When optimising your web pages and blog posts for search engines like Google, you may want to take the easy way out by using various manipulation tactics to quickly get higher rankings. Knowing that search engines use keywords to find the right information for a searcher, you may even be thinking: “If search engines use keywords to match pages with search queries, why not ‘stuff’ as many of them as possible onto a single page to get it ranked for several highly-searchable keywords?”
Let me stop you there.
While stuffing does go great with a Sunday roast, it doesn’t do the same magic for keywords. That is, it doesn’t anymore. As a matter of fact, black hat SEO tactics such as keyword stuffing will actually do you more harm (a lot more) than good. Here, I’ll cover what you need to know about keyword stuffing in SEO.
Naughty Keyword Stuffing That Will Get You In Trouble
According to Google’s guidelines, the definition of keyword stuffing is, in simple terms, the practice of excessively filling a web page with keywords with the ultimate goal of gaming the search giant’s ranking system. Bing has a similar guideline on keyword stuffing.
In the past keyword stuffing was a successful way of boosting the visibility of a page and therefore a website for a certain set of keywords. however, as time moved on Google and other search engines got wise to the fact that some web pages would just insert copious numbers of keywords without them really making any sense at all. This is when they started to issue penalties against sites that were overdosing on keywords.
Keyword stuffing can be broken down into two distinct groups: visible and invisible.
Visible Keyword Stuffing
If you’re unnaturally repeating a specific keyword or number multiple times out of context in a piece of content and your readers can see it, you’re practising visible keyword stuffing. You might also see examples of visible keyword stuffing where text blocks are inserted that just repeat a keyword, and also spam the content with links, as shown in the screenshot below (which is, of course, just an example):
Invisible Keyword Stuffing
Some content creators on the other hand are smart enough to know that they shouldn’t mess with people’s user experience. Therefore, instead of overusing keywords in the main body of text, which then impacts the readability of the pages and posts. They instead choose to hide the text. That being said, while it is easy to hide text from a reader, you can’t hide it from search engines. You could, for example, make the colour of the text and background the same (as shown above), but web page text, no matter what its colour, style, or size is, is still HTML. This means that it will, in fact, be spotted by search engines when they crawl and index your web page.
Additionally, you can stuff the keyword within the web page’s HTML code, like in the comment, meta, and/or alt tag, where they will also be found by search bots.
The bottom line is that when content creators practice keyword stuffing, they’re consciously optimising a web page only for search engines, and not for the intended audience — people. And since search engines are designed to serve human readers, they see these manipulation efforts, and in response, can even penalize a web page’s rankings.
Now there is no doubt that keywords still need to be used, however, they are just one of over 200 factors that Google uses to determine the quality of a website. So don’t let all this talk scare you to the point that you decide not to use enough keywords in your content. They need to be used moderately. As a rule of thumb, write for people, not robots! I can’t stress this enough.
The BERT algorithm update saw the search giant once again shift its focus to content created for human readers, not search bots. So, if you’re thinking that Google will eventually go back to its old ways, you couldn’t be more wrong, if anything they are pushing further into the realms of quality over quantity than ever before. What this means is that content creators should forget about using exact-match keywords and focus on producing naturally-written text. So, as tempting as it is, don’t force keywords into your content otherwise you could face a Google penalty. Rather, optimize it the way both search engines and people want you to.
Unlike keyword-stuffed pages that simply repeat an arbitrary keyword over and over with the ultimate goal of cheating and gaming ranking systems, keyword-optimized ones give search engines clarity about the page’s content and what search term it should be displayed in search for. This, in turn, helps your pages get higher rankings, and, ultimately, more traffic that will keep coming back to your site.
So, take your time to do proper keyword research and focus on writing quality materials for human readers. Google will never go back to a time when you could fill a page with keywords and enjoy high rankings as soon as tomorrow. It’s all about giving people exactly what they want.