Keyword stuffing: what it is and how to stop doing it

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If you’ve ever read a page which repeats the same words over and over again, quite often without really saying anything worth your reading, that’s a keyword-stuffed page.

Back in the very early days of the internet, search engines were rather simple things. They looked for keywords in web pages, and they counted how many times the keywords came up. Then they awarded a score for that. The more keywords, the higher you ranked.

So canny people made sure their keywords appeared lots of times in their web pages, even if it didn’t really make sense. You got a feeling they had looked at Roget’s thesaurus too much. You’d find sentences like “when you open the box you will feel amazed to see such a stylish pen, stylish writing instrument, good-looking ballpoint.”

It feels weird. And search engines found out pretty quickly that this was happening. What they also found out is that most of us don’t want to read pages that do this. We want to read pages that are well written and flow well. So now, Google takes less account of keywords, and rewards readability instead.

One of the reasons for keyword stuffing is probably that many people generate their keyword lists without a lot of subtlety, and then they want to pack all those keywords into their product listing. For instance it’s obvious if you have a soft, small blanket that you’re going to get lots of keywords with ‘baby’ in. Baby clothes, baby snuggle, baby blanket, baby bedding… but you don’t want to put all of those in a single huge product title or a big bullet point.

In fact if you’re writing copy that tells your customers what they want to hear about your blanket, you need lots of non-baby words; comfort, soft, caring, sweet, natural, sleep, and so on. If you just go baby baby baby you sound like a 1950s pop song.

So while keywords are important, you mustn’t get fixated on them. Keywords are like medication – you need the right ones, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better. In fact, more could be very bad for you indeed!

So here are our tips for smartening up your copy.

•      If you find places where the sentences feel awkward, that’s because you gave the keyword priority over comprehension. These are the first places you need to change.

•      Look for long tail keywords which use four or five of your keywords at once. How about “our sweet, soft baby blanket will let your infant snuggle up close”? Lots of keywords there!

•      Make sure you know what are your main keywords and which keywords are secondary. Be ready to drop secondary ones if they just don’t fit.

•      Know your keyword density. Optimally, keyword density is just 2 percent.

•      If you have keywords that you can’t shoehorn into your text, you can always index them in the back end. Amazon will still know they’re there.

•      Don’t read any SEO books written more than a couple of years ago. The game has changed! The same goes for blogs – only read recent content on this subject.

•      Make sure all your keywords are relevant and crucial.

•      Think about how people will look for your product, not what your product is. You might have a pheromone based feline relaxation spray, but people are more likely to look for “stop cat scratching” or “stop cats fighting”.

•      Use keywords in your titles, captions, subheadings and image alt tags. It’s more elegant putting alternative keywords in subheadings than jamming them all into one sentence. Follow these tips and you can convert a keyword-heavy page into a readable, interesting product listing – and still get all the hits you want.

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