It’s pretty safe to say that SEO should be at the top of your to-do list. The higher you rank, the more visible you will be on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and your website will generate more traffic.
But SEO is a pretty broad field within itself as it covers On-Page, Off-Page, and Technical SEO. In other words, there are plenty of things you’ll need to work on to reach the top spots in the SERP.
And given that it takes around 6-12 months until you see any significant results, it can be tempting to make a few shortcuts here and there. One such shortcut might be stuffing keywords within your website’s content.
After all, Google uses keywords to match search queries with pages to show users content relevant to their search. So, placing as many keywords on a web page as possible may be a good idea, right?
Wrong! In fact, that’s a terrible idea. This process is called keyword stuffing and is heavily frowned upon by Google. So, what is it, why is it bad for your website, and how to avoid it?
Let’s take a look.
In short, keyword stuffing is the process of overloading a webpage’s content with keywords in hopes of tricking search engine crawlers into ranking the web page higher in the SERP.
There are two types of keyword stuffing: visible is invisible.
Visible keyword stuffing revolves around repeating words or phrases unnecessarily, using the same keyword multiple times, adding it out of context, and inserting keywords that are not relevant to a web page’s content.
On the other hand, invisible keyword stuffing involves blending text with the web page’s background by using the same colors and inserting keywords within the web page’s HTML code.
As the name suggests, invisible keyword stuffing makes this practice less obvious to readers.
In other words, keyword stuffing is the process of optimizing content with search engine crawlers in mind, leaving user experience aside.
Here’s the thing: Google values user experience above anything else. Its crawlers rank web pages based on their content’s relevance to the users’ search queries.
Given that keyword stuffing throws user experience out the window, your web pages will naturally not see any improvement in rankings.
Put yourself in the readers’ shoes and imagine reading this:
“Are you looking for the best computers? We offer the best computers on the market, at the lowest price and the highest quality. We have the best computers for gaming and the best computers for business use. Visit our store and pick the best computer for you.”
If you read this after entering a website, you’ll likely click away within a heartbeat. This causes websites to experience increased bounce rates and decreased dwell times, which are direct ranking factors.
Moreover, this example has a high keyword density. In other words, the search term is used too many times in the text in relation to the total number of words it contains.
A high keyword density is often a strong indicator of search engine spam. Thus, Google will downgrade the website’s position within the SERP.
The example shown above has 47 words, while the keyword was used five times. This equates to a keyword density of 10.6%. Although Google sets no keyword density threshold, it’s recommended not to go beyond 1-2%.
But what about invisible keywords? Readers can’t see them, and they might not affect your keyword density, right?
Well, crawlers will sift through everything visible on your web page, as well as what hides behind it. Consequently, invisible keyword stuffing will still drag down your website.
Overall, keyword stuffing is a black hat SEO technique, and Google is aware of that. Like any other black hat tactics, keyword stuffing will do your website more harm than good.
Besides, there are plenty of ways you can optimize your website without resorting to keyword stuffing. Think about improving your website speed, internal linking and sitemaps.
If you want to let the pros handle the technical SEO aspects of your website, consider working with some of the most popular managed service providers.
The first thing you could do is set a primary keyword for each web page on your website. This targeted keyword must be relevant to the content on the said web page and match the users’ search intent.
Also, keep in mind to choose keywords with high search volumes and low competition. This will give you better chances of ranking higher in the SERP.
Tools like Ahrefs will measure the ranking difficulty for your desired keyword and help you determine whether it’s worth targeting it.
Lastly, make sure that each web page addresses its own specific topic and uses its own keyword. Having two web pages on your website targeting the exact keyword will lead to cannibalization.
In other words, both web pages will fight for the same spot in the SERP. Consequently, Google won’t tell which page should rank higher, and you may end up having a web page you don’t prioritize occupying the higher position.
They are terms closely associated with your primary keywords. Secondary keywords can add more context to your content and help search engine bots to understand and rank your web page while avoiding stuffing at the same time.
You can use synonyms of your primary keyword or long-tail keywords. The latter are key phrases that are longer and more specific than the usual keywords.
Although they experience lower search volumes, they also typically encounter less competition. Moreover, long-tail keywords can provide more context to your web page and bring more valuable traffic.
For instance, the long-tail version of “Nike” could be “Nike Air Force One.” Using the second keyword will help the search engine show that specific product to better match the users’ queries.
Furthermore, given that the user already knows what he’s looking for, you’ll stand a better chance of getting him to convert.
As mentioned earlier, Google puts user experience at the top of its lists. The longer the content, the more room you have to offer your audience helpful information regarding a specific topic.
What’s more, posting detailed, valuable content will make your audience stick around for longer, thus letting Google know that people enjoy reading your articles.
The ideal blog post length is around 2,100-2,400 words. That doesn’t mean you should turn a short product description into a full-blown essay, but keep in mind that the more helpful information you can add, the better.
In other words, focus on quality over quantity.
Although longer content allows you to insert more keywords, remember to watch out for density.
More specifically, you need to strike a balance between inserting the primary keywords naturally in your content and integrating enough of them to get the message across and get noticed by Google without appearing too spammy.
Also, integrate variations and long-tail versions of your primary keyword to balance things out.
Again, you shouldn’t go over a density of two percent. This applies to both primary and secondary keywords. There are plenty of free keyword density tools online, so you won’t have to waste time counting each keyword one by one.
You shouldn’t focus strictly on the main text when placing keywords, though. You should also integrate them into the following page elements:
Integrating the keyword into these elements helps search engine algorithms understand what they’re looking at.
Moreover, given that the primary keyword is also present in the main body of the content, crawlers will receive strong signals regarding what the content is about and what search term they should rank your page for.
That said, properly structure your content by using H1, H2, and H3 tags. Aside from providing crawlers context on what your page is about, H tags also improve your text’s readability.
Meta descriptions need to match the content from the rest of the web page. Otherwise, they might be considered misleading and get penalized for it.
Furthermore, insert the keyword naturally and provide a compelling summary of your web page’s content to draw users in.
All in all, keyword optimization is a crucial part of SEO, but this doesn’t mean it pushes up your website’s position in the SERP.
However, keyword stuffing is still a big no-no. That said, make sure to use keywords properly.
Start by identifying a primary keyword for each one of your web pages. After that, assign secondary keywords using synonyms and long-tail versions of the original.
Also, writing longer content may be a good idea, but watch your keyword density.
Lastly, remember that you can integrate keywords outside the main body of your content.