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How to Effectively Use Keywords without Hurting SEO

Keyword stuffing is an old tactic that marketers once used to try and help pages rank higher in search engines. Around 20 years ago, marketers who only care about rankings would write content unnaturally filled with the keyword phrase they wanted to rank for. However, Google has since made many updates that penalize sites practicing keyword stuffing and not writing to answer the actual inquiry.

What is Keyword Stuffing, and Why is it Bad?

What is Keyword Stuffing, and Why is it Bad?

Let’s say you search Google for “best SEO practices.” How would you feel if one of the top results repeated the phrase “best SEO practices” over and over without ever giving any information or actionable tips on SEO practices? Keyword stuffing makes copy difficult to read because none of the sentences flow or offer any insight on the topic.

For example, a keyword-stuffed paragraph for a site like that might read something like:

If you want to understand best SEO practices, then you’ve come to the right place. We understand best SEO practices and want to help you learn more about their value. Best SEO practices are how brands improve their search engine rankings. You won’t rank well with search engines if you aren’t following best practices for SEO.

Not only is the keyword used too many times to feel natural, but the entire paragraph wastes the reader’s time.

If you were online 15 or 20 years ago, you probably remember how irritating it was when you accidentally landed on these pages.

Keyword-stuffed content was totally useless and—worse—it was often gateway content to unrelated sites. A “best SEO practices” page might offer no value AND contain links to men’s supplements or gaming sites. Sometimes, it took bouncing in and out of search results until you found a page that actually offered an answer to your question. Search engines have come a long way in abolishing spammy content like that.

How Does Keyword Stuffing Hurt My Brand?

How Does Keyword Stuffing Hurt My Brand?

While most sites no longer practice keyword stuffing, some still fall into this trap because they are hyper-focused on improving their search visibility.

Keyword stuffing includes:

  • Unnatural keyword density and lack of variations
  • Using words that have no context or value
  • Blocks of text that contain the same keyword
  • Using terms that aren’t relevant to the page topic
  • Hyperlinking to unrelated anchor text
  • Hiding keywords by making them the same color as the background
  • Repeating keywords in the page code, alt attributions and tags

These practices are now considered “black hat” marketing tactics and can actually result in a lower ranking.

And, while you might be trying to draw in more people to your site, keyword stuffing will likely drive your visitors away. According to Google:

  • Brands have a chance to shine. 9/10 people don’t have a specific brand in mind when they search for information. For example “sock brands” or “mens watch brands.” There are so many brands to choose from today that buyers are less concerned with shopping a specific brand and more interested in finding something that suits their needs perfectly. This means brands should focus on helping shoppers get the information they need to make a decision and enable them to purchase where and when they want to. Shoppers are quick to bail if the page content isn’t adding value to their search experience.
  • Valuable content increases your chances of conversion. 80% are likely to purchase from companies that help them answer their questions.
  • Keyword stuffing will increase your bounce rates. Consumers are quick to bail if a site is sluggish or doesn’t provide real answers. The goal should be to give visitors access to valuable information when they need it most, make it easy to find, and once you have them on the page, do everything you can to help them enjoy the experience and stay as long as possible.
  • People are always on the hunt, often taking days or weeks to make a purchase decision. 84% of Americans are actively shopping at any given time (in up to six different categories). And the majority of them turn to search to help find what they need. They don’t have time to waste on pages and websites that are not built to serve their needs.

How to Use Keywords without Hurting Your Site SEO

How to Use Keywords without Hurting Your Site SEO

So, are keywords pointless then? No, not at all.

SEO is very much alive and best achieved by targeting keywords using white hat practices.

Keywords can be used to help you think about real users and common search queries. You can use keywords and keyword phrases to think about what kind of content your audience is actively searching for. Knowing popular search terms can also help you write content that your audience wants to read.\

Use Google’s Keyword Planner Tool

You can check out how competitive and popular keywords are with the Google Ads Keyword Planner Tool. This allows you to filter keywords by their average monthly searches, competition and suggested bid for a sponsored placement. It will also help you find related keywords and phrases you may not have thought of before that are similar to the keyword you want to focus on ranking for with your content.

For a different selection of keywords, try using a competitor’s website. Choose a website that typically ranks well and has great domain authority. Use a page that covers content similar to what you want to rank for and enter the URL into the Google Keyword Planner’s “Start with a Website” section for discovering new keywords. Rather than give you the most common keywords related to the one you select, it will mine the website for the keywords the competitor is using in their content.

Check out this article on tips for finding great keywords.

Write Naturally and Offer Value

Analyze how your keywords would fit into content. Rather than writing a very basic post, consider how you can dive into the information and answer questions your audience is really asking.

Remember, search engines are there to help people find content that aligns with their query. If someone is looking for CRM software, they won’t want a basic page telling them what CRM software does. The user searching for CRM software would be most interested in a landing page for CRM solutions or a blog post diving into CRM insights.

You can even take a keyword and see how many niche content pieces you can create around that keyword. For example, if your keyword is about CRMs, you could write things like, “How to Use Your CRM Effectively,” “What to Look for in a CRM,” “7 CRM Best Practice Tips to Improve Customer Relationships” and “10 Top CRM Tools Perfect for Small Business.”

It can be helpful to have a list of keywords and alternative terms to include, but keywords shouldn’t drive the message. It’s more important to answer the questions and offer insight than to force several specific phrases into the article.

Do you want to rank higher for relevant keywords? We can help with search engine optimization services. Reach out and talk to us today about how our strategies could help your business.

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci

Gerald D. Vinci is the CEO of Vinci Digital with over 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising. He partners with mid-size, established businesses as a growth and scalability consultant and strategic branding advisor as well as offering a full-suite of agency services. Gerald calls Carmel, CA home with his wife Safira and two children. He has co-authored two books, and is working on his own upcoming book titled, “Small Business Pricing Mastery – Creating effective pricing and defining value for today’s products and services.”