Avoid Keyword Stuffing

I like stuffing, but Google doesn’t.  My wife, Linda, is an absolute gourmet (southern style) when it comes to stuffing a turkey.  But obviously, we are talking about something else.  Keywords are crucial to web page visibility, but keyword stuffing can kill a website.

image of ninja turkey warning: no stuffing allowedThe purpose of keywords is to keep your content relevant to search queries and what people are looking for.  You should begin writing your content by selecting keywords you believe your target reader will be searching for, and then writing relevant to your selection.  “Keyword stuffing” is the practice of stuffing as many of your keywords as possible onto a web page, much like the cook who is stuffing a turkey.

When the holidays come around, Linda asks me to help her stuff the turkey.  I hold the bird while she crams as much stuffing in as physically possible.  The offending blogger, in the same way, repeats his keywords in his content over and over until his article reads in an awkward – even obnoxious – way.

Here is an example of keyword stuffing that Google has provided:

“We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.”

Some authors have gone so far as to hide hundreds of keyword repetitions behind objects, or even color the text of keywords to match the web page background – visible to search engines, but invisible to the human eye.  These tactics only trick people to your web page who will likely be disappointed after they have read its content.  Google and other search engines, whose objective is to return content relative to search queries, picked up on these tricks and have since adjusted their algorithms to compensate.  Instead of rewarding black hat SEO tactics, they penalize the offenders.

Matt Cutts, team leader for Google’s anti-spam division, warned:

“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

So, how does Google and other search engines penalize websites?  By filtering out the results.  In other words, the offender’s website doesn’t show up in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page).  So, keyword stuffing can kill a website!

So, what are white hat guidelines?  Use keywords, but don’t overdo it.  Mix in appropriate synonyms.  Target somewhere between 2 to 5% keyword density in your content.  Keyword density is the percentage of times a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a web page compared to the total number of words on a page.

There are many free tools available on the Internet to help you check your keyword density.  One such tool is the Keyword Density Analyzer provided by SEOBook.  While search engines do not rely so much on keyword density today in the placement of pages, these tools can be helpful in determining if you are “overdoing” it.  If our objective is not to trick visitors to our websites, but to write relevant, beneficial, and engaging content, we can avoid keyword stuffing and their consequential penalties.