What Is Keyword Stuffing (Irrelevant Keywords)?

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QUOTE: “Keyword Stuffed” Main Content Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users. Keyword stuffing can range from mildly annoying to users, to complete gibberish. Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.” Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines 2017

Keyword stuffing keywords refers to the practice of adding irrelevant keywords to a web page to manipulate where a page ranks in search engines. Google tells SEO not to do this. It’s counterproductive. It’s is a signpost of a very low-quality spam site and is something Google clearly recommends you avoid.

It is:

QUOTE: ““Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results.“ Google Webmaster Guidelines 2020

Keyword stuffing text makes your copy often unreadable and so, a bad user experience. It can get a page demoted in Google but it depends on the intent and the trust and authority of a site. It is sloppy SEO.

It is not a tactic you want to employ in search of long-term rankings. Stuffing keywords:

QUOTE: “….results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking.” Google Webmaster Guidelines, 2020

Just because someone else is successfully doing it do not automatically think you will get away with it.

Don’t do it – there are better ways of ranking in Google without resorting to it.

QUOTE:  Keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Make sure your content is written in a natural way. Humans, when they view your website, they’re not going to count the number of occurrences of each individual word. And search engines have kind of moved on from there over the years as well. So they’re not going to be swayed by someone who just has the same keyword on their page 20 times because they think that this, kind of, helps search engines understand what this page is about. Essentially, we look at the content. We try to understand it, as we would with normal text. And if we see that things like keyword stuffing are happening on a page, then we’ll try to ignore that, and just focus on the rest of the page that we can find.” John Mueller, Google 2014

Does that imply what we call a keyword stuffing “penalty” for a page, Google calls ‘ignoring that‘.

From what I’ve observed, pages can seem to perform bad for sloppy keyword phrase stuffing, although they still can rank for long tail variations of it.

QUOTE“The bottom line is using more relevant keyword variations = more traffic”. Aaron Wall, 2009

He goes further with still excellent piece of advice, today:

QUOTE:  Each piece of duplication in your on-page SEO strategy is ***at best*** wasted opportunity. Worse yet, if you are aggressive with aligning your on page heading, your page title, and your internal + external link anchor text the page becomes more likely to get filtered out of the search results (which is quite common in some aggressive spaces). Aaron Wall, 2009

… with the caveat being a high-quality site rarely needs to be worried about being filtered out of search.

QUOTE: “That’s just not the way it works….. Continue to repeat stuff over and over again then you are in danger of getting into ‘keyword stuffing’.” Matt Cutts, Google 2011

Google’s advice in the past about keyword stuffing was to:

QUOTE: “Just find the hidden text or the keyword stuffing and remove it.” Matt Cutts, Nelson, Google 2013

As Google says in their manifesto:

QUOTE: “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” Google, 2020

It is time to focus on the user when it comes to content marketing, and the bottom line is you need to publish unique content free from any low-quality signals if expect some sort of traction in Google SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

QUOTE: “High quality content is something I’d focus on. I see lots and lots of SEO blogs talking about user experience, which I think is a great thing to focus on as well. Because that essentially kind of focuses on what we are trying to look at as well. We want to rank content that is useful for (Google users) and if your content is really useful for them, then we want to rank it.” John Mueller, Google 2015

Those in every organisation with the responsibility of adding content to a website should understand these fundamental aspects about satisfying web content because the door is firmly closing on unsatisfying web content.

Low-quality content can severely impact the success of SEO.

SEO copy-writing is a bit of a dirty word – but the text on a page still requires optimised, using familiar methods, albeit published in a markedly different way than we, as SEO, used to get away with.

EXAMPLE: Beware Keyword Stuffing E-commerce Website Category Pages

Google’s John Meuller just helped someone out in this week’s Google Webmaster Hangout, and his answer was very interesting:

QUOTE: “The site was ranking the first page for the keyword (widget) and(widgets) in Australia since two weeks we moved all the way down to page five. Technical changes haven’t been made to the site the only modification was we added more category landing text to rank for various other (keywords)

John declared:

QUOTE: “the modification that you mentioned (above) that you put more category landing text on the page that might also be something that’s playing a role there. What I see a lot with e-commerce sites is that they take a category page that’s actually pretty good and they stuff a whole bunch of text on the bottom and that’s essentially just kind of roughly related to that content which is essentially like bigger than the Wikipedia page on that topic and from our point of view when we look at things like that our algorithms kind of quickly kind of back off and say whoa it looks like someone is just trying to use keyword stuffing to include a bunch of kind of unrelated content into the same page and then our algorithms might be a bit more critical and kind of like be cautious with regards to the content that we find on this page so that’s one thing to kind of watch out for.

I think it’s good to / help provide more context to things that you have on your website but kind of be reasonable and think about what users would actually use and focus on that kind of content so for example if if the bottom of these pages is just a collection of keywords and a collection of sentences where those keywords are artificially used then probably users aren’t going to scroll to the bottom and read all of that tiny text and actually use that content in a useful way and then probably search engines are also going to back off and say well this page is is doing some crazy stuff here we don’t really know how much we can trust the content on the page.”

If you are keyword stuffing e-commerce category pages, watch out. Google tells us these things for a reason. Adding optimised text to e-commerce category pages ‘just for the sake of it’ is probably going to work against you (and might be working against you today).

Keyword stuffing has been against the rules for a long time.

John previously stated back during 2016:

QUOTEif we see that things like keyword stuffing are happening on a page, then we’ll try to ignore that, and just focus on the rest of the page”.

Google has algorithms AND human reviewers looking out for it when the maths miss it:

7.4.2 “Keyword Stuffed” Main Content

QUOTE: ‘Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users. Keyword stuffing can range from mildly annoying to users, to complete gibberish. Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful MC to help users, should be rated Lowest.’  Search Quality Raters Guidelines March 14, 2017

While there is obviously a balance to be had in this area, Google classes keyword stuffing as adding ‘irrelevant keywords‘ to your site. There are warnings also about this age-old SEO technique in the general webmaster guidelines:

General Guidelines: Irrelevant Keywords

QUOTE: “Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as natural prose). Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

Examples of keyword stuffing include:

  • Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
  • Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
  • Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.