A common misconception in SEO is that getting pages to rank well organically means putting keywords on the page wherever and whenever possible. However, this practice, known as “keyword stuffing,” often leads to poorer rankings and content that’s difficult to read.
Keyword stuffing is the SEO practice of using target keywords too many times on a given page. Sometimes keyword stuffing is purposeful, like changing the font color of the keywords to match the background color of the page (think, black hat SEO practices), while sometimes it’s accidental, like repeating the same word too many times throughout the copy.
While it’s easy to avoid purposeful keyword stuffing, the tricky part comes when it’s done accidentally. That’s why it’s important to know how to avoid this practice. Luckily, we have three tips to help you out when creating content:
First, you should always be writing for your audience, not for Google. When you’re creating new content, put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Think about which user questions you’re aiming to answer and what your users need to know to solve their problems.
If you’re not convinced that this will work, think about BERT and natural language processing (NLP). If you’re unfamiliar with BERT, it was an algorithm update released by Google in October 2019 which introduced the idea of Google’s natural language processing tool. This meant that Google could now better understand the natural language of users, like people using voice search. It also means Google is moving further away from understanding and rewarding keyword stuffy content. So, if you’re speaking your users’ language, you’re now speaking Google’s language as well.
By expanding your target keyword list to incorporate different variations of your head term, you’ll avoid repetition of the same words more easily. Talk about your topic in different ways throughout the copy and use long-tail keywords to supplement head terms.
Chances are if you’re writing a page about changing a flat tire, users want answers to more than just one specific question on that topic. While the page can be focused on one overarching topic (changing a flat tire), other questions should be addressed as well. Are users looking to change their tire roadside (roadside tire change)? Is it an emergency (emergency tire change)? Or are they looking for someone to do it for them (tow truck tire change)?
Building out your keyword list will not only give you a better idea of which aspects of that topic your users are looking for information on, but it will also help to ensure you’re branching out in how you talk about the topic.
Your keyword list should look less like this:
And more like this:
It can be easy to get caught up in keywords when writing copy, especially when you’re focusing on writing from an SEO perspective. That’s why it’s important to read and re-read your content to ensure you don’t have keywords in unnecessary places. It can also help to read your content out loud as a final test. Make sure to include all of the following in your review:
- Page title
- Meta description
- Body copy
- Link anchor text
How many times have you repeated your keywords in these areas? While there’s no hard and fast rule about the correct keyword density (or how many times you’ve used each keyword on the page), if you’re using each target keyword more than a few times in these areas, think about rewording. You should only be using your keywords where it makes the most sense.
Once your content is live, make sure to monitor performance. Remember that the search landscape is constantly changing, so there’s always room for revisions.