Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is fairly straightforward – it’s the crowding of keywords on a page via body content, meta tags and alt tags. This black-hat SEO method is used to try and boost the page’s ranking in Google, but it doesn’t really work – in fact it can actually do the opposite.

Back in the day

When Google was first starting out as a search engine, one of the ways it searched for relevant pages for the user was to scan them for instances of a keyword. If you searched ‘blue watch’, for example, then the top result could’ve been a page that contained the words ‘blue watch’ hundreds of times. The text could’ve been as unhelpful as: ‘Sports blue watch perfect for swimming. Excellent blue watch with great battery life. White dial on blue watch. Blue Watch. Blue Watch.’ Not what the user is looking for. Some sneakier web designers even ‘hid’ the keywords on a page by making them the same colour as the background, known as keyword cloaking.

Wisening Up

Ever evolving, Google got wind of this spammy tactic pretty soon. In order to connect users with content that satisfies their search intent, it created new algorithms which favored high-quality, informative content. The most famous of these updates is called Panda. When content isn’t written for a human audience, but is structured with SEO gains in mind, the result is usually a spammy, inaccessible read that doesn’t provide a good solution to the user intent. Google started to punish websites that overused keywords in this way by downgrading their rankings.

Achieving balance

Keywords are still very important for SEOs, helping us to identify topics which users are searching for. And we can use them to show Google what it is that we intended our site pages to respond to. But as the Big G says, ‘Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

I know what you’re thinking. What does ‘appropriately’ mean exactly? How can we apply this to our content writing?

Here are some tips on how to use keywords appropriately:

  • Ignore Keywords – focus on creating high-quality content, and don’t think too much about how many times you’ve included particular keywords. It’s likely that keywords will flow naturally into your writing when you’re considering a certain topic, and more people will actually want to read your piece. Google digs that.


  • Vary your keywords – Rather than hammering the same keyword throughout a piece of content, use synonyms. Sites like twinword can be used to look for alternatives as well as Thesaurus sites.


  • Keep an eye on keyword density – Counting how many times you’ve used a keyword isn’t something we’d necessarily recommend. If you’re writing quality content that someone would enjoy reading, it’s not likely to contain the keywords repeatedly – no one wants to read that. If you want to check whether you’ve inadvertently peppered your content with too many keywords though, you can measure it against Yoast’s keyword density suggestion of 0.5-3%, or up to 3 times per 100 words.


Keyword stuffing is a relic from Google’s early days, used to try to boost the ranking of pages. It’s no longer part of any successful SEO campaign. Keywords have their place, but that place is in the backseat. The driver should always be quality – creating websites that people enjoy visiting with content that captures their attention.

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