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Further questions arise: will meta tags following Dublin Convention ("D.C. tags") be counted in or not? And what about HTTP-EQUIV tags? Would you really bet ranch that TITLE tags in tables, forms or DIV elements will be ignored? Etc., etc.
Another fundamental factor generating massive fuzziness left, right and center, is issue of semantic delimiters: what's a "word" and what isn't? Determing a lexical unity (aka a "word") by punctuation is a common though pretty low tech method which may lead to some rather unexpected results.
Say you are featuring an article by an author named "John Doe" who happens to sport a master's degree in arts, commonly abbreviated as "M.A.". While most algorithms will correctly count "John" and "Doe" as separate words, "M.A." string is quite another story. Some algorithms will actually count this for two words ("M" and "A") because of period (dot) is considered a delimiter - whereas others (surprise!) will not. But how would you know which search engines are handling it in which way? Answer: you don't, and that's exactly where problems start.
The only feasible approach to master this predicament is trial and error. The typical beginner's inquiry "What's best keyword density for AltaVista?", understandable and basically rational as it may be, is best answered with fairly frustrating but ultimately precise: "It all depends - your mileage may vary." It is only by experimenting with keyword densities under standardized, comparable conditions yourself that you will be able to come to significant and viable conclusions.
To get going, here are some links to pertinent programs that will help you determine (and, in one case, even generate) keyword densities.
KeyWord Density Analyzer (KDA) ------------------------------ An all time classic of client based keyword density software is Roberto Grassi's powerful KeyWord Density Analyzer (KDA). It is immensely configurable and offers a fully featured free evaluation version for download. Find it here: < http://www.grsoftware.net/grkda.html > (Expect to pay appr. $99 for registered version.)
Concordance ----------- Concordance is a powerful client based text analysis tool for making word lists and concordances from electronic texts. A trial version can be downloaded here: < http://www.rjcw.freeserve.co.uk/features.htm > (Expect to pay appr. $89 for registered version.)
fantomas keyMixer(TM) --------------------- Our own fantomas keyMixer(TM) is world's first automatic keyword density generator, enabling you to create web pages with ultra precise densities to first decimal digit. Read more about this server based Perl/CGI application here: < http://fantomaster.com/fakmixer0.html > (Expect to pay appr. $99 for registered version.)
Ralph Tegtmeier is the co-founder and principal of fantomaster.com Ltd. (UK) and fantomaster.com GmbH (Belgium), < http://fantomaster.com/ > a company specializing in webmasters software development, industrial-strength cloaking and search engine positioning services. You can contact him at mailto:email@example.com