Keyword Stuffing: What is Keyword Stuffing?

People often ask, ‘What is keyword stuffing?’ It’s one of the no-no’s of SEO, that’s to be sure. However, don’t believe everything you read on the Blogosphere as blog post after blog post will tell you to “write for humans” and not to “stuff keywords.” The truth is somewhere in between – write keyword-heavy content but also write in good grammar and natural prose. Let’s investigate.

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Keyword Stuffing
KEYWORD STUFFING

First, what is ‘keyword stuffing?’ It’s harder to define than you might think. Think of it like a continuum – on one end, you’d have a page that’s keyword, keyword, keyword… and on the other end, you’d have a page that had little to no SEO-friendly keywords, one written “entirely for humans.” A recent blog post, 8 On-Page Optimization Techniques That Google Hates, is an example in my mind of one that goes “too far.” Kristen M. Vaughn writes, “In the past, marketers could get away with producing a ton of thin content that didn’t provide much value to their users but would still get them at the top of search results. Keyword stuffing was one of the most common content tactics because well… it was so easy!” Well is this true? Let’s not just assume that because an author says such-and-such or Google says such-and-such that it’s true.



KEYWORDS INTO CONTENT

Second, you obviously a) have to know your target keywords, and b) get them into your content. It’s not a question of “if” you’ll do this for SEO. It’s a question of how much and how skillfully. I recommend that you weave your target keywords into your content in “natural” English but with enough density that they keywords exist in decent number. There is no hard and fast rule. In addition, follow the basic rules of ON PAGE SEO such as TITLE, META DESCRIPTION, A HREF, etc. Now, here’s the weird thing – many sites can and do violate the “official rules” of Google on keyword stuffing and “over”optimization and they do quite well.  Take this site – https://officeequipmenthub.us/kentucky/mayfield/index.php – for example. Take a search for ‘Mayfield KY printer repair‘ and you’ll see that this site does quite well, thank you very much.  In fact, you can look at the site architecture and ON PAGE SEO (https://officeequipmenthub.us/kentucky/) and see that it is a pretty spammy, pretty stuffed website. But – contrary to Ms. Vaughen, and contrary Google’s official policies – it does quite well vs. target queries such as – ‘Louisville KY printer sales‘ or ‘Louisville KY copier leasing.’



KEYWORD STUFFING WORKS; OR DOES IT?

Third, the bigger question is does keyword stuffing work? The answer is not an unambiguous yes or no. In many situations, yes, it works. Overoptimization – if defined by heavier content than normal vs. keywords – does work. Sites rank and rank well. This can continue for a very, very long time.  Google doesn’t have the resources or knowledge to crack down on every occurrence; and please do not anthropomorphize Google.  It’s not a human being. It’s an algorithm and it’s trying to index the entire Internet (!). On the other hand, you can incur a penalty and thus have to “undo” your overoptimization. Experiment on your own site and content; figure out what works for you and in your industry. It’s not “as if” you have to just believe blog posts or Google announcements – you can easily try and see for yourself.



WRITE FOR HUMANS AND FOR GOOGLE

Fourth, what writers such as Ms. Vaughn post fail to understand is that this is not an either/or situation but rather a both/and. Yes, write good, high quality content for humans! And, yes, write heavier-than-normal content for Google following the rules of ON PAGE SEO.  You can (and should) do both. It’s not either/or it’s both/and.



BE SKEPTICAL OF THE BLOGOSPHERE AND OFFICIAL GOOGLE ANNOUNCEMENTS

Fifth, be skeptical of what you read online (including this post).  Do I ** REALLY ** have to say this in 2020? Just because so-and-so wrote such-and-such on a blog post… do not necessarily believe it. Just because “official Google” says such-and-such, do not believe it. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.” The blog post, for example, goes on to say, that “unnatural internal linking” is bad for SEO. Well, what is “unnatural” linking? Can you or should you cross link around target keyword phrases? I would say, yes, and I would point to the “official” Google SEO Guide which contradicts the blog post, not to mention many websites in my own practice that cross-link very effectively. Again, do not over do this. Nor under do it.

“A little salt is good for the soup. Too much salt ruins it.”

Oh, and remember it’s not just ON PAGE SEO it’s OFF PAGE SEO as well… so you can’t single out one factor (e.g., “Keyword Stuffing” as the magic SEO bullet).

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Jason McDonald

About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.