Those of us that remember the older days of SEO may remember the idea of being able to “sneak” your way into a ranking. There were a variety of tactics that could be used to essentially trick Google into giving pages top ranking, but that’s changed. The various iterations of Google’s algorithm changes now prioritize useful, high-quality content that’s optimised for certain keywords over cheap tricks. In fact, it’s now evolved from rewarding such efforts to actively penalising them with lower rankings. Keyword stuffing is one such example, but some well-meaning people may fall into it by accident. Here’s how to avoid it.

What Is Keyword Stuffing In SEO? 

In essence, keyword stuffing is overusing a given keyword to the point where it actively hinders the grammar or flow of a piece.

For example, trying to include a keyword in every other sentence of a smaller, 500-word piece, is a bad idea, particularly if it seems unnatural. Google’s algorithm naturally pushes down language that isn’t grammatically correct or reads strangely. This includes typos, but also awkwardly shoehorning in certain keywords. This can be especially difficult if you are trying to optimise for long-tail keywords. It’s going to be more difficult to construct natural sentences that incorporate these.

To avoid this issue from getting out of control, many experts recommend you stick to around one usage of a keyword per 200 words, while also including it in a heading if you can.

How Do You Calculate Keyword Density? 

Keyword density or frequency is essentially how many times a given term is used in a piece of content. An easy way to calculate this yourself is by dividing the frequency of your keyword by the number of words you have per page. For example, if you had a 100-word webpage and used a keyword once, that’s a keyword density of 5%. Most of the time, it’s recommended that you have a density between 1.5% and 3%. This is enough for it to register with Google as a keyword, but not enough to potentially lead to a stuffing penalty. Using a free keyword density checker helps a lot here for larger pieces that are difficult to pare through.

How To Keep Natural Keyword Density 

Monitoring how you implement keywords is key for overall SEO success, but you also want to find some good natural habits as well. Text that naturally orbits around a keyword will better rank in Google. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Have the right mindset. Make sure that you’re designing pieces that are about a given keyword, rather than referencing it every now and again to try and fit it in.
  2. Maintain quality content. Take some time to think whether or not this content is going to be useful for your audience. Optimisation is useful, but, to create top-ranking content, it will also need to be high-quality. 
  3. Avoid incorrect phrases. Trying to switch a common phrase to incorporate your keyword will not get past Google.
  4. Increase the word count. Pieces with higher word count allow you to get more keyword uses in without hurting density. 
  5. Effective keyword research. Make sure the keywords you are working towards aren’t overly competitive or useless for your audience.

Keyword stuffing penalties are only one part of creating an overall strong strategy for on-page SEO. With all the effort people go through to run their business, it can be difficult to keep track of everything. Along with this, you want to make sure that you’re not missing out on optimising the right keywords for your niche. The best way to manage this is by reaching out and getting a full website audit from a qualified SEO agency.