking positions, optimising meta tags or building links – nearly every step in SEO will be focused on a set of words and phrases which we call the “keywords.”

Every SEO has their own ideas and methods on how to optimise a webpage for a keyword. The oldest and simplest way is to simply use the keyword within your content.

It should come as no surprise then that when Google launched their Digital Marketing Certification Course, a few people were worried when it became known that SEO would be apart of the course, as people can now outright claim they are “SEO experts certified by Google themselves.”

Within the SEO section of the course, Google included some misleading and outright incorrect information regarding keywords, mainly:

  • “Keep your keyword density below an industry standard of 2%.”
  • “Write more than 300 words on your webpage.”

This information is simply false and should not be taught to anyone who is trying to learn SEO. Danny Sullivan, a member of the Google Search team, has already took to Twitter to publicly disavowed the SEO course and told learners “this can be ignored.”

What is keyword density?

Keyword density is simply the amount of times you mention your keyword within the content of your webpage. Let’s say you’re looking to rank your new blog for the keyword “fix iphone x”. If your blog has 1,000 words and you mention the keyword 12 times, your keyword density is 1.2%.

Keyword density has been apart of SEO since the dawn of search engines. Before automated backlink spam we had keyword spam: just mention the keyword as many times as possible and you would rank higher. Obviously this tactic doesn’t work anymore, but that doesn’t mean the theory of keyword spam hasn’t evolved into something new.

In their digital marketing course, Google’s “subject-matter experts” are spreading a dangerous SEO myth which has been proven wrong many-a-times. As an SEO, I have seen countless cases of quality webpages ranking for important keywords where they haven’t mentioned the keyword in their content even once.

There is no “industry standard keyword density”, and keyword density is not a metric used for rankings.

How should you optimise for keywords?

Rather than optimise for keywords, you should optimise for search query relevance. It’s easy to think that more keyword density = more relevance, but if you look at it that way, you’re likely to optimise your website like it’s 2005. 

Let’s say you have a blog about fixing iPhones, and you identify “fix my iphone” as the main keyword. If you’re teaching other people how to fix their iPhone, how on earth are you going to naturally mention “fix my iphone” for 2% of your content without hurting readability? You won’t. You’ll have to stuff the keyword in, your article won’t sound natural and you will reduce user experience. 

Instead, you need to optimise for relevance. Even though your keyword is “fix my iphone”, you can include plenty of hyper relevant phrases such as

  • How to fix an iPhone
  • How to fix your iPhone
  • Fixing an iPhone includes

None of these phrases include your keyword, but they are all relevant and would make sense in your article. Simple, right?

How we optimise for keywords

We can take a look at one of our own landing pages: we have a page built to target web design searches in St Helens (https://www.bluewhalemedia.co.uk/st-helens/web-design-st-helens/)

Our main keyword here is “web design St Helens”, but we also want to rank for a ton of related search terms people may use to find our services, such as:

  • Web Design St Helens
  • Web Design Company St Helens
  • Web Design Agency St Helens
  • Web Design Near Me

We rank #1 for all of these keywords, but we don’t mention any of them in our content apart from the first heading. This page has a total word count of 1,006 and mentions one single keyword, which leaves us on a keyword density of 0.09%. According to Google, our webpage should not rank. According to Yoast, our content is not optimised properly. And yet we rank #1 for our main keyword, as well as other keywords which aren’t mentioned at all on the page. 

This is because our content is still very relevant for those search terms even if we do not directly mention the keywords.