What Is Keyword Stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is using the same keyword in a piece of content more than it is natural. It is a black hat SEO technique practiced to manipulate the search engine results.
The idea behind it is very simple.
Since search engine spiders crawl a web page for the terms that exist in the content, the more often a keyword appears on a page, the more relevancy search engines may assign to that page.
In the early days of the search engines, keyword stuffing used to work to manipulate SEO rankings. Anyone without having much of SEO knowledge could repeat the same keywords over and over again in a piece of content to rank on Google. However, it is considered as over-optimization and will either devalue our content or invite a Google penalty if applied today.
Let's start with an example to explain it.
The below paragraph can be a very good example of keyword stuffing.
African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. African elephants are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears. African elephants live in hot dry climates.
As you may have also noticed, the paragraph has an unnatural flow. The word “African elephants” used more than it is natural. In reality, it is unlikely a human writer will write a paragraph like that.
Here is how a normal paragraph without keyword stuffing should look like:
African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth live in hot dry climates. They are slightly larger than their Asian cousins and can be identified by their larger ears.
Using the targeted keyword more than it is necessary creates keyword dilution that reduces the chances to rank for it.
Keyword stuffing is the exact opposite of keyword deficiency that is not having the targeted keyword sufficient enough to rank for it on Google.
It doesn't always mean using the primary keyword more than it is natural. Sometimes the use of other words or phrases that are not really relevant to the content of the website is considered as keyword stuffing.
It may happen at different levels. Sometimes only headings of content repeating the same term over and over again may cause it to appear.
For instance, if all H1, H2 headings repeating the exact match of a certain keyword can be considered by the search engines as keyword stuffing.
Also, if meta titles, meta descriptions, image names, image alt tags or image captions are all including the same term multiple times may also create the same result.
Are There Any Keyword Stuffing Penalty?
Keyword stuffing can trigger certain pieces of algorithms related to webspam. However, there is no exact procedure declared by the search engines when it comes to how they handle it.
The SEO community believes that search engines penalize the website if they find out certain website practices keyword stuffing. Although what type of penalty assigned by the search engines is unknown for us, some people like to speculate it can result in deindexation from search results for the website.
Google’s John Mueller explained earlier that Google may not be concerned with keyword stuffing as much as the SEO community does. In fact, if the content is found useful for the searchers, keyword stuffing may be completely ignored.
Google's response posted on Twitter in response to someone concerned about a page ranking well in search results although there are obvious signs of keyword repetition.
John Mueller said there are 200-page ranking criteria used by Google. However, “the nice part is that you don’t have to get them all perfect.”
When another user further questioned the unnecessary keyword repetition, Mueller responded like,
“Yeah, but if we can ignore boring keyword stuffing (this was popular in the 90’s; search engines have a lot of practice here), there’s sometimes still enough value to be found elsewhere. I don’t know the page, but IMO keyword stuffing shouldn’t result in removal from the index.”
How To Avoid Keyword Stuffing?
Keywords are definitely an integral part of any content marketing campaign. We cannot completely ignore them and still have high ranking positions.
The right practice of avoiding keyword stuffing is understanding that the more is not always better. Search engines are really smart today to assign relevancy to a piece of content not depending on the keyword density mathematics.
We should aim to create great content that provides the best user experience for our reader.
Here are some of the best practices we can implement in our content right away.
Using long-tail keyword variations usually, save our content from repeating the exact match keyword multiple times. Because long-tail keywords are different variations of our main keyword.
Another great idea is including the LSI Keywords that meaningfully complement our main keywords. By doing so, we can increase the relevancy of our content without using our main keyword many times.
To sum up, the overuse of keywords is probably not a good idea because it makes reading content less enjoyable. Keyword consistency, however, is not going to hurt a piece of content when it comes to search results ranking.
As a final advice, try to focus on writing high-quality relevant content that human and search engines would love. Don't get obsessed with the numerical percentage of using a certain keyword to achieve a high ranking position.
No matter what type of content marketing you pursue, doing the right keyword research does matter. You can find my recommended keyword research tools that can help you to pick low competition keywords.