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Keyword Stuffing: What it is and its SEO Impact

keyword stuffing vs keyword optimisation image
Never indulge in Keyword stuffing. Ever! But you may optimise your keywords.

What is Keyword stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the unethical practice to increase the keyword density of a post just by stuffing kew words or phrases such that the page ranks higher than others for the target keywords. 

Good thing is that all search engines today are well equipped to understand when keywords are stuffed into content to artificially rank for a page or make a page look relevant for the aforementioned keywords.

The problem is that if you have stuffed keywords without knowledge. The threshold is important to know – just so you don’t cross it. Even by mistake. Otherwise, Google (or any search engine for that matter) is not going to give you an error message telling you which keywords are overdone. Your page will silently suffer ranks in search results.

Where can keyword stuffing exist?

Keyword stuffing can be done anywhere in the content that writers and publishers know will be crawled by the search engines.

These include (but are not restricted to)

  • The web page body – This is a common place for keywords to be.
  • The meta tags – The most abused place for keywords. This includes meta keywords and meta description. You don’t typically need either of them for ranking well on Google. But publishers use them anyway. As long as it is done in a natural manner, it is okay.
  • Image alt tags and captions
  • Header or footer tags with text

The good thing is that it is very unlikely that you will be penalised unless you consciously stuff keywords.

Why do I say this?

Well, let’s look at what the authorities say about this. You will know how hard it actually is to stuff keywords and how ugly it looks to the user.

Literature Survey on Keyword Stuffing

Let’s check what some of the high authority sites are saying about this.

First, let us take Google.

Google does not mention much about stuffing or keyword density but mentions ‘irrelevant keywords’. This is what they mention in the webmaster guides.

irrelevant keywords
Google does an ambiguous job at defining the problem. There is no word about stuffing or ‘relevant keywords’ excessively.

See the problem?

What if I put in relevant keywords but overdo them?

Try it. Your page ranking will suffer. If only because you will find readers irritated to find repetition of the same phrases over and over again!

WordStream shows an example of relevant keywords being stuffed

Check this demonstrated example below.

wordstream example of keyword stuffing
WordStream example shows how text looks like – when it is stuffed unnaturally

The original article is posted here.

They also mention what they call as ‘responsible keyword optimisation’ and mention that the keyword density should be between 2-5%. Anything more is likely to be considered spammy.

Fair enough. We will go through the dos later, once the literature review is complete.

Search Engine Watch highlights another major issue and offers solutions

There is another sneaky way to stuff in keywords.

We know Google will crawl our pages. But if we stuff keywords unnaturally, it will repel real people.

So let’s just put the keywords and make their forecolor white on the white background. The user will think the text is not there!

Smart, right?

Nope.

Hidden content is terrible for SEO. It directly violates Google’s WebMaster guidelines.

Curiously, these guys mention keyword density to ideally be around 2%. That is close to the minimum recommended by the previous article. But we should give this more credence because this is a more recent publication.

Apart from that, it gives general guidelines on how to optimise content for targeted keywords. That was similar to the recommendations of the previous post.

Let us move on to the next one.

Here’s what Alexa says about keyword stuffing

Ahref defines keyword stuffing as the following –

  • Unnecessarily repeating words or phrases
  • Adding words that are out of context
  • Inserting blocks of the same keyword
  • Using keywords that are not relevant to the topic of the page

The points 2 and 4 are the same.

But we get the point.

Then it goes on about the optimisations that we may do with keywords.

Conclusions from Literature Survey

From our brief research it is fair to conclude with the following points. I have obviously collated the data from various other sources as well. But you get the gist here below.

  • Keywords are best thrown around in a page. They may exist in the title tags, alt tags, image captions and so on.
  • There is no place for hidden content on your page. That is heavily penalised.
  • Keyword density should be guided by the relevance of the post. Irrelevant content is not ranked well.
  • Keyword density defined as the number of targeted keywords divided by the total number of words in a page or post, should be around 2%. Anything more than 4 to 6% may be ring alarm bells at Search ranking algorithms.

So how to optimise keywords in a post or page?

Related: Basic SEO terms you should know about

There are basic dos and don’ts that work well. Here are some basic guidelines where keywords can be placed.

  • Every page should have a primary and probably a secondary keyword. Make a note of these keywords and use them naturally while writing your draft content. Unless you are spamming, you should not have to spend too much effort doing this.
  • Make sure the title tag has the primary keyword. You can design great headlines too!
  • Put your keywords in some of the headlines. Having a large post helps here. That includes more headlines and more chance to choose your words properly.
  • You can use a variation of the keywords to keep the relevance intact along with the natural readability.
  • Include your keywords in the image alt tags. These will inform search engines and users using accessibility features to understand th relevance of the images or videos in use.
  • Try using long tail keywords. These are simply larger keywords derived from whatever simpler keyword you chose first. For instance, if the keyword you have in mind is ‘black swan’, a long tail keyword for the same can be ‘black swan in Australia’. Sure, you are not going to get ranked great for searches of ‘black swan’ initially. But for the second keyword, your chances of ranking is higher. Because fewer people give such search terms and hence it is less competitive. This is a fine balance, but given some time and experience, you will get there.
  • You can use them in the meta description. This is not going to be used by Google to rank your site anymore. But it will convince people to click when they see your excerpt in the search results.

Recommended Tool for SEO

There is an easy way to take care of all this.

Yoast takes care of all the points above and more. If you are a WordPress user (or any other major CMS user), you will find life much easier with the Yoast plugin installed.

every post keyword stuffing yoast wordpress
This shows you the mobile and desktop snippet views in addition to other recommendations. of course, you can change the meta descriptions

While you create a new page or post, it will give you recommendations to make sure your SEO is optimal.

Please share the post if you enjoyed reading it!

The bottomline is that while some regular keyword optimisation is okay – the target of this optimisation is the human reader and not the search engine’s crawler bot. Otherwise, even if you are able to temporarily rank exploiting some new found trick to dupe search engines – your rank won’t be sustained and you will suffer penalties in the long run. As long as your content is natural and does not trigger red lights, you are good. 🙂


By Sarthak Ganguly

A programming aficionado, Sarthak spends most of his time programming or computing. He has been programming since his sixth grade. Now he has two websites in his name and is busy writing two books. Apart from programming, he likes reading books, hanging out with friends, watching movies and planning wartime strategies.

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