As content marketers looking to rank in search, keyword targeting is our holy grail. Because the more discoverable your content is, the more business growth, it can drive. But using keywords appropriately within your content is an art in itself. Do it wrong, and your SEO strategy could backfire, causing your search rankings to go down rather than shooting up. As a result, Google cautions copywriters and web developers against using irrelevant keywords and keyword stuffing.
What is keyword stuffing?
According to Google, keyword stuffing is the practice of loading your content with many keywords to manipulate search engines and rise up in search engine results pages. Often, these keywords don't flow well with the content and can look out of place. They may not even be very relevant to the context of the article or the audience's search intent. As a result, keyword stuffing leads to a negative experience for the audience, which in turn causes your search rankings to dip.
But often, keyword stuffing can be unintentional. For example, when you know that a particular word or phrase is essential to your content, you end up over-optimizing it. In the eyes of search engines and your audience, however, that's keyword stuffing too.
What is a good keyword density?
When it comes to deciding on a keyword frequency for your content, there is no hard and fast rule. Every marketer has their preference in this regard. But you will often hear SEO experts say that the optimal keyword density is 1 to 2 keywords for every 100 words of content. So that makes 1% to 2% an ideal density for your SEO keywords.
It is also important to remember that in trying to avoid SEO keyword stuffing, you might end up underutilizing certain keywords. That, again, can have an impact on search engine optimization. If you have not used a target keyword enough or in the right places, such as the meta tags, your content will not rank for it.
So while keyword stuffing issues can lead to poor audience experiences, the lack of keywords can also lead to missed opportunities - pulling your content down.
So how do you avoid keyword stuffing and still ensure optimum valuable keyword usage? Here are a few tips and tools that can help.
How to avoid keyword stuffing?
1. Pick one primary keyword and a few important secondary keywords
Successful SEO and optimum keyword use begin from the moment you start your keyword research. First, it is important to identify the right keywords for your content. Using a keyword research tool for your topic will throw hundreds of related search terms at you. But not all of them are relevant or important. If you pick too many keywords, you will unknowingly end up stuffing your content with irrelevant terms and phrases that add no value in terms of SEO or quality.
The best approach is to identify one primary keyword you want to rank for and a few other secondary keywords related to the topic. The secondary keywords should also match the audience's search intent and the context of your article or copy.
Having a single primary keyword also makes your content's ranking easier as you are not competing on too many fronts. In addition, it makes it easier for search engine crawlers to understand your content.
2. Look for synonyms and related searches
Another good way to avoid stuffing keywords in your content is to look for synonyms to your target keywords. When a user on Google looks for the information you're sharing, they don't need to all use the exact search term. Instead, there can be more than one term with the same meaning they could use. Find out what these are and distribute them well throughout your content. You can also identify some Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords. These are terms related to the primary keyword and help search engines understand that they all point to the same topic.
You may also get some ideas from the 'People also ask' section or the 'Related searches' on Google that show other relevant searches run by users. For example, using synonyms or related long-tail keywords can avoid over-optimization for the same keyword. Also, nearly 50% of search queries are usually 4 words or longer, so long-tail keywords could actually help increase your content's discoverability.
3. Increase the length of your content
If you still feel that your content is too keyword-heavy, try writing longer, more valuable content for your business blog. Increasing the word count will easily allow you to spread the keywords without making them look forced. In addition, you will have more liberty to use your target keywords without worrying about how and where to place them.
But not just this, longer content has other SEO benefits as well. For instance, SEO experts believe that Google favors content that is 2000 words or more in length. In addition, long-form content is considered more authoritative as it allows you to share more in-depth information and has the potential to drive more traffic to your website. But make sure that the content you add is truly valuable to your audience and not just there to increase the word count. Again, this will need some diligent research.
4. Use keyword tools that show keyword count or density
Content creation without the right tools to support it is challenging. Finding the right tools that help you create content and optimize it can be a great way to avoid keyword stuffing. Here are a few tools you should try.
Narrato is a content workflow platform that serves as an all-in-one solution for content planning, creation, optimization, and publishing. It has various tools and features such as a grammar & readability checker, and an AI writing assistant for various use cases, content collaboration features like comments and messages, content calendars, custom workflows, and more.
But the one feature that can particularly help with keyword optimization is the SEO content brief generator on Narrato. You can automatically generate SEO content briefs by typing in your search term or topic. Then, within a few seconds, the tool gives you all the relevant keyword suggestions with counts, topics/ questions to cover, references and competitor links, ideal word count, and other SEO parameters. The best part is that when you start writing your article on the content editor, the keyword counts automatically update to show how many times they have been used.
This can be a great way to optimize your content as you write, without keyword stuffing from the very start.
Semrush On-Page SEO tool
Semrush is a popular platform among content marketers for its complete suite of SEO tools. But one beneficial tool against keyword stuffing is its On-Page SEO checker. Among many other insights, this SEO audit tool also gives you data on keyword usage on a particular page/URL.
You can, in fact, also compare your keyword density to that on a competitor page to better inform your SEO strategy.
SEOquake is an SEO toolbox that helps you with on-page analysis to determine your web page's performance. The keyword analysis feature on this platform gives you a detailed report on all the keywords used on the page, including keyword density, prominence, repeats, and more.
It is available as a Google Chrome add-on that you can install to run SEO audits on your website quickly.
SEO Review Tools - Keyword Density Checker
The Keyword Density Checker from SEO Review Tools is a free tool that is extremely simple. All you need to do is enter your URL and run a check. It will give you a comprehensive overview of the keyword density on your page. Though it does not provide too much in-depth information on your page's SEO performance, it does the job regarding keyword frequency. It also shows keyword density for combinations of one-, two- and three-word phrases.
5. Add target keywords to the essential page elements
Instead of stuffing your content with the primary keyword, distribute them through the page, including the other important elements. For example, use the primary keyword in the meta tags on the page - that is, the meta title and meta description. Also, add the primary keyword to the alt tags of your images.
It is a good idea to always add the primary keyword to the title of your content, the introduction and conclusion, and the subheadings. This would get you more visibility rather than overloading the content with it.
6. Write for an actual audience instead of search engines
This is probably the most straightforward but most challenging part of creating SEO content. All you have to do is remember that you are writing the content for humans. So you need to share all the information in an easy-to-read format with an effortless flow so that a human reader enjoys reading it.
But it is also extremely challenging because you know that a human reader will only find your content if it appears in search results for the relevant search term. Hence, the SEO obsession among content marketers.
Difficult as it may be, it is not impossible to deliver value while also maintaining search engine rankings. Just be a little vigilant about what and how you are writing. Make sure that sentences flow well. The best way to ensure this is by giving your content a thorough read after you've written it. Look at it from a reader's perspective and see how it all gels together. Eliminate or replace whatever looks out of place, enhance what could be better, and the final product is bound to be of great quality.
Content creation is hard work. But little mistakes like keyword stuffing can neutralize all the effort that you put in to rank in search engines and win your audience's heart. Knowing how to use keywords tactfully and using the right tools to help you with it can save you from the penalties of spammy, keyword-stuffed content. So give these tips and tools a shot the next time you create content for your website and see how much easier it gets.
Author bio: Neelam Goswami is a content specialist at a reputed content writing service - Godot Media. She has written for several reputed blogs in the digital marketing space, including Jeff Bullas, Neal Schaffer, and others.