Back in the early days of search engines, some people noticed that keyword density affected how well pages ranked. They started to stuff their keyword in where they could, even if it looked unnatural. It’s easy to explain what is keyword stuffing, but harder to ensure you avoid it.
As we no longer live in the dawn of the internet, such spammy SEO techniques can harm your website more than they help. And so, it’s vital for you as the blog’s editor to fully understand keyword stuffing and density.
Let’s explore what is keyword stuffing, how to avoid it, and if you can save a page by updating it.
What is keyword stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is when you majorly overuse your keyword. You might use it in every paragraph or section. But it’s very obvious what keyword you’re targeting. Plus, it creates content that is difficult to read or looks naturally written.
As a spammy SEO technique, it dates back to the early days of the internet, when people realized they could rank higher by increasing the frequency at which they used their keyword.
Today, it’s a harmful technique that can hurt your rankings.
Show me an example!
AJ drives a blue Bentley car. His Bentley car is his pride and joy. Whenever AJ drives his Bentley car, people stop and stare. However, as his dream car, the Bentley car is a reward for working hard for decades.
I’ve used the keyword Bentley car four times during this short paragraph of 40 words. That means our keyword density is 10%, which is far too hot. I recommend using your keyword between 0.5% and 2%.
Hopefully, you can see what is keyword stuffing and how it looks unnatural.
Why doesn’t keyword stuffing work anymore?
Search engines started off very basic, only ranking pages based on a handful of factors, including backlinks and keyword density.
Over the last 20 years, Google’s algorithm has become very sophisticated and now uses hundreds of data points to determine where a page should rank in the search results. It can’t be fooled by a page that’s overloaded with a keyword or has a ton of low-quality backlinks.
Google and the other search engines have invested billions of dollars into writing, tweaking, and refining their algorithms so that they better understand searcher intent, the overall topic, content quality, and the user experience.
Some techniques that worked ten years ago, no longer work. So, we need to get more sophisticated in our strategic and tactical approaches to SEO.
Where do we typically overuse our keyword?
While it’s easy to understand what is keyword stuffing, being fully aware when you are overusing your keyword can be tricky. Invisible keyword stuffing is a thing, so you need to understand how it can happen by accident.
You’ll use your keyword:
- Meta Description
- Image alt tag
That sounds good, but how can we ensure we don’t overuse our keyword in practice? Good question.
You only want to use your keyword once in your Title, URL, H1, Meta Description, and Image alt tag.
So, all that remains from our list are two elements: H2 and Body.
Ideally, use your keyword in H2 once or twice. Of course, if you’re writing a piece that’ll compete with War And Peace, feel free to use a bit more.
Try not to use the keyword in H3 or additional image alt tags unless absolutely necessary.
Within the body content, aim to use the keyword between 0.5% and 2%. This figure includes any H2s and H3s. So depending on how long your article is, you might be able to mention your keyword between twice or seven times.
You’ll want to use your keyword within the first and last paragraphs and then a few times within the rest of the article.
How does keyword stuffing create a bad user experience?
Google in their Quality Guidelines, is very clear about why keyword stuffing is bad:
“Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”
While Google probably won’t penalize a page for being over-optimized, they will prefer to show users other results and leave the stuffed page to the end.
The issue is much wider than that tho. Even if Google isn’t your primary traffic source, having poorly written copy will result in a high bounce rate as a page provide little value to visitors. And so they won’t waste their time attempting to read it.
Should we forget about keyword density altogether?
I always give a keyword density range as we use each one differently. So trying to apply a blanket rule is unproductive and unhelpful. For example, it’s much easier to use Amazon Alexa compared to How to worm your dog.
If you tried to use how to worm your dog too often in an article, it’ll look unnatural and forced. Whereas using the keyword Amazon Alexa should flow better. Just be careful not to overuse it!
Again, having a keyword density range helps us establish a benchmark that we can test against what’s already ranking to end up with a precise figure.
I’d argue that a keyword density over 3% is stuffing. So, it’s worth being careful when writing, not to overuse your keyword. Again, think of it as a benchmark, not a precise number.
If you’re using Yoast or Rankmath, you can largely ignore the keyword Density light, so long as you’re using your keyword under 3%. Both will tell you if your stuffing, so pay attention to that advice!
Ensuring you use the ideal keyword density
Here are a few tips to ensure you don’t stuff your keyword in your article and produce something unreadable.
Write for the user
While this should go without saying, so many people are trying to game the system. And while they might get away with it in the short term, Google is constantly updating its algorithm to make these sorts of tactics and techniques useless.
So, write for the user and include the keyword naturally as you go. Don’t overthink it. Just let everything work as it should.
Cover the topic
If you build an article outline from a list of commonly asked questions, you’ll ensure that you fully cover the topic. And just like writing for the user, the keyword will naturally work its way into the article.
The more helpful your article is, the more likely it will rank in the top spot on the search results.
Don’t sweat keyword density
As keyword density is subjective, never become too overly concerned about it. Of course, worry if you haven’t used your keyword at all or have included it in every paragraph. Otherwise, don’t worry too much.
Reread before publishing (or hire an editor)
If you own a micro business and can’t afford to hire an editor to ensure every article is as good as it can be, reread it the next day. By taking some time away from your post, you’ll spot mistakes easier and be able to focus on tweaking it.
Don’t worry too much about keyword stuffing
If you’re writing naturally and trying to cover the topic, you should be fine. Of course, if you intentionally overuse your keyword will likely create issues.
Keep your keyword density well below 3%, and you should be fine. A figure over 3% is cause for concern. Do your own calculations rather than relying on a plug-in and its traffic light system.
Part of your number-crunching should be looking at what’s already ranking and then trying to use the keyword density range you obverse as a benchmark.
As you now understand what is keyword stuffing and how to avoid it, you can build a better website for your business that attracts your ideal buyers.
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