Keyword Frequency: What Is It In SEO? (And Why It Matters)

This guide explains keyword frequency.

Below, you’ll find out what is keyword frequency and how it applies to search engine optimization (SEO). You’ll also learn what a good frequency for SEO is and how to calculate it using a formula so don’t under or over-optimize your website for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

By the end of this page, you’ll understand everything there is to know about keyword phrases and frequency on a web page.

Keyword Frequency

What Is Keyword Frequency?

Keyword frequency is the number of times a keyword appears on a web page or within a piece of content. The frequency of a keyword is measured as a ratio or percentage of the overall word count.

Keyword Frequency In SEO

Keyword frequency in SEO refers to how many times a specific keyword or keyphrase appears on a web page as it’s related to on-page search engine optimization. The frequency of keywords for SEO helps determine the relevant queries the page can rank for in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

You can also think of keyword frequency as keyword repetition, which is a partial ranking factor for SEO. If the keyword search frequency for a target term on a web page is too low, then the content may have trouble ranking for that term in the SERPs. Search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing use the frequency of keywords to help understand what the content is about so the algorithm can index and rank the page for relevant search queries.

For example, if you wanted a web page to rank for the keyword phrase “SEO copywriting“, but you never once mentioned that term on the page for users to see or search engine spiders to crawl, then Google probably won’t rank it in the search engine for that phrase. Without using the specific term “SEO copywriting” on the page, the algorithm doesn’t have as strong of an on-page SEO signal to help match the content with relevant search queries.

Now, keyword frequency in and of itself is not a direct ranking factor for modern search engines like Google. And if your keyword repetition is too high, then it could send a negative signal to Google’s algorithm that the web page is using a spam technique called “keyword stuffing” which violates the Webmaster Guidelines. Keyword stuffing is the practice of loading a page with a high number of keywords in an attempt to manipulate the rankings in the SERPs and it can get your site penalized.

A better SEO practice to use instead of keyword stuffing is called keyword prominence which is where you use the target keywords in prominent locations on a web page to send strong signals to search engines about what keywords the page should rank for in the SERPS. (Example locations for SEO can be found in that linked article.)

John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, confirmed that keyword prominence (and to an extent, keyword search frequency) is a ranking factor for SEO in one of his weekly SEO Office Hour sessions. The following quote starts at the 6:43 mark:

“If there’s something that you want to tell us that your page is about, to make that as visible as possible. So don’t just put that as a one-word mention at the bottom of your article. But rather, use it in your titles, use it in your headings, use it in your subheadings, use it in captions for images, all of these things to make it as clear as possible for users and for Google when they go to your page that this page is about this topic.”

Another strategy you can use to reduce the frequency of exact match keywords is to use low keyword proximity to separate the words within the keyphrase. Check out that linked article for more details on that on-page SEO technique.

What Is a Good Keyword Frequency?

A good keyword frequency is using a keyword one to two times per 100 words. Following this frequency will keep the keyword density around 1-2% which is considered to be safe for on-page SEO.

However, keep in mind that there is no definitive percentage for keyword frequency and SEO according to Google’s search ranking algorithm. Some web pages rank high in the SERPs for their target queries with a 1% keyword frequency while others have a 10% or higher keyword density. If you’re using your keyphrases naturally throughout the content while also optimizing specific areas for on-page SEO for keyword prominence, then you should have no issues with over or under-optimizing the web page.

Keyword Frequency Formula

To calculate keyword frequency, divide the number of times a keyword is used on a page by the total number of words on the page and multiply that value by 100 to get a percentage.

Example Calculation

The keyword frequency formula is written as KF = (KWa / TW) x 100.

KF = Keyword Frequency
KWa = Keyword appearances on the page
TW = Total words on the page

For example, if a keyword appeared 10 times on a page that had 1,000 total words, then the keyword frequency would be 1%.

The formula would be: 1 = (10 / 1,000) x 100

Now that you know what keyword frequency is and how to calculate it for search engine optimization, you may also want to check out these related guides on how many keywords per page to focus on and how to put keywords in an article for SEO for higher rankings in the SERPs.

Keyword Frequency vs Keyword Density

Keyword frequency and keyword density are two different terms for the same principle. Both keyword frequency and keyword density refer to how often a keyword appears on a web page or within a piece of content and are expressed as a percentage or ratio.

Now, some people may reference keyword search frequency as a whole number to indicate the number of times a keyword or keyphrase is used on a web page, such as 5, 10, 15, or 20. And others may use the term keyword density to represent the percentage of times the phrase is used on the page, such as 1%, 2%, 5%, or 10%. However, both keyword density and keyword frequency can be used interchangeably.

Keyword Frequency in SEO example: A keyword used too many times in a paragraph

Keyword Frequency Summary

I hope you enjoyed this guide about keyword frequency.

As you discovered, keyword frequency in SEO refers to the number of times a keyword appears on a web page or within a piece of content. And the frequency of a keyword can be expressed as a whole number, ratio, or percentage of the overall word count. Keyword phrase frequency in and of itself is not a direct ranking factor for Google; however, it’s an important concept to understand for proper on-page search engine optimization.