The Dangers of SEO Keyword Stuffing


keyword stuffingKeyword stuffing, or the practice of shoving as many seo keywords onto a page as physical possible, has long been the bane of SEO white hats everywhere.

There was a time when the method of stuffing worked as well on a webpage as it does in a turkey. Back in the early years of search engines, one could easily manipulate a page’s ranking on Google’s SERP with keyword stuffing.

Sites could rank on a large variety of keywords by simply cluttering them onto a page, even if the keywords were unrelated and the site was absent of any real content.

You could be (somewhat) classy about it by hiding the offending keywords, matching their text color to the background color, or you could just be blatantly obnoxious.

Naturally this led to a terrible user experience, because most people aren’t looking to find a site that just reads “discount bike tires” repeated 500 times. Google and other search engines wised up and began filtering out offending keyword-stuffed pages, because these pages were largely devoid of useful content. 

The Dangers of Keyword Stuffing and Over-Optimizing

Keyword stuffing is now considered a strictly black-hat tactic.

Does keyword stuffing work? It depends on who you ask. It does tend to have some positive short-term effects, but it’s playing with fire and rarely is beneficial in the long run. Google will penalize your site if they catch you stuffing the keyword turkey. Your page could be demoted in rankings, or even removed all together!

Google’s own Matt Cutts warned webmasters about SEO keyword stuffing and over optimization at SXSW last week, saying:

"We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and a great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now."

In other words, Google keyword stuffing is a dangerous game, and isn’t likely to get more safe anytime soon.

Google dislikes black hat tactics like SEO keyword stuffing because those methods focus on beating the search engine algorithm rather than a great user experience.

Look at the keyword stuffing example below:

Are you looking for cheap running shoes? If you’re looking for cheap running shoes, look no further. Our cheap running shoes website is the best place to order your new cheap running shoes. Feel free to check out our selection of cheap running shoes from our cheap running shoes selection below.

Pretty unattractive, right? That’s not even the worst keyword stuffing out there.

The silly thing is, even if you somehow end up on the first page for “cheap running shoes,” no searcher who clicks on to your site will want to stay there. It naturally repels people, like dog poop left out in the sun. No one is going to see that mess and think “Wow, these people really care about me and my need for cheap running shoes.” Instead they will feel disgusted, used, and itching to get out of there. 

Keyword Stuffing vs. Responsible Keyword Optimization

It’s essential to differentiate keyword stuffing from general keyword usage. It’s still really important to use your keyword in your content, so don’t let all this Google will eat your brains and destroy your home if you do keyword stuffing talk frighten you away from responsible keyword insertion.

Like so many things in life, keywords need to be used in moderation. Some other things that rely heavily on moderation:

  • Cookie dough: A little bit is like an everlasting gobstopper, too much makes you feel sick. (And could even kill you. Salmonella poisoning anyone?)
  • Sunshine: Vitamin D or 3rd degree burn victim? You decide. 

Simply focus less on the robo-crawling-spider-bots and focus more on people. You know, the ones who will actually be looking at your site. Create information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in the proper, well-to-do fashion. Would Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess keyword stuff? Not likely. It's simply not done in proper society.

How to Insert Keywords Safely: Walking the Fine Line

So how do you use keyword responsibly?

Some say there is no magic number. Others say there is a magic number: 2-5% keyword density is considered safe by most.

Instead of using the same keyword a hundred and one times, try using some long-tail keyword variations to spice things up a bit in your content and help you hit that keyword density sweet spot.

Another tip is to try implementing synonyms (various words with the same meaning). Search engines recognize that words like “bat” are homonyms; they are words that have multiple meanings. Google prides itself on relevancy, so they want to be able to differentiate someone searching for a baseball “bat” vs. a flying vampire “bat.” For this reason, there's a database index of Google synonyms to help it differentiate between word meanings. Google knows that if a site is talking about “clubs” and “bats,” they are probably talking about sports equipment and not flying mammals.

Because synonyms help Google stay relevant, they tend to reward sites that implement them. Having a variety of related words also means that your site is more likely to have crafted content of real value rather than meaningless drivel meant to trick search engines, which gives Google another reason to add weight to synonyms.

What is your experience? Have you ever tried implementing keyword stuffing? Why or why not?

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Mar 21, 2012

Thanks for answering that question with the percentage #'s -  that is very helpful!  Long tails work great for those starting out too when there is a lot of competition. Good point! 

Small Business Internet Marketing
Mar 22, 2012

Great tips! Businesses may think keyword stuffing is the way to go since they could get ranked quickly, but as you mention moderation is usually the best policy. Especially since Google is often changing it's algorithm, it's probably best to always trying to be in the middle and use the best practices when it comes to local internet marketing.

Mar 26, 2012

Thanks guys, glad you liked the post.

Jeremy Ruggles
Apr 03, 2012

You would think that people would have learned by now that stuffing your site with any sort of keywordin any unatural way  is goinf to turn out bad. Have people not been watching what Google has been doing?I remember back in the day when you could type the word internet marketing 10,000 times on your site andcolor the text the same as your background so visitors didn't see it and your site would be ranked for thatkeyword. It's not as bad as it used to be, but I would think that people might start noticing a pattern here......Thanks for the info! ~Jeremy

Dmitriy Frolov
May 14, 2012

I have a really bad feeling about all this keyword stuffing. I haven`t use this technique for that matters, but I find amount of main keyword (30-40 sometimes) as warningBut I have to admit that there are a lot of 100% readable content and it was written for users in first place. I think I need to play with %, like in old times :)

Korey's Blog
May 16, 2012

Keyword stuffing is definitely becoming more of an issue. Well, I wouldn't say more of an issue. It has always been around. We are just now seeing Google take serious action for it. Overall a great post!

Rainbow SEO
Dec 14, 2012

Keyword stuffing is really detrimental these days. In fact, it's really not taht necessary at all, better results come from using keywords extremely limited. 

Paul $
May 02, 2013

I hear you, Megan. It is indeed a fine line between keyword stuffing and search engine optimization.Some people come up with recipes as to how many keywords would be too many. But I don't believe in those "recipes", as they have nothing to do with practical ways of avoiding keyword stuffing.That's why I normally take a new page, scan it with Website Auditor and get the average number of keywords on the websites that rank in top 30 for the same keywords I want to rank for.Has worked very well for me so far Paul 

Web SEO Experts
May 05, 2013

Its amazing how SEO's still do keyword stuffing in their on-page and off-page strategies, with the Google filter being stringent with over optimisation penalties, its more important now to look natural and diversify the keywords by using LSI and Synynoms to get that natural feel.

Go Web Solutions
Nov 04, 2013

I can't believe we are actually still talking about keyword stuffing for SEO. The idea is to structure content well, and write for humans, right? What legitimate SEO would still stuff keywords?

Jayanta Dey
Jan 21, 2014

Great post. Keyword stuffing is considered to be an unethical search engine optimization (SEO) technique.Keyword stuffing tactic was the excessive use of the keyword in the title, in headings, and throughout the content.  Thanks for sharing with us about keyword stuffing.

Kay Jay
Feb 06, 2014

I'm not sure what's the logic behind the idealogy of keyword stuffing but I do to see a lot of people doing it though. 

manish kumar
Jul 26, 2014

Hi,What is the exact no. of repeating the kewords? It may be using 2-3 times the same word may be article requirment.So please advice me what to do. 

Aug 25, 2014

Although I'd like to believe that keyword stuffing is now finally being penalized, I've frankly seen very little evidence of it. There are still websites out there which don't even disguise the fact that they're using this tactic - sites that are worse than the facetious example given in this article - and yet they rose in rank in a short period of time. Some time ago I did an experiment in which I deliberately went overboard by repeating the same keyword dozens of times without any other word mxed in, and it had zero effect on Google's rankings for the page. None whatsoever.   

Nov 03, 2014

Thanks for answering.Thank you for your information.

Dec 09, 2014

Thanks for share your knowledge with us.Its really useful for us to understanding the worth of keywords, its implementation and mentinence. 

Jun 19, 2015

It just happen to me to be de-indexed by google. My website is started to loose traffic from google and i have no idea what to do.

Ankush Sangra
Apr 30, 2016

Despite knowing all this, it is hard to differentiate between, general keyword usage and keyword stuffing. Sometimes you have many variants of keywords.

Jeff Frank
Sep 29, 2016

If a page has 10 different long tail keywords (some of which share the same shortails) and those long tail keywords make up 25% of a page's total text -- is that considered keyword stuffing?

bad keywords
Nov 20, 2017

Hello! This is my first visit to your blog! We are
a team of volunteers and starting a new project in a community in the
same niche. Your blog provided us valuable information to
work on. You have done a outstanding job!

Dec 28, 2016

I generally keep the keyword density to 1% and i think it works fine for me.

Dec 01, 2017

Amazing and very informative post.

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