The Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Density

The Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Density

Keywords are a critical part of your SEO strategy.

Along with relevant content and optimized website design, ranking for the right keywords helps your site stand out from the crowd — and get closer to the top of search engine results pages (SERPs).

So it’s no surprise that a substantial amount of SEO advice centers on keywords: Doing your research can help you select and rank for top-performing keywords in your market, in turn boosting user engagement and increasing total sales.

But how many keywords are enough? How many are too many? How do you know? And what happens if Google and other search engines determine your site is “stuffed” with keywords?

In our beginner’s guide to keyword density we’ll cover the basics, dig into why it matters, and offer functional formulas and simple tools that can help make sure your keyword strategies are working as intended.

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What is keyword density?

Keyword density — also called keyword frequency — describes the number of times a specific keyword appears on a webpage compared to the total word count.

It’s often reported as a percentage or a ratio; the higher the value, the more your selected keyword appears on your page.

Why Keyword Density Matters

Keywords drive searches. When users go looking for products or services they’ll typically use a keyword that reflects their general intent, and expect search engines to serve up relevant results.

While tools like Google now take into account factors such as geographical area and page authority — defined in part by the number of visitors to your webpage and in part by “dofollow” links from reputable sites that link back to your page — keywords remain a critical factor in website success.

The caveat? You can’t simply “stuff” as many keywords as possible into your content and expect reliable results.

During the wild west days of the first search engines, brands and SEO firms would write low-value content and cram it with keywords and keyword tags, along with links to similarly-stuffed pages on the same site. Not surprisingly, visitors grew frustrated and search engine providers realized they needed a better approach.

Now, keyword stuffing has the opposite effect — search engines will penalize the page rankings of sites that still choose to keyword stuff.

By the Numbers: The Keyword Density Formula

How do you calculate keyword density? The formula is straightforward: Divide the number of times a keyword is used on your page by the total number of words on the page.

Here’s an easy example: Your page has 1,000 words and your keyword is used 10 times. This gives:

10 / 1000 = .001

Multiply this by 100 to get a percentage, which in this case is 1%.

There’s also another formula sometimes used to assess keyword usage: TF-IDF, which stands for “term frequency-inverse document frequency”. The idea here is to assess the frequency of a keyword on specific pages (TF) against the number of times this word appears across multiple pages on your site (IDF). The result helps determine how relevant your keyword is for specific pages.

While TF is straightforward, it’s easy to get sidetracked by IDF. Here, the goal is to understand the rarity of your keyword across multiple documents. IDF is measured in values between 0 and 1 — the closer to 0, the more a word appears across your pages. The closer to 1, the more it appears on a single page and no others.

This is the “inverse” nature of the calculation: lower values mean more keyword use.

Consider this formula in practice. Applied to very common words such as “the” or “but”, the TD-IDF score will approach zero. Applied to a specific keyword, the value should be much closer to 1 — if not, you may need to reconsider your keyword strategy.

Understanding Optimal Keyword Density

While there are no hard and fast rules for keyword density beyond always-relevant “don’t keyword stuff” advice, many SEOs recommend using approximately one keyword for each 200 words of copy.

Your content may perform similarly with slightly more or slightly less, but general wisdom holds that Google and other search engines respond well to keyword density around 0.5%.

It’s also worth remembering the value of keyword variants — words and phrases that are similar, but not identical, to your primary keyword. Let’s say your website sells outdoor lighting solutions. While your highest-value keyword for SERPs is “outdoor lighting”, stuffing as many uses of this keyword into as many pages as possible will reduce rather than improve overall SEO.

Instead, consider keyword variants; terms that are close to your primary keyword but not an exact copy. In the case of “outdoor lighting”, variants such as “garden lighting”, “patio lighting”, “deck lighting” or “landscape lighting” can help your page rank higher without running afoul of keyword-stuffing rules.

Not sure what variants make the most sense for your website? Use the “searches related to” section at the bottom of Google’s SERP for your primary keyword. Here’s why: Google has put significant time and effort into understanding intent, so the “searches related to” section will show you similar terms to your primary keyword.

Keyword Density Tools

While you can do the math on keyword density yourself by calculating the total word and keyword counts across every page on your website, this can quickly become time- and resource-intensive as your website expands and page volumes increase.

Keyword density tools help streamline this process. Potential options include:

1. SEO Review Tools Keyword Density Checker

This free tool is browser-based — simply input your site URL or page text, then complete the “I’m not a robot” captcha to perform a keyword density check. While this tool doesn’t offer the in-depth analytics of other options on the list, it’s a great way to get an overview of current keyword density.

2. SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer

Similar to the tool above, the SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer is free — but it does require an account to use. Along with basic keyword density reports, this tool also lets you search for your target keyword in Google, pull data for five of the top-ranked pages using the same keyword, then analyze them to see how your keyword stacks up.

3. WordPress SEO Post Optimizer

If you’d prefer a WordPress plugin for keyword density assessment, consider the WordPress SEO Post Optimizer. This tool comes with a cost — $19 — but checks a host of SEO conditions including keyword density to help ensure your content can rank highly on the SERPs.

4. WPMUDEV SmartCrawl

Another WordPress pluging, WPMUDEV SmartCrawl is free for seven days and then costs $5 per month. Along with keyword density assessment the tool includes automated SEO checkups and reports, assessments for titles and metadata along with in-depth site crawls, scans and reports.

Key(words) to the Kingdom

Want to improve your SERP position and boost site impact? Start with strong keywords.

The caveat? Keyword balance is key to search success. By finding — and regularly assessing — the keyword density of both specific pages and your site at scale, it’s possible to boost relevant SEO impact and avoid the ranking pitfalls of overly-dense keyword distribution.

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How to Detect and Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

How to Detect and Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

Keywords are king when it comes to engaging users and increasing your search engine ranking.

As a result, search engine optimization (SEO) has become a multi-million dollar business with a host of experts offering advice on how best to move up the search engine results page (SERP) and claim the coveted number one spot.

Most actionable SEO advice boils down to a few solid suggestions: Do your market research so you know which keywords are relevant to your target audience, and create content that’s timely and relevant.

Something that doesn’t make the SEO rounds quite so often is keyword cannibalization. While this unpleasant-sounding issue won’t sink your website, it can cause your pages and posts to rank lower than they should and — if left unchecked — could harm the overall reputation of your site.

Here’s what you need to know about finding, evaluating, and eliminating keyword cannibalization.

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What is Keyword Cannibalization in SEO?

Keyword cannibalization occurs when two or more pages on your website end up competing for the same keyword.

Let’s say your company sells roof shingles. Your blog content will likely include posts about how to extend shingle life through proper care and maintenance — with the right combination of authority and actionable insight, this kind of content can attract the attention of your target audience and lead them to purchase shingles from your site when their home requires repair or replacement.

To ensure you’re capturing the right audience, you do a keyword search and find that “roof shingle prices” ranks extremely high. You then create multiple pages that all leverage this keyword — one piece might deal with the most costly shingle types, another with less-expensive options, and a third with the costs of potential repairs if shingles are damaged.

The problem? By using the same keyword for each page, you’re essentially stealing search engine rankings from yourself.

Here’s why: From the perspective of search engines each of these pages is its own separate entity with its own authority and page ranking, meaning your pages are fighting for SEO attention.

What’s more, these similar-but-different pages will split your click-through rate (CTR) across multiple links, in turn decreasing the value of each page. As a result, these three pages might rank sixth, seventh, and eighth in SERPs while a single page could rank second or even first.

How to Detect Keyword Cannibalization

The simplest way to detect keyword cannibalization is to create a spreadsheet containing the keyword(s) for any content you create.

Before making a new post, check your spreadsheet and see if you’ve already used the same keyword. If so, consider tweaking your content to focus on another keyword or ensure that the content you’re creating is substantially different than that of previous posts.

You can also check for keyword cannibalization with a quick online search of your most relevant keywords. If you see multiple pages from your site listed close to one another in SERPs for the same keyword, you have a cannibalization problem.

In addition, keyword cannibalization checker tools can help ensure you’re not missing potential overlap — better to know ASAP and modify your content before it gets pushed down the search rankings by more targeted posts from your competitors.

How to Eliminate Keyword Cannibalization

So what happens if you discover keyword cannibalization on your site?

First, take a look at the content on each page. Wherever possible, combine the information from both pages into a single post to boost search rankings and increase authority.

In the case of our shingle company, for example, it’s worth combining the “most costly” and “least expensive” shingle pages into a single post that targets the “roof shingle prices” keyword. If there are particular aspects of low-cost or high-priced shingles that could help customers make their decision, create new posts with new keywords, and link to them in the original post.

In other cases, you may find that older posts on your site are still ranking highly thanks to targeted keyword use but are no longer relevant to your company’s product line or service offering. Here, it’s a good idea to integrate any useful data from older posts into newer content and then delete the original, in turn allowing search engines to rank up your most relevant post.

Worth noting? As with anything in SEO, there are exceptions to the keyword cannibalization rule.

For example, if you have two posts with the same keyword that are both highly ranked and their ranking position isn’t fluctuating, there’s no need to combine them.

If competitors’ pages start to rank higher, however, or if your top-ranked page stops delivering sustained click-through rates, this could indicate the need for action.

Keyword Cannibalization Checker Tools

While keeping a spreadsheet of page URLs, metadata, and keyword use can help reduce the risk of unintentional cannibalization, this becomes prohibitively complex as sites scale up.

Consider an ecommerce site that sells multiple types of winter jackets — with a product page for each jacket, category pages for each jacket type, and blog posts around jacket care, storage, and repair, it’s easy for keywords to overlap and SERP to suffer.

Keyword cannibalization checker tools can help streamline this process and reduce the risk of missing a potential keyword problem. Some popular options include:

1. Keylogs Keyword Cannibalization Checker

The Keylogs Cannibalization Checker offers a free trial — simply log in with a Google account that’s connected to your website(s) and the Checker does the rest.

You’ll get results about any pages on your site that are competing for the same ranked keyword along with strategies to resolve the issue. Worth noting? The free tier of this tool only tracks three keywords across one site. Paid plans are required for multiple sites and unlimited keyword tracking.

2. SEMrush Position Tracking Tool

SEMrush is a popular SEO tracking and monitoring toolset. With a paid plan, site owners have access to a Cannibalization report within the SEMrush Position Tracking Tool, which provides a cannibalization score for the keywords entered.

A 100% score means no cannibalization has been detected — lower scores indicate potential problems and will specify both affected keywords and cannibal pages.

3. Google Search Console

Using the performance report section of Google Search Console lets you view the queries that have earned your site impressions and clicks from Google searches.

Drill down into these queries with the “pages” tab to see a list of URLs that rank for specific keywords and queries — if you see more than one URL from your site listed for the same keyword, you may have a cannibalization issue.

4. SEOScout Cannibalization Checker

SEOScout’s Cannibalization Checker offers an alternative to managing keyword spreadsheets. Simply create an account for a 7-day free trial, enter your site’s domain and the tool will create a report detailing any duplicate keyword rankings, allowing you to quickly track down and eliminate cannibal content.

5. Moz Keyword Explorer

The Moz Keyword Explorer lets you find ranking keywords, determine page ranking positions, and make decisions about which pages to keep and which ones need to be reworked or eliminated. Moz also makes it easy to download CSV spreadsheet files which can then be analyzed offline for duplicate keyword listings.

Staying Aware of Keyword Cannibalization

For site owners and admins, cannibal keyword content is problematic — multiple URLs ranking for the same keyword can negatively impact page authority, frustrate potential customers, and reduce SERPs.

Solve for keyword cannibalization by finding duplicate keyword use, then combining or deleting content as needed to ensure your most relevant content earns the highest SERP placement with popular search engines.

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A Step-By-Step Guide To Traditional Keyword Research

A Step-By-Step Guide To Traditional Keyword Research

Traditional keyword research is an old school approach to finding low-competition, high search volume keywords, and it’s one that’s still favored by many SEO’s and content marketers today.

Whether you’re using free tools, like Google Keyword Planner, or the myriad of premium keyword research tools out there, the traditional approach is generally broken down into 4 steps.

  • Step #1: Find Seed Keywords
    Using a number of strategies, research competitors and create a list seed keywords for step 2.
  • Step #2: Plug Seed Keywords
    Plug those seed keywords into a traditional keyword research tool to generate a larger list of keyword opportunities.
  • Step #3: Filter Keyword Opportunities
    Sort and filter the list of keyword opportunities based on both monthly search volume and SEO data.
  • Step #4: Evaluate competitiveness
    Evaluate the strength of your remaining keywords based on a keyword difficulty metric and manual SERP analysis.

We even created a nice little graphic for yah. Because, why not?

Traditional Keyword Research Graph

For this guide, I’ll reference many free tools as I can, but I can’t understate the efficiency of a paid tool when it comes to keyword research.

Step #1: Finding Seed Keywords

Seed keywords are used as the basis of your research, and they’re essentially just keywords that “look good” on the surface.

There’s no magic formula or exact science to finding them because there’s really no such thing as a perfect seed keyword.

Start by plucking keywords off the top of your head, which usually gets you a hand-full of seed keywords to start with.

After that, you can start using some free tools to dig a little deeper.

#1: UberSuggest

Back Pain Search In Ubersuggest

UberSuggest uses Google’s autocomplete API to pull in search suggestions.

You can emulate what this tool does by typing your keyword in Google followed by every letter of the alphabet and recording the results. Obviously, this would be a slow and cumbersome process.

Back Pain Google Autosuggest

Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

Using UberSuggest, you can automate this process and turn your primary keyword into a juicy list of seed keyword in a matter of seconds.

You can even export the entire list as a CSV and upload that into your keyword research tool of choice, assuming it has a supported import option.

#2: AnswerThePublic –

Back Pain Keyword Answerthepublic

AnswerThePublic is another free research tool that combines your primary keyword with common ‘question words’ such as:

  • How…What
  • Where…
  • When…
  • Which…

This is a great way to generate a ton of seed keyword ideas that are more informational, and less commercial.

#3: Amazon –

Commercial Keyword Search On Amazon

When it comes to finding commercial keywords, Amazon is an absolute treasure-trove of keyword ideas.

Either navigate to your niche-related category or perform a search using your primary keyword. You can scope out even more keyword ideas by looking at the suggested subcategories and top-selling product names.

#4: Reddit –

Traditional Keyword Research On Reddit

Lastly, go where your target audience hangs out online and leverage that community for keyword ideas.

Message boards and forums are perfect for this, and Reddit in particular is usually a good place to start. Reddit is essentially a HUGE forum made up of smaller subreddits, each covering different niches.

You can almost always find some hidden gems in the subreddits:

Keyword Examples In Subreddits

If you can’t find any related subreddit for your niche, you can try searching for your “niche + forum” in Google.

Almost all good niches have some level of online community behind it, it’s just a matter of finding out where the target audience congregates.

Step #2: Plug Your Seed Keywords

Armed with your list of seed keywords, the next step is to feed them into your keyword research tool so you can sit back, and let the magic happen.

Let’s stay with the ‘free tools’ theme for now, which brings us to Google’s Keyword Planner.

Depending on the tool you’re using and the size of your list, you can either manually input each keyword or simply import your entire list of keywords at once.

This is actually venturing into competitor-based research, but this is my article so I can do what I want :p

Either way, you should get back a list of semi-relevant keywords based on your seed keywords (or URL).

Note: You can import a list of keywords into Google Keyword Planner but you won’t get back any additional suggestions. This is useful if you’ve built up a large enough seed keyword list from step 1.

Google Keyword Planner Keyword List Upload

Step #3: Filter Keyword Opportunities

This is where you cut the fat and drill down into the keywords that are actually worth targeting.

It’s also the area where premium keyword research tools massively outperform free alternatives, but we’ll come back to that in a mo’.

Here’s what you’re looking for:

  • Niche relevance
  • High search volume
  • Low competition

Niche Relevance

What do I mean by niche relevance?

Well, let’s take a quick look at the 700 results I got back from Google’s Keyword Planner.

Google Keword Planner Niche Relevance

Because one of my seed keywords was ‘back pain cancer’, the Keyword Planner has also given me keywords related to cancer.

Since I’m in the ‘back pain’ niche, this keyword has low niche relevance.

One way to get around this is to use the ‘keywords to include’ filter. In this case, I might filter out any keyword that doesn’t contain the keyword, “back”.

Keyword Planner Filtering Options

Though this can really clean up your list, it’s not a perfect solution.

You may be filtering out potential opportunities that for some reason don’t include the keyword “back”, and you’ll probably still have a few irrelevant suggestions as well.

For that reason, you’ll still have to sift through these manually but it’s a lot more manageable by applying the following filters…

High Search Volume

Let’s be honest, it doesn’t matter how relevant a keyword is if nobody’s searching for it.

But here’s the good news:

You can use filters to narrow down monthly search volumes in almost every keyword research tool on the planet.

Back Pain Keyword Search In Kwfinder

And here’s the bad news:

You can’t do it with the Google Keyword Planner, at least not without exporting suggestions and running filters in Excel.

But again…. ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

It get’s worse, folks. As you may have noticed, Google doesn’t even give you accurate search volumes anymore.

This data is far too broad to rely on and it’s reason alone to use a premium keyword research tool over free alternatives.

(Yeah, most tools have stopped using Google data)

Back Pain Kwfinder Search Data

By having access to this data and being able to apply search volume filters, you can essentially cut out low-volume keywords and make your job that much easier.

Low Competition

This would normally be exclusive to step 4, ‘Evaluating Keyword Difficulty’.

Fortunately, filtering a list of suggestions by competition level is now pretty reliable thanks to a constantly evolving metric, called ‘keyword difficulty’.

Lower Back Pain Kwfinder Keyword Difficulty

Some tools are more accurate than others with their calculations, and some tools – like the Google Keyword Planner – don’t even include a keyword difficulty metric.

If you don’t have access to a premium tool, you’ll just have to skip this step and put in some extra work later. (I’ll explain soon)

Using the tool in the screenshot above – KWFinder – as an example, you can apply a keyword difficulty filter to laser in on those low competition keywords.

Back Pain Kwfinder SEO Difficulty

At this point, you should have a very targeted list of opportunities which makes the final step much, much easier.

Step #4: Evaluating Keyword Difficulty

This is where SERP analysis comes in.

SERP analysis just means looking at the first page of results for a given keyword and weighing up the competition based on various data points.

This isn’t exactly a fast process so If you weren’t able to narrow down your suggestions effectively, you’ll have a lot more work to do here.

We can basically do this the hard way, or the paid way.

SERP Analysis The Hard Way (Free)

If you’ve been using Google Keyword Planner, you probably won’t be surprised to know that it doesn’t offer any form of SERP analysis.

The reason?

Google’s Keyword Planner isn’t actually built for organic keyword research. It’s a research tool for advertisers.

Because of that, we’ll need to take a more manual approach using a free Chrome extension, called MozBar.

ahrefs chrome extension

(You can use other SEO toolbars, but I like Moz)

Admittedly, it doesn’t give you everything you need, *cough* referring domains, and it’s true, Moz doesn’t have the best link index of all time…

…but considering it’s free, you really can’t complain.

Once you have that installed, it’s just a case of plugging each of your potential keywords into Google and looking for a weak search results page.

Here’s an example of a relatively easy SERP using the keyword phrase, “back pain exercises for elderly people”.

Serp Analysis For Traditional Keyword Research

As you can imagine, repeating this manual SERP analysis process for dozens of keywords can get old, fast.

And that brings me nicely to the paid tools…

SERP Analysis The Easy Way (Paid)

Performing a manual SERP analysis with a paid tool is still, well… manual…. but it’s still significantly faster.

The reason for that is data aggregation.

Premium keyword research tools do a much better job at aggregating SEO data, and presenting it neatly within the tool’s own interface.

Here’s how it looks inside Ahrefs:

Not only do I not have to leave the tool to review SERP competition, but I also get a lot more data to work with.

And depending on which tool you use, paid members get access to ALL the data on offer. In the case of Ahrefs, you’re getting the largest link index in the industry.

Aside from those (huge) benefits, the analysis works the same way as it does using MozBar.

Ahrefs Serp Competition Analysis Kw Research


Traditional keyword research has long been the backbone of any serious content strategy, and it continues to be used by marketers to this day.

That said, many SEO’s have adopted a newer approach that leverages your competitors organic rankings to find pre-qualified keywords.

To learn more about the competitor-based approach to keyword research and how it breaks down, read our step-by-guide.

And if you’re interested in learning which tools are best for either approach, check out our keyword research tools roundup post.