Keyword Density Myth – Find the Bonsai Trees

Written on April 2, 2007 – 8:50 am | by Shell Harris |

Is their an optimal keyword density?Our SEO copywriters have wrestled with this question for years. I believe there used to be an optimal keyword density, but nowadays I don’t think there is. I do believe there is a density level that will get your site penalized, but an optimal density is just a myth. Don’t believe me, then take a look and do a few searches in Google. Let’s try “bonsai trees”.

Here are the top four results and the keyword density for the term “bonsai trees” on each page.

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonsai – 0.17%
  2. http://www.bonsaiboy.com/ – 5.74%
  3. http://www.bonsaisite.com/ - 0% (Yes, that is zero percent)
  4. http://www.helpfulgardener.com/bonsai/ – 1.38%

From these examples you can clearly see that keyword density shouldn’t be a major consideration in your writing efforts.

Instead, focus on the on-page factors that help the search engines determine the ranking of your web page: title tags, link text, navigation, heading tags and quality content.

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Shell Harris co-founded Big Oak on January 1, 2004. In a previous career he was a print & web designer and often developed the sites he designed before focusing on his current passion for search engine optimization and Internet marketing. He is an avid researcher, SEO specialist, company mouthpiece and is always looking for the next big thing in Internet Marketing.

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  1. 7 Responses to “Keyword Density Myth – Find the Bonsai Trees”

  2. By Nathania Johnson on Apr 2, 2007 | Reply

    I’ll have to respectfully disagree. While Keyword Density (KWD) may not be an important factor for ‘bonsai trees’, it could be an important factor in another search.

    Many times, the top ten results will have a basic range for KWD – and you want to try and match the site you’re working on for that percentage. You want to do the same though, for Title Tags (and Title KWD), Meta Tags, Anchor KWD, semantics, inbound links, etc.

    The goal is to find out what’s ranking well for the key phrase. Generalizations are “out” when it comes to organic SEO.

  3. By Shell Harris on Apr 3, 2007 | Reply

    Great thoughts, Nathania!
    On-page factors are very important as well as inbound links and, in my opinion, often more important that keyword density. My point is this: focusing too much on keyword density and not on quality, persuasive, copywriting is not a wise decision. Too often I see spammy content and know that it isn’t helping SEO, in fact it is discouraging possible sales.

    I used ‘bonsai trees’ to illustrate that point, not to make a generalization. I stand by my assertion that there is not an optimal keyword density and this one example supports it. To many factors are in play for there to be an optimal keyword density.

    Of course you always should consider Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) which contributes to the page’s rank without keyword stuffing. Definition of Latent Semantic Indexing

    Thanks for the comment.

  4. By john haris on Apr 4, 2007 | Reply

    Notice that the 3rd of the sites have the keyword in their domain name! I think that is a factor in ranking. also link popularity. if your site has the keyword in the domain name. and you have high link popularity I think you can get a good ranking even if that page doesn’t have any of the keywords in the page content!

  5. By Shell Harris on Apr 5, 2007 | Reply

    I don’t believe the domain name is that important for the sake of keywords. I do believe it is important for external linking. If the keyword is built into your domain name and a site links to you with just your URL then you have scored a keyword rich link without extra effort, which can help.

    Overall I wouldn’t make that a priority with my domain name. Short and direct is better than long and descriptive.

  6. By Hobo SEO on Jun 27, 2007 | Reply

    There might be an optimal density based on 100 different factors, meaning it would be virtually impossible to find. :)

    I certainly don’t worry about it.

  7. By Black Shark Media on Aug 27, 2008 | Reply

    I agree, in my experience, I’ve seen top 10 sites that didn’t have even not enough words in page as sites on the second pages, not even many links or pages, but they are on the top 10 from about 2.000.000 pages. Any ideas about what could cause the boost and the top positioning for that pages?

  8. By Shell Harris on Aug 28, 2008 | Reply

    Black Shark, I would have to say internal and external links combined. If it isn’t on the page very often, then there must be a number of high quality links pointing to it.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

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