The importance of keyphrase density

There’s a check for the keyphrase density of your text in the Yoast SEO plugin. Why is keyphrase density important? And how do you turn that red or orange bullet green?

What is keyphrase density?

Keyphrase density is the number of times your keyphrase occurs in your copy, compared to the total text of that page. So if you have a text that is 100 words and 5 of those are your focus keyword, your keyphrase density is 5%. When you write a post for your blog, you decide on the focus keyword or focus keyphrase you want that post to rank for. Say you really dislike coriander and you’ve started a website about cooking without it. The focus keyphrase for a post could be “Indian curry without coriander”. The keyphrase density check will then assess how many times those four words occur in the text on that page. It tells you if you’ve used your keyphrase too little, or even too much.

Why is keyphrase density important?

Keyphrase density says a lot about the topic of your text. Search engines like Google are set on serving their users the best possible answer to their search query. To determine whether a text answers to what the searcher is looking for, Google checks several things. To that end, you need to tell Google what your page is about. That is one of the reasons you decide on a focus keyphrase, as it helps you stay focused on the subject. After setting your focus keyphrase, several checks in the Yoast SEO plugin help you keep on track. These checks help you determine whether your text is optimized for the phrase you want it to be. The keyphrase density indicator checks how often your focus keyphrase is mentioned in your text. Because if a text is about a specific subject, it would be strange if you don’t mention it, or barely do.

You need to find the right balance in mentioning your keyphrase enough, but not too much. If you overdo it, Google might see that as keyword stuffing. This is not a tactic they appreciate. So how do you know when enough is enough? By keeping an eye on your keyphrase density score in Yoast SEO, you’ll know to add or remove mentions of your focus keyphrase.

Learn more about this check in Yoast SEO in our explanation of the keyphrase density assessment.

How to improve your keyphrase density

To learn how to do better in mentioning your focus keyphrase enough, but not too much, it’s good to know what we think is best practice. In Yoast SEO, we aim for a keyphrase density of 0.5% to 3% (3.5% if you use Yoast SEO Premium and you’re writing in English, German or Dutch, more on that later). If your keyphrase density score is below 0.5%, you’ll score a red bullet. That means you really haven’t used your focus keyphrase much. It should be fairly easy to add it in, as the whole text should be about the subject.

Understanding the keyphrase density check

So, to get a green bullet for keyphrase density, you’re looking to score a keyphrase density of between 0.5% and 3% (or 3.5%). But what counts as a mention of your focus keyphrase? All the words that make up your focus keyphrase need to be found within one sentence. If you have mentioned your full focus keyphrase but spread over two sentences, that doesn’t count towards your keyphrase density score. So if your score is lower or higher than you’d expected, this is something to look out for. 

You won’t see the percentage mentioned in your feedback. Instead, we mention the exact number of times you used your keyphrase throughout your text and compare this to the number we advise. We feel that absolute numbers make it more easy to work on your text.

In addition, the length of your keyphrase is a weighing factor. This is because it’s harder to use your keyphrase over and over again if it’s rather long. The keyphrase density check takes this into account and is less strict on longer keyphrases.

Also, using synonyms is great way to avoid repetitiveness. Synonyms do not count towards your keyphrase density score, as that exclusively looks at the use of your actual focus keyphrase. If you’ve used synonyms and are worried it might be too much, here’s a tip! Have a look at the keyphrase distribution check in Yoast SEO. That highlights your focus keywords and its synonyms throughout the text, if you’ve entered synonyms that is. By looking at the highlighted phrases you can determine for yourself whether your keyphrase (in any form) is mentioned enough throughout the whole text. A good check to see whether you stay on topic until the end!

Why do I score red on the keyphrase density check?

If you’re getting a red bullet for using your focus keyphrase too little or too much and you’re not sure why, here are some things to look out for.

screenshot showing red feedback bullet

This is an example of a red feedback bullet for the keyphrase density check.

  • First off, make sure your full focus keyphrase is within one sentence or it won’t count.
  • Check your spelling. If you use “pancake” in your text, but entered “pencake” in the focus keyphrase field, the plugin will not recognize it. Writing “Pancake” or even “PANCAKE” will not impact recognition though.
  • If your keyphrase density is too high, make better use of synonyms. Synonyms of your focus keyphrase will not count towards your total score, but they’ll probably make your text more pleasant to read.
  • Some page builders conflict with our plugin. If our plugin is not able to find your content or your keyphrase due to a page builder, the results will be distorted. The fastest way to rule out conflicts is to perform a conflict check.
  • Some non-latin, non-ideograph based languages may not calculate accurately. Please submit a bug through the appropriate channel.

Keyphrase density in Yoast SEO Premium

If you write your content in English, German or Dutch, and you’ve upgraded to Yoast SEO Premium, the upper boundary of the optimal keyphrase density is higher. That’s because our premium plugin recognizes different word forms. So if your focus keyphrase is “Indian curry without coriander”, the premium plugin will also recognize “Indian curries without coriander”. The heightened recognition could easily increase the number of times your focus keyphrase is detected in your text. That’s why for premium users, the upper boundary is 3.5% instead of 3%.

In Yoast SEO Premium, you can also enter related keyphrases. Those are words and phrases that are connected to your focus keyphrase, but not synonyms. These related keyphrases each have a keyphrase density check of their own. So if the density of your focus keyphrase is too high, have a look at any related keyphrases and see if you can use them better. 

I don’t get feedback on my keyphrase density. Why is that?

  • Did you enter your focus keyphrase in the focus keyphrase field? Because that’s – obviously – a basic requirement for the plugin to run the check.
screenshot showing empty keyphrase field

If you don’t enter your focus keyphrase in this field, the plugin is not able to perform all checks.

  • The keyphrase density check is only performed when your content consists of at least 100 words.
  • Sometimes our plugin conflicts with another plugin, a feature within your theme or, in rare cases, something on your server. For example, there has been a recent increase in users with a plugin or theme that provides a visual page or content builder. This may not be compatible with our page analysis.


Make sure you use your focus keyphrase enough throughout the whole text. At the same time, don’t overdo it. You don’t want Google to think you’re stuffing your text with keywords, as that’s frowned upon. If your keyphrase density is too low: add your focus keyphrase into your text more often. Also, check if your text actually stays on topic, because it should be quite easy to mention your keyphrase enough. If your score is too high, reassess your text first. See if there are places where you can replace your keyphrase with a synonym. With these tips, you should be able to score a green bullet for keyphrase density.