How many keywords are too many? The ideal keyword density preferred by both readers and search engines is around two to five percent. Even in longer pieces, the best practice is not to exceed 20 uses per webpage.
We know that optimizing for keywords will help our blog posts, Facebook updates, tweets, and site content show up in relevant searches. This presents a big opportunity, and it’s naturally tempting to try to fit as many keywords into your content online as possible. Why not really hammer in the point to make sure that Google gets it, right?
While this logic may seem sound in its reasoning, it doesn’t actually work that well. You do need some keywords in your content to improve its rank in searches, but if you go too far in the other direction and rely on keyword stuffing, you could actually face negative consequences that could hurt the impact of your campaigns.
In this post, we’re going to take a close look at the ideal ratios for keyword density and how this affects your content.
How Is It Possible to Have Too Many Keywords?
Using too many keywords is often referred to as “keyword stuffing,” which is the practice of just jamming as many keywords as possible over and over into a single post.
And if you think about it, I guarantee you can come up with a few examples where keywords went wrong. We’ve all read content where we see different iterations of the same phrase repeated entirely too many times, often in ways that feel clunky or out of place. Ultimately, this will make the post less enjoyable to read, and it can actually strip the content of its value.
Think of it like you’re making a salad, which is your content, and your croutons are the keywords. Your salad is full of all sorts of healthy ingredients—spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more. A few croutons will help enhance the flavor, but if you add too many, it ruins the salad’s nutritional value and the meal goes from refreshing and light to tasting like stale bread.
That scenario is a good way to tell how many keywords are too many in a piece of content.
What Are the Consequences of Keyword Stuffing?
It can be tempting to use as many keywords as possible as many times as possible. The hope is to show Google that your article or infographic or eBook is perfect for the query and should definitely be ranked first in the search results.
In reality, the opposite effect is likely to happen.
As we discussed above, users are likely to spot keyword stuffing and be frustrated by it, even if they don’t consciously know exactly what you’re doing. The content will likely be difficult and clunky to read, and in many cases, comes off reading like a weird, high-pressure sales pitch.
All in all, not a good strategy. It doesn’t matter if users can find the content if it annoys them so much they won’t come back to read any more.
Here’s the thing though: If you go about keyword stuffing aggressively, your audience likely won’t find the content. It’s actually considered a “black-hat” strategy, and Google has learned to recognize it.
Now, Google doesn’t want to see overly optimized sites that focus more on SEO tricks than creating content users want to see. This trick can actually result in your Google ranking decreasing as a result of using too many keywords, instead of seeing a boost.
What Counts as “Too Many Keywords?”
When it comes to how many keywords you should be targeting, it really depends on the length of the content. Trying to fit 15 keywords into a 400-word press release isn’t going to go over so well, but adding the same number to a 2,000–word blog post is fine.
To reiterate what we said at the beginning of this article—when you’re trying to decide whether your content is optimized enough or too much, keyword density will be the metric you want to watch. You never want your keyword density to go above five percent, and keeping it in the two to four percent range is typically the sweet spot that Google and readers like to see.
To make it crystal clear, we’ve gone against all our instincts to craft a paragraph that uses a keyword-stuffing strategy for the phrase “keyword density.” Does it read naturally? Is it annoying? Do you feel betrayed?
Keyword density is a way to rank high in Google for a specific query. It used to be common to use a high keyword density strategy to earn a high spot on Google’s search results, but too much keyword density is frowned upon because readers don’t like it. Google will now blacklist articles with a too-high keyword density. Therefore, use no more than a five percent keyword density rate in your content.
For the record, that delightful bit of copy is about 14 percent solid keyword. Someone let Google know that it’s intentional keyword stuffing, okay?
Keyword Density Assessment Tools
There are tools available to help you assess your keyword density and overall SEO potential for on-site content. Yoast SEO is a great one for WordPress sites, and it will give you feedback on what else you can do to potentially improve your ranking, too.
Keyword Density for SEO: Best Practices To Actually Get You Results
While keeping keyword density to no more than five percent is an important starting and ending place, you can get more strategic within your content by:
- Conducting up-front keyword research
- Only targeting relevant keywords
- Placing keywords strategically
- Remembering to use image alt text
To maximize the impact of your keywords and get the most out of each use, here’s each of these strategies explained.
Conduct Up-Front Keyword Research
By conducting all research before you start optimizing, you’ll know exactly what you want to write and why. It’s easier to fit the keywords into your content naturally when you take them into consideration in the beginning instead of trying to plop them in later like an afterthought.
Only Target Relevant Keywords
It doesn’t matter if it gets 10,000 searches a month—i
f the keyword isn’t directly relevant to the content at hand, don’t optimize for it.
If your chocolate chip pancakes don’t have banana, for example, don’t use “banana” as a keyword just because it’s popular. People will just click away, and Google doesn’t want to see high bounce rates. Instead, if necessary, create separate content for the “banana” keyword. Might we recommend a banana-blueberry pancake recipe? Yum!
Place Keywords Strategically
Keywords will often have the most impact when placed correctly. Having your main target keyword in the title and at least one subheading will have a bigger impact than putting it in the main text alone.
Remember the Image Alt Text
Image alt texts are a great place to drop keywords that you know are relevant and important to your post, but are having a hard time placing naturally within the text itself. Use this effective strategy to your advantage.
Want to see just how well these strategies can work? Check out one (or many) of Big Leap’s SEO Case Studies.
Work with Our SEO Team
Keyword stuffing will never do you any favors and instead will frustrate both readers and Google alike. By ensuring that your keywords are in good standing, you’ll be able to focus more on creating actionable, valuable content that your audience actually wants to see, giving you more results in the long run.
Need help creating SEO content that your readers will love? Learn more about the services we offer, and contact Big Leap to see how we can help you.
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