It’s nearly impossible to have a discussion about SEO without talking about keywords. Keywords remain the very foundation of any solid SEO strategy, as Google and users need them to understand the topic of your content.

With that said, much has changed over the past 5 years when it comes to how keywords are used. In the olden days of SEO, keyword density and keyword ratios were measured religiously, with most experts recommending a maximum keyword density of 5 percent. This meant that your target keyword would account for no more than 5 percent of the total words on the page.

Unfortunately, this strategy was the perfect recipe for creating thin, one-dimensional content, as it often put more value on keyword calculations than on the quality of the content.

For this reason, most marketers have moved away from the concept of keyword density. However, as mentioned, keywords are still an important aspect of SEO and rankings. So where does this leave us?

This post will dig into what Google has to say about keyword density, as well as offering some guidance on what kind of words and phrases you should be using in your content.

What does Google say about keyword density?

The last explicit reference I can find from Google about keyword density is from a 2011 Google Webmaster video. In it, Matt Cutts responds to the idea of the “optimal keyword density.” His view is clear: there is no magic number that will help you rank. According to Cutts, the first time you use a keyword on your page, Google recognizes it and starts to understand the topic of your content. The second time, they get an even clearer idea of what you’re talking about. But as you start to use your keyword many times, the value of those keywords doesn’t really increase.

Matt Cutts video about keyword density

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In the video (above), Cutts states, “Once you start to mention [your keyword] a whole lot, it really doesn’t help that much more. There’s diminishing returns, and it’s just an incremental benefit, but it’s really not that large. And what you’ll find is that if you continue to repeat stuff over and over again, then you’re in danger of getting into keyword stuffing.”

In other words, your keywords are important to show Google what you’re talking about. However, after the first few times (notice Cutts doesn’t give an exact number), the benefits start to decrease; and if you use them too much, you run the risk of receiving a manual action.