Effective SEO doesn’t merely involve adhering to the latest best practices. It also requires avoiding critical mistakes. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that some formerly popular SEO practices are now recognized as errors that can negatively impact your site’s rankings in searches.
Keyword stuffing is one such practice. In the past, when search engine algorithms were not as sophisticated as they are today, many believed this tactic could be used to “trick” search engines and drive more traffic to their sites. However, search engines have evolved since, and websites are now being penalized for such practices.
Everything You Need to Know About Keyword Stuffing
What is keyword stuffing? What’s an example?
It’s important to note that keywords still play a vital role in SEO. Although they aren’t the only component of an effective SEO strategy, in general, it is still necessary to identify the search terms your audience is most likely to use, incorporating them into your content naturally.
That’s a crucial word to remember: “naturally.” Keywords in SEO are most effective when they are used in content for legitimate reasons.
This point also reveals the difference between smart keyword usage in SEO and keyword stuffing.
Keyword stuffing doesn’t involve finding natural and genuine opportunities to insert search terms into pages. It consists of identifying search terms you expect your audience to use, and adding them in abundance on a page, even when doing so doesn’t make sense. There are also instances when marketers stuff their pages with keywords that don’t relate very closely to the page’s content.
Consider a keyword-stuffing example to understand this tactic better. Perhaps you’re marketing a dental practice. Maybe part of your strategy involves posting regular blog entries providing dental care advice.
Of course, the audience you’re trying to target consists of people looking for dentists in your area. So, one of your keywords might be “dentists in [your location.]” There will likely be instances when it makes sense to use this frequently in your content.
However, there will also be instances when inserting it too often is unnatural and forced. For example, perhaps you’re writing a blog entry offering readers tips on how to select the right toothpaste. To some degree, you could find natural opportunities to use the keyword mentioned above. In the intro and conclusion of the post, you could remind readers that although brushing their teeth with the right toothpaste is important, seeking regular dental care from a professional is also crucial. Doing so gives you the chance to mention the practice you’re trying to market naturally. That said, in a blog entry focusing on this topic, there will be few other times when it makes sense to use “dentist in [your location]” in the content. Including it too often would thus be an example of keyword stuffing.
Why is keyword stuffing bad?
Answering “What is keyword stuffing?” is not the same as explaining why you need to avoid it. You might still be wondering why using keywords frequently isn’t an effective SEO strategy.
There are several reasons keyword stuffing’s reputation has suffered in recent years. In general, however, Google algorithms have grown stronger. The teams that design these algorithms want to ensure users find the content they’re looking for when they perform relevant searches. Therefore, today’s algorithm’s don’t merely account for a page’s content when determining rankings; they also account for the way guests interact and engage with the content.
Keyword stuffing often results in content that’s difficult or frustrating to read. The language sounds unnatural when keywords are stuffed in wherever possible. It can make your visitors quit reading and close the page (high bounce rate) earlier than they may otherwise. Consider how a blog post might sound like based on the example described earlier:
You probably don’t need to be told why readers don’t find such content appealing.
Additionally, in situations such as this one, when a marketer has stuffed a page with keywords that aren’t directly related to its content, users quickly realize the content isn’t relevant to their needs, and leave the page. This signals to Google’s algorithm that the quality of a page’s content is lacking. If it were strong, guests would spend more time engaging with it.
It’s worth noting that Google’s teams are also familiar with cheap SEO “hacks” often used to trick search engines into favoring their pages. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, they’ve responded accordingly, adjusting their algorithms to identify and potentially penalize pages where these tactics are on display.
How to Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is an outdated tactic that only gained popularity because it was effective at a time when search engines weren’t as strong as they are now.
Luckily, avoiding keyword stuffing doesn’t need to be complicated. You can research SEO best practices (which are always changing) to determine what experts believe to be the ideal keyword density for a page at the current time. Before publishing content, you can then run it through several free online keyword density checkers to ensure it’s in the proper range.
You might also have a general approach to using keywords that yields positive results consistently. Maybe you use a keyword once in the introduction of a piece of content, once in the conclusion, and once in a header or subheader.
The most effective approach, however, is to incorporate keywords into your content naturally. Use them when it makes sense to do so in a piece of content. As search engine algorithms continue to improve, they’re continuing to more consistently favor pages with content that delivers what a user was looking for when they performed a search. If you focus on publishing the strongest content possible while using keywords when it makes sense to do so, your SEO is likely to improve as well.