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What Is Keyword Stuffing?

If you’re currently learning about SEO, you may have come across the term ‘keyword stuffing’. It was a popular black hat SEO technique before search engine algorithms became sophisticated enough to catch people doing it. Even still, believe it or not, it is a technique that is used today for people who are looking for quick results in SEO. But what you may not know, is that it can be detrimental to your website’s rankings.

We’re here to, first of all, explain what keyword stuffing actually is, why it is bad for your website and how to avoid it.

An Overview

Generally speaking, keyword stuffing is exactly what it says on the tin. It is when you ‘stuff’ your meta data and website content with keywords. Sometimes this is done by accident, but most of the time it is an intentional attempt to achieve higher rankings in the search results.

There are a few different types of keyword stuffing. Here are some of the visible ones:

  • Unnecessarily repeating certain words or phrases in either website page titles, meta descriptions or page content.
  • Adding words or phrases that are out of context or don’t make sense.
  • Using blocks that contain the same keywords.
  • Putting keywords on irrelevant or unrelated pages.

In addition to these, another type of keyword stuffing involves adding keywords to a web page but hiding them from users. This is done with techniques such as using the same colour font and background.

A History of Keyword Stuffing

With the introduction of the world wide web in 1989, we saw the first search engine emerge in around 1990. Back in the day, search engines were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are now, with their incredibly complex algorithms.

Search engines used to rely heavily on keywords when deciding which websites to rank, which is what made keyword stuffing such a popular technique. Websites could fill their pages with relevant keywords and get to the top of search results pretty easily.

Search engines have since acknowledged that people were trying to manipulate the search results and thus perfected their algorithm to punish websites who do so. Now, when search engines crawl websites, they can easily detect when keywords have been misused, and they can also easily identify when the same colour background and text are being used.

Keyword Stuffing Today

Websites should aim to inform, entertain or serve users in some way and keyword stuffing isn’t fulfilling that purpose. Keyword stuffing is when you start writing your content for search engines, and not for your users. It can give them a bad experience of your website, causing high bounce rates and driving traffic away. So, if you use techniques like this, your rankings are likley to plummet.

The sophisticated search engines of today have the strong aim to connect users with content that satisfies their intent and provide them with the best results they can. Their focus is on the users of the search engine, therefore optimising for your users, will, in turn, please search engines.

How to Use Keywords the Right Way

Occasionally, people do not intentionally keyword stuff and still land themselves with a devastating penalty. So, it is important to understand how you can avoid doing this so that your website doesn’t get penalised by accident. There is a general rule that says that keyword density should be no more than 2%. So, if you take the number of words used in a particular paragraph of page content, divide that by the total number of words, and times by 100, you have your percentage.

For example, if you have a paragraph of 76 words, and you use a particular keyword 15 times, you do 15 divided by 76 which is rounded to 0.197, and then times it by 100, giving you 19.7% – way higher than the recommended 2%. A percentage like this indicates that you have used a keyword too many times and your website may be penalised for it.

If you’re worried about how you can avoid keyword stuffing and do SEO by the books, we suggest that every time you make a change to your website content, ask yourself, is this helping my users?

Get in touch with Colewood today to find out how we can help you with all your digital marketing needs.