What Is Keyword Stuffing? How to Use Keywords Properly

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What is keyword stuffing? In a nutshell, it’s packing your content full of an excessive number of keywords with the goal of making it rank higher in Google.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial if you want your website to be visible online. Many site owners aspire to reach Google’s top results, and keyword stuffing might seem like a handy shortcut. However, this technique could easily backfire, so it’s wise to learn about the potential consequences.

The exact logic behind Google’s algorithm is a bit of a mystery. However, we do know that search engines can detect poorly written content and spammy practices. Therefore, it’s best to stay on the safe side of SEO and focus on delivering content that your audience will value and appreciate over posts that are jam-packed with search terms.

This article will explain what keyword stuffing is and discuss how it can hurt your site’s reputation. We’ll also list a few tips on proper keyword usage. Let’s dive in!

What is keyword stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the excessive use of certain words or phrases in web content, which aims to manipulate the site’s rankings in search engines. It used to be an effective practice until Google rolled out algorithm updates hoping to reduce spammy content and improve the overall quality of its top results.

What does it look like, exactly? As a rule of thumb, if you read your copy out loud and your keywords sound awkward or unnatural, you might be guilty of keyword stuffing. Take a look at this example provided by Google:

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[at]example.com

As you can see, the phrase ‘custom cigar humidors‘ appears too many times in such a small amount of text, making it sound robotic and spammy. Besides that, Google classifies the following behaviors as keyword stuffing:

  • Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
  • Blocks of text that list cities and states that a webpage is trying to rank for

Another dubious practice is loading your page with invisible keywords. For instance, some users might camouflage certain terms or phrases by using a white font against a white background. Or, they might place large portions of content in the page’s code. However, search engines are now smart enough to detect keyword stuffing even if the text is hidden from plain sight.

Why you should avoid keyword stuffing on your WordPress blog

The purpose of search engines is to serve content that satisfies users’ search intentions. Therefore, bombarding your website with phrases like ‘best pizza in town‘ might seem like a good idea if you want to boost your pizzeria’s online visibility. However, doing this might hurt your rankings or even result in the removal of your site from search results.

Keyword stuffing is reported to be a common penalty trigger. A Google penalty can be partial, affecting specific pages, or applied to your entire site. As a result, your content may not appear in search engine results.

It’s important to note that the exact guidelines related to keyword stuffing are not clear. Google is careful to limit information about its algorithm to encourage content creators to publish high-quality posts that are beneficial to users instead of writing for search engines.

Still, overusing keywords can negatively impact user experience (UX), which is a known ranking factor. Furthermore, if you stuff your page with popular search terms, you might have to deal with a skyrocketing bounce rate.

Repeating the exact same words or phrases tends to look messy or unreadable, prompting visitors to leave your site. Subsequently, even if your site ranks well initially, a high bounce rate might alert search engines that your content is of poor quality.

Quick tips for correct keyword usage

Now that we’ve discussed keyword stuffing and its consequences, you might wonder how to use keywords effectively. Below are four SEO best practices to consider.

1. Choose a primary keyword for each post and page

Ranking well in your niche means identifying your focus keyword and optimizing your content accordingly. If you’re unsure of what terms your audience is looking for, you can use tools like Keyword Planner. It shows you the average number of monthly searches for your chosen phrase, indicates the ranking difficulty level, and suggests alternatives:

Searching for 'social media marketing' in the Keyword Planner.

If you’re not sure which tool to use, check out our guides here:

It’s smart to aim for long-tail keywords rather than short words or phrases. The more specific you are, the better chances you’ll have to rank highly in your niche.

If you’re new to the market and just launched your website, it might be challenging to rank for highly competitive keywords. Therefore, it’s often best to aim for less popular search terms. Also, avoid targeting the same word or phrase for multiple pages, as search engines may not know which one to crawl first.

Note that you can also add secondary keywords, synonyms, or related long-tail phrases. These can boost your SEO efforts as they add context to your page, helping search engines understand and index your site. Also, your copy will appear much more natural and human-like.

WordPress SEO plugins such as Rank Math can help you optimize your posts using almost unlimited keywords. However, note that more doesn’t necessarily mean better, and you can achieve excellent results with just one target search phrase.

For a more detailed look, check out our full guide to keyword research for WordPress.

2. Use your keyword in the right places

Once you’ve identified your focus keyword, make sure to use it strategically. Typically, it’s best to include it in the following places:

Note that your body copy should be at least 300 words. Otherwise, search engines may not be able to assess your content’s quality. Short posts might also indicate that your content provides less value to potential readers, so it’s wise to include long-form articles on your blog.

3. Check for the appropriate keyword density

As a general rule, most SEO experts recommend that your keyword should appear in no more than 2% of your text. For instance, if your article is 1,000 words, using your primary keyword less than 20 times should be safe. However, this guideline is largely speculative and Google doesn’t release official guidelines on what the optimal keyword density is (they just give cagey answers like this).

It might be tricky to do the math while you’re writing, so it can be helpful to use an SEO plugin such as Yoast SEO. This tool calculates the ideal number of keywords based on your text’s length and will let you know if you’ve overused them:

Keyword density indicator in Yoast.

Yoast SEO will also tell you if you haven’t used your focus word or phrase enough. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to keyword density, so don’t obsess too much over an ideal number or percentage. Instead, make sure your keyword appears in the most important elements of your site as outlined above.

4. Write for humans, not machines

Finally, remember that your content should be appealing to humans, not just search engines. While it’s best practice to follow industry SEO standards, keep in mind that stuffing your copy with keywords does not read naturally to a human eye.

Positive UX is an important contributing ranking factor, so it’s worth learning about SEO copywriting. In essence, you should use your keywords so that they blend naturally with the rest of your article, rather than forcing them into the text in ways that don’t make sense.

Remember that your visitors might leave your site if your copy is difficult to read. Therefore, it’s better to keep users engaged with clear and valuable content that answers their questions.

For some tips here, check out our guide on how to create engaging content for humans.

Conclusion

Keyword stuffing might seem like an attractive solution to your SEO problems. In theory, it can boost your site’s visibility as search engines will first serve the pages that appear most relevant to users’ search terms. However, this practice might do more harm than good, so it’s best not to overuse your keywords.

In this article, we’ve talked about what keyword stuffing is and how it could negatively affect your website. To recap, Google can detect abnormal usage of a particular word or phrase, which might lead to a penalty. Besides that, using keywords excessively might lower your content readability, negatively affecting your site’s UX and increasing your bounce rate.

If you want to learn how to do SEO the “right” way, we have plenty of guides to help you out:

Do you have any questions about what keyword stuffing is or why you should avoid it? Let us know in the comments section below!

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