What Does Keyword Stuffing Mean and How to Avoid It
More keywords doesn't always equal better performance.
Must. Include. One. More. Keyword. Nope — GPO doesn’t believe in keyword stuffing. In fact, it can be downright harmful to your content. From selecting the right keyphrases to working them into your content, here’s our keyword stuffing definition and advice on how to create keyphrase-rich content without overdoing it.
What is Keyword Stuffing?
You know it’s bad, but what is keyword stuffing in SEO? Keyphrase stuffing is often used in an attempt to “trick” search engines into giving your site a higher ranking by repetitively using the same keywords. The tactic creates a high level of keyword density — the percentage of keywords used in relation to other text.
Some common keyphrase stuffing strategies include:
- Using multiple keyphrases in succession
- Using keyphrases out of context
- Using keywords that are unnatural or are incomplete phrases
- Using lists or groupings of keywords that add little to no value to the content
Theoretically, it makes sense: the more keyphrases, the better for your site, right? Not necessarily. Gaming the system doesn’t work when it comes to search engines as smart as Google. Keyword stuffing makes your content hard to digest and search engine algorithms easily weed out and penalize spammy sites. So, your best intentions could end up harming your site on multiple fronts: losing you valuable clicks, calls, and ultimately business.
How to Avoid Keyword Stuffing
We’re ALL about content best practices here at GPO. We believe in keyphrase research, but we don’t want our content to sound like a bot wrote it. Our team believes in strategy — so we select the keyphrases that are relevant to the brand, audience, and ultimately the topic at hand.
Trust us: there’s no need to resort to robo-speak. Here are our tips to avoid keyword stuffing and instead create engaging and keyphrase-rich content.
Step One: Choose Your Keywords Strategically
The terms keywords and keyphrase are often used interchangeably. Both derive from the search queries (the words and phrases) that searchers type into their search engines. However, they are different.
Single keywords are typically non-specific and hard to work with. They quickly get repetitive and drive your keyword density up too high — read: you’ll end up with an unintentionally stuffed piece. Not to mention, single keywords are often difficult — or costly — to rank for. Let’s take the word shoes, for example. It has a high keyword difficulty with over 4 million variations. There are, after all, many types of shoes and many shoe brands. If you’re a mom-and-pop shoe shop, you’re not going to have much success with just, “shoes”.
On the other hand, multi-word keyphrases are a bit easier to work with. They can be general or specific and their variations tend to feel more natural for the reader. Keeping with the example of shoes, you may end up with “shoe stores near me”, “women’s shoes”, or even “off-white shoes”. While these keyphrases are more specific and interesting for the reader, they may still be difficult to rank for.
Long-tail keywords refer to either keyphrases or keywords paired with one or more specific modifiers. Long-tail keywords tend to have a lower search volume, but their specificity typically draws in high-intent users and results in higher click-through rates and conversions.
Here, you might pair the variations of the keyword “shoes” with one or more words, including descriptors or geo modifiers. As a result, you may end up with long-tail keywords like: “ pink kitten heels,” “mens high top sneakers,” “best shoes for nurses with plantar fasciitis,” or “boot shops in Nashville.”
In addition to drawing in high-intent consumers, these variations are more unique and interesting for the reader.
Keep Relevancy in Mind
While it may be tempting to use your own trademarked or technical phrasing, it’s wise to stray away from jargon. Instead, put yourself in your target market’s shoes. Figure out how potential customers actually describe and search for your product, service, or the topic at hand. Then, you’ll be able to look for top-of-mind keyphrases that best match their search intent.
Next, select keyphrases that clearly align with the piece you’re going to create. At this point, you may have a list of hundreds of potential keywords. Whenever possible, eliminate incomplete or incorrect phrasings — example: “why car not start” — as you go.
From here, you’ll strategically narrow down your keyphrases by examining both search volume and keyword difficulty scores.
Balance Keyphrase Search Volume with Keyphrase Difficulty
Search volume, or monthly volume, refers to the number of searches for a given keyword over a month’s time. Search volume is a great indication of demand. In order to capture the most traffic, you’ll want to look for keywords that are frequently searched.
Still, keyphrases with high search volume are also high in keyphrase difficulty. Therefore, you’ll need to strike a balance between search volume and difficulty to find the right keywords to fit your site’s strategy.
Keyphrase difficulty refers to how difficult it will be for your brand to rank within the top ten results on a SERP. The higher the difficulty, the less likely it is that your brand will rank for a given keyphrase.
Ultimately, you’ll want to select keywords that are an appropriate difficulty level in relation to your brand’s domain authority. The higher your domain authority, the more likely it is that you can rank for a difficult keyphrase.
Select a Target Keyphrase
Your strongest keyphrase, also known as your target keyphrase, is the most relevant keyword or keyphrase to your piece of content. Your target keyphrase should be high up in your piece — preferably within the title or headers.
Ideally, your target keyphrase should strike a balance between low keyphrase difficulty and high search volume. Selecting a focus keyphrase is dependent upon relevance as well as your site’s domain authority.
Step Two: Determine How Many Keywords You Should Use
How many keywords and phrases you use depends upon the piece of content you’re working with and the types of keyphrases you’re using. The number of keyphrases you’d incorporate into a 1,000+ word article isn’t the same strategic approach you should take when writing 200-word product descriptions.
Generally, a longer piece of content can support more keywords — so long as the content itself remains useful. In shorter pieces, like a 600-word blog post, you’ll want to select 3-4 strong keywords or keyphrases. When in doubt, use a keyword phrase density checker to make sure that you’re not overdoing it.
Step Three: Naturally Incorporate Keyphrases Into Your Writing
With keyphrases in hand, you’re finally ready to begin writing. In this step, what’s most important is how and when you use your keyphrases. To avoid keyphrase stuffing, you’ll need to keep in mind that you’re writing for people first and search engines second.
Here are a few tricks that can help if you’re struggling to incorporate your keywords naturally:
- Use questions to frame keyphrases: Wondering, “where to find women’s shoes near me”? Shoe Spot has you covered.
- Use keyphrases in your headers and titles: “7 tips for How to Style Sneakers with Jeans”
- Write naturally. Then go back and find those keyphrase opportunities during the editing phase
Writing Tip #1: Choose Quality of Content over Quantity of Keywords
Keep in mind, while keyphrases can help a user get your site, you need strong content to draw them in and keep them there. The average user spends just seconds on a webpage, it’s important that your content satisfies their inquiry and provides a value proposition — and fast!
In terms of content, quality is determined by a variety of factors, including:
- Are you answering your audience’s question?
- Are you using factual, proven information?
- Is your content timely, focused, relevant, and engaging?
- Does your content cover the topic with appropriate scope?
If the answer to any of the above questions is no, it’s time to take a second pass at your piece.
Writing Tip #2: Keep Zero-Click in Mind When Writing
While keyphrase-rich content can help your brand show up in organic search results, keep in mind that nearly half of all searches result in a “zero-click.” This behavior shows that people find the answer they need right on a search engine result page — including rich results.
You may not have the opportunity to drive people to site to read the entire piece. Write with search in mind. When crafting content, envision how your content may show up as a rich snippet on Google. Snippets, on average, are 160 to 230 characters long. Create bite-sized content that’s relevant and has the opportunity to show up as a rich result on search.
Step Four: Publish Your Content and Track Your Progress
The time has come: you’re ready to publish! Schedule your content — keeping in mind best practices — and then have a little patience. You’ll need to wait for your pages to be indexed before they’ll appear in any search engine results.
Step Five: Repeat the Process — Often!
Whether you choose to post twice a week or twice a month, find a posting schedule that works for you and stick to it. Consistently monitor your site and adjust your content strategy as needed, learning as you go and keeping in mind that it takes time to see results.
Need help with your content? Whether you need to create a thousand product descriptions or content for your local pages, GPO has a team of expert writers at the ready! Reach out to learn more about Tailor Content and see how your content can make the internet a better place.