The whole goal of keyword density is to repeat keywords enough times that they impact Google page rankings the way that SEO should. However, the very act of repeating keywords in your web content can make Google suspicious, which gives us a Catch-22 situation that is becoming more and more precarious as time goes by.

Do you remember this ‘word game’ from when you were a kid? Pete & repeat sat in a boat. Pete fell out. And who was left? Repeat. Then, of course, you repeat it. Again. and Again. and Again. This game was not that fun as a kid and Google agrees when it comes to repeating keywords.

You see, when the same keyword is used over and over again, it starts to look like stuffing or spamming. Google – especially in recent years – has gotten very good at recognizing keyword stuffing and marking down websites that do it. You can see how this has created some confusion about how to repeat keywords!

Letting Your Keywords Go

Let’s get something out of the way: Yes, you can absolutely repeat keywords too often, and it’s becoming easier and easier to make this mistake. Please read this excellent webmaster response from Google to a guy who was frustrated that his website was being downgraded. The webmaster stated that it looked like he was just using the same keywords over and over again, and that made it “hard to recognize what’s really unique & compelling on your site.”

That’s the mistake that you want to avoid when repeating keywords: If they are adversely affecting your content, it’s a mistake. Because it can sometimes be hard to tell, it’s often better to err on the side of caution and use creativity when coming up with keywords. If you want a cliff notes version of this article: Repeat keywords on the same page or article to emphasize its purpose but change keywords when you move on to a different page.

But How Many Times Can I Actually Use a Keyword?

Okay, okay, we know that you want some details. There’s no hard and fast rule about how many times you can use a certain keyword – at least not yet – but we do have some suggestions for you to keep in mind.

  • The rule of three: Conventional wisdom says that you shouldn’t use a unique keyword any more than three times in one piece of content. It’s not required, but it is a useful guideline for landing pages, blogs, and so on. More than three times and the danger of awkward language rapidly starts to increase.
  • Talk out loud: Speaking of awkward language, it’s always a good idea to read a piece aloud if you are worried about keyword density. If something sounds weird or halting to you, that’s a sign you are forcing keywords and need to back down. What your ear picks up on, Google will certainly notice, too.
  • Careful with meta-tags: Meta SEO can give your content a boost, but here’s one area where you want to be very careful with your tags. Generally, limit keywords to one appearance for any given tag/image description/etc. to avoid any problems.
  • Tie keywords to searching behavior: Focus your keywords on really helping Internet traffic find what it’s looking for. Don’t try to force up your page rankings at the cost of making sense to potential customers. Remember this, and many healthy practices will follow.

Finally, please remember that SEO practices are constantly changing, and things that were best practices two or three years ago probably aren’t anymore. Google is taking us to a world where repeating keywords are not nearly as important as making your content focused, original, and helpful. The search engine already has ways of interpreting words to parse out many different meanings, so don’t lose sight of the forest by counting the trees.

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