Everything You Need to Know About Keyword Stuffing in SEO

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In the age of digitalisation, everyone is increasingly looking for information via search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing through mobile phones, smart devices and computers. Naturally,  businesses seek to capitalise on this phenomenon through search engine optimisation (SEO). SEO is the practice of ensuring that content put out on the web is optimised to be found by users through search engines. Through SEO, brands and organisations attempt to rank among the top positions on search engine result pages (SERP). 

Ranking highly on SERPs translates to being more easily found by a wider audience. This means greater exposure to your business or brand and increased traffic and sales to your website. While there are many factors, such as the bounce rate of websites to consider to rank well on SERPs, one significant consideration is the use of keywords that people are searching for in content published on the web. Regrettably, as awareness of this spread, it has led to the rise of a trend known as keyword stuffing.

What is keyword stuffing in SEO

According to Google’s definition, keyword stuffing is the practice of populating content released on the web with certain keywords to manipulate the position of a website’s rank on SERP. More often than not, these keywords are forcibly thrown into sites in the form of a list without any regard for context or readability.

Here are some examples of keyword stuffing:

1. Chunks of keywords involving locations that a website wants to rank for, for example:

Let’s say your targeted keyword is “bicycle Selangor”.

“Searching for cheap bicycles in Selangor? Come down to our bicycle shop in Selangor and enjoy bicycle rides all across Malaysia, especially Selangor.”

This is a prime example of keyword stuffing as there is no need to keep mentioning the location ‘Selangor’. But the writer stuffs the location in to try to rank for the keyword and location of ‘Selangor’.

2. Repetitive use of keywords in an unnatural manner, for example:

“If you’re looking for the bespoke tailoring services, look no further. Our brand provides the best bespoke tailoring services in Malaysia. With professionally-trained tailors, this is the best bespoke tailoring service for you.”

Here, it is very unnatural to keep repeating the words ‘bespoke tailoring services’ so closely together and is another bad attempt at keyword stuffing.

3. Hiding keywords in the page or its code, meta and comment tags

For example, using text with the identical colour as the background hides embedded keywords from readers but displays them to search engine crawlers.

Although keywords are essential, there is a fine line between the use of keywords for SEO and keyword stuffing. 

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Why keyword stuffing is bad

Unfortunately, when businesses or brands end up stuffing their web content with keywords, intentionally or unintentionally, there are negative consequences for the site.

1. Penalties

Due to the malicious use of keyword stuffing in the past for SEO, search engines have wisened up and penalised sites guilty of this. While businesses may turn to keyword stuffing in the hopes of boosting their search rankings, it can conversely hurt their internet presence even more. In the worst-case scenario, search engines such as Google may hide those pages or even remove the whole site from SERPs. Having its pages or website removed is a detrimental blow to any brand as it means that its target audience is unable to find them on the web.

2. Poor user experience

Excessive use of keywords in SEO frustrates readers as it is unnatural, lacks context and affects readability, contributing to a poor user experience.  A lack of helpful and relevant content will therefore directly contribute to a high bounce rate where users leave the website quickly since they couldn’t find what they are looking for. In the long run, poor content on sites can even lead to a loss of users. Losing users leads to a lack of traffic and losses in revenue. 

How to avoid keyword stuffing

Fortunately, there are ways to ensure your site is SEO-friendly without worrying about keyword stuffing. 

1. Use Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) Keywords

LSI keywords are conceptually related terms or words commonly used together in specific contexts. For example, if your content discusses shoes, semantic keywords could include terms such as “size”, “laces”, or “design”. When terms are frequently used together, it signals to search engines that they are discussing a topic from the same field. As a result, search engines will rank such content higher even if the keyword is not populated heavily within the content. Instead of the overt repetition of keywords, aim for LSI or semantic keywords associated with your keyword to reach your target audience.

2. Check your keyword density

A practical solution to avoid keyword stuffing is to check your keyword density, or the percentage of a keyword’s appearance in any piece of content. You may be wondering what a good keyword density is. While there is no definite answer, most SEO experts suggest sticking to a 2% density. How can you check for keyword density? You can use many great tools such as Prepost SEO, Word Counter, and SEO Review Tools to measure your keyword density. There is no definite figure but most experts suggest that a keyword density of above 3% amounts to keyword stuffing.

These tips and tools will come in handy to ensure you do not overuse your keywords. But ultimately, the key to avoiding keyword stuffing is to focus on producing great content that answers what users are searching for and including the keywords naturally where relevant. If you need more help to improve your business’ SEO, check out these guides about product listing SEO for online marketplaces and how not all E-commerce websites are the same.