Keyword stuffing isn’t a viable search engine optimization (SEO) activity. When optimizing your website for higher search rankings, you’ll have to select keywords. A keyword is simply a search query that you want your website to rank for. While you can include them in content, though, you should avoid engaging in keyword stuffing.
What is keyword stuffing in SEO exactly, and why should you avoid it?
Keyword Stuffing Explained
Keyword stuffing in SEO is the excessive and unnecessary use of keywords. It’s a type of black-hat SEO that’s designed to manipulate search rankings. To rank higher for a keyword, webmasters may use that keyword an excessive number of times in their content. It’s called “keyword stuffing” because it involves forcing or stuffing keywords into content.
Search engines have automated algorithms that they use to analyze websites. When search engines send their bots to crawl your website, their algorithms will automatically process dozens of on-page signals. Keyword usage is one of these signals.
The general idea behind keyword stuffing is that search engines will rank a website higher for keywords used excessively. If a keyword frequently appears on a web page, search engine algorithms will typically assume it’s relevant to that page. Keyword stuffing capitalizes on this concept by forcing keywords into the content of pages in an effort to trick search engine algorithms.
The Impact of Keyword Stuffing
Whether intentional or unintentional, keyword stuffing can have disastrous effects on your website’s SEO. Google says that keyword stuffing promotes a negative user experience. Visitors may abandon pages that suffer from keyword stuffing because they’ll have a negative experience.
Using keywords excessively and unnecessarily harms content readability. Content such as articles and blog posts are more difficult to read when they suffer from keyword stuffing. It can interrupt sentence flow, and it can artificially increase the length of sentences. With poor content readability, your website may drop lower in the search results.
According to Morningscore, content readability is a ranking signal. Search engine algorithms rank pages higher if they feature easy-to-read content. Conversely, they rank pages lower if they feature hard-to-read content.
Keyword stuffing can indirectly harm search rankings by discouraging other websites from linking to your site. If your website features hard-to-read content, it probably won’t earn many organic backlinks. Most websites selectively link to sites with high-quality, easy-to-read content. Keyword stuffing can hinder your ability to create easy-to-read content, resulting in fewer organic backlinks.
Your competitors will have an easier time identifying your website’s keywords if you engage in keyword stuffing. If your website is currently outranking a competitor’s site, the competitor may spy on it. The competitor may visit your website, at which point they’ll see your site’s keywords used excessively. The competitor may then target these same keywords. By avoiding keyword stuffing, you can conceal your SEO strategy so that competitors can’t easily identify your website’s keywords.
Search engines are well aware of keyword stuffing. It’s one of the oldest forms of black-hat SEO, in fact. Search engines initially had simple algorithms that looked primarily at keyword usage and backlinks to rank websites. As a result, manipulation was rampant during their early years. But search engines now check for keyword stuffing. If detected by their algorithms, they’ll prevent it from increasing websites’ search rankings.
In extreme cases, keyword stuffing can result in a manual action. Manual actions are penalties that Google manually imposes on websites. They aren’t algorithmic penalties. Rather, a manual action is a penalty that a Google worker manually imposes on an offending website. Keyword stuffing, particularly when it involves the use of hidden text, may result in a manual action.
How to Avoid Keyword Stuffing
You can avoid keyword stuffing by monitoring keyword density. Keyword density is the percentage of words on a page that encompass a particular keyword. If a page has 500 total words, 75 of which consist of a keyword, its keyword density will be 15 percent.
A high keyword density is a defining characteristic of keyword stuffing. It indicates that a particular keyword appears an excessive number of times relative to all other words on the page. To avoid keyword stuffing, be conscious of keyword density when creating content. For most types of digital content, a keyword density of 1 percent to 7 percent will suffice. As the keyword density of a page approaches 10 percent, it could be classified as keyword stuffing.
If your website uses the WordPress content management system (CMS), Yoast SEO will allow you to monitor keyword densities. Yoast SEO is a multipurpose SEO plugin. Among its native features is a keyword density checker.
You can specify a keyword in the “Focus keyphrase” field of the plugin. Yoast SEO will then reveal a color for the density of that keyword. A green color indicates a keyword density of less than 3 percent. There’s a free version of Yoast SEO and a paid version, both of which feature a keyword density checker.
Targeting secondary keywords can help you avoid keyword stuffing. Most pages have one or two primary keywords. A primary keyword is a main keyword that you want a page to rank for. A secondary keyword is simply an additional, less important keyword that you want a page to rank for.
Rather than only targeting primary keywords, you should target secondary keywords as well. Optimizing a page to rank for just one or two primary keywords may result in unintentional keyword stuffing. By optimizing the page to rank for a combination of primary and secondary keywords, keyword stuffing is less likely to occur.
Another tip to avoid keyword stuffing is to use synonyms. A synonym is a word with the same meaning or a similar meaning as another word. You can swap out mentions of a keyword with a synonym. If a keyword is used extensively in a piece of content, try to replace some of its mentions with a synonym.
Keyword stuffing is the act of forcing keywords into a page’s content so that search engines think they are highly relevant. You can’t trick search engines, though, into ranking your website for keywords with little or no relevance. Keyword stuffing is ineffective and potentially harmful. Instead of using it, focus on white-hat SEO activities that don’t attempt to trick search engines.