In this post, we analyze a few pages from SEO masters to see if we can divine a magical formula for keyword density.
First, a quick definition. Keyword density is the frequency of a particular search phrase within a body of text or element within a web page. If a keyword phrase appears 100 times within the body of a web page with 1000 words, this frequency represents a keyword density of 10%.
I recently began thinking about keyword density after researching the question and learning that very few experts agree on the proper percentage of keyword density needed to achieve superior search engine results for a given keyphrase. So, we set out to run some analysis on a high-value, highly competitive search phrase to see what we could learn about keyword density. We selected the top search engine results pages and ran the results through a keyword density analyzer; we tabulated the results below.
How to Test Keyword Density: What Keyphrase to Test?
Our test had a few parameters:
- First, the search phrase had to be something that was competitive. We wanted to test a search phrase that the SEO’ers had worked hard to optimize. A competitive phrase was more likely to have been tested and retested to obtain high rankings.
- Second, we wanted a phrase from within the world of SEO–again, a phrase that was worked by its handlers, people that are versed in the idea of keyword density.
- So, we settled on the phrase “SEO Expert”.
We Googled our sample test phrase and sure enough, the top results were from easily recognized names in the world of SEO. The number 1 result was Brad Fallon’s (of the StomperNet SEO education courses) page, BradFallon.com.
And here are the top 3 search results for the search phrase “SEO Expert” (using a Chrome browser):
Keyword Density – Running the Analysis
The table that follows shows the keyword density analysis for the top 3 performing pages for “SEO Expert” for a variety of HTML elements. We have also included the total number of on-page words.
|Attribute Where “SEO Expert” Appears||bradfallon.com |
(% Keyword Density)
|Top10SEOTips (% Keyword Density)||Mr.WebGuru (% Keyword Density)|
|(Total Words in Body Text)||1744||1228||1366|
|Bolded Body Text||0%||40%||0%|
What It Means, and Solving the Riddle
These results intrigued me–at first. Top10SEOTips and Mr.WebGuru’s keyword densities, while for the most part relatively equal, bear almost no relation to the number 1 result, BradFallon.com.
First, with respect to Top10SEOTips and Mr.WebGuru, the results make sense. Sure, there are some differences: Mr.WebGuru has no Meta Keyword for “SEO Expert” and has no bolded body text. Nevertheless, the similarities between these two pages are striking: the keyword densities for Title Tags (22 vs. 28%) Total Word Count (1228 vs. 1366), and H1/H2/H3 Tags (23.5% vs. 25%) are nearly equal.
Meanwhile, Brad Fallon hardly seems to be trying–hence the riddle. Except for a very high keyword density in BradFallon.com’s Title Tag, the search phrase hardly appears at all. And, a reading and review of the pages themselves makes quite clear that Top10SEOTips and Mr.WebGuru are highly focused and hyper-optimized pages, while BradFallon.com is simply a blog front page which displays his 10 most recent posts.
So why does BradFallon.com rank so well for “SEO Expert” when his on-page keyword density is near zero? The answer lies in the number of backlinks that each page enjoys.
As this table shows, BradFallon.com enjoys a tremendous number of backlinks, more than 10 times the 2nd and 3rd results combined. BradFallon.com’s backlinks obviously “brute forced” the search rankings and pushed it to the top of the results–despite BradFallon.com’s lack of specific optimization for the phrase “SEO Expert”.
Keyword Density: The Lesson
But we set out to learn about keyword density–we already know backlinks are important. Setting aside BradFallon.com, the 2nd and 3rd ranked sites offer a valuable lesson. These highly tested pages are obviously finely honed–and thus the keyword density percentages that appear on these pages are a valuable and reliable benchmark that I’ll use going forward–at least until I can get 16,000 backlinks.