“Keyword stuffing” is a black-hat SEO practice. What does that mean?
Google defines keyword stuffing as: “the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results.” From the use of the word “manipulate,” it’s already pretty clear that keyword stuffing is not something you want to be doing.
But why is considered manipulation?
Keywords are like salt. A little bit can really bring out the flavor, but too much will overpower the flavor and ruin the food. Sprinkling keywords into your content naturally will enhance the “flavor” of your content, but dumping a mound of keywords into the content will completely spoil it, and maybe your chances of being on Google.
Search engines favor content that helps people and provides good information. The goal of keyword stuffing isn’t to provide human-readable content, instead, the focus is on grabbing the attention of search engine crawlers. This seems like a good idea on paper, so let’s explore that concept a little.
Here is Google’s example of a stuffed or “oversalted” block of text:
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Pretty painful to read, isn’t it? That’s some salty content!
Sometimes the saltiness isn’t immediately apparent to the user though. A few other methods of salting the content involve hiding keywords in places where a user can’t see them, but search engines will. Here are a few examples:
Making keyword text the same color as the background. Hiding keywords in the meta description. Putting keywords in elements that are hidden with CSS styling. Adding a link on a period in a sentence (semi-visible).
Keyword stuffing was commonly used when search engines were in their infancy, but today’s search engines will not be fooled. You will be penalized if you stuff keywords.
Sometimes you can see short-term benefits, but once Google figures out your strategy, expect your ranking to drop like a rock.
We’ve looked at the numerous ways to oversalt your content, so how do you use keywords properly?
Here are a few ways to “taste-test” your content:
Does your content provide value to the reader? Is it answering the questions that the reader has? Are your keywords relevant to the content? If you read it out loud, does it flow naturally?
If your content doesn’t help the reader or just sounds unnatural, you’ll need to adjust the saltiness until it’s just right.
At the end of the day, if you write quality content that serves your users well, the results will come.