The Truth About Keyword Stuffing (Spoiler: It’s Not What You Think)

The world of Google, rankings and SEO is massive and fast changing, to the point that it can be difficult to keep up with the often confusing rules around how websites are ranked.

Website owners are understandably cautious about being penalised by almighty Google for so-called ‘Black Hat SEO’ – practices used to increase a site’s ranking through means that violate the search engine’s rules. Keyword stuffing is often touted as top of the list of Black Hat SEO,  making it a serious ‘no-no’ for any credible SEO service provider.

At ATRICA, we believe the outdated practice of stuffing a website with repetitive keywords that don’t add value to the user is a lazy and unprofessional way of trying to rank on Page 1 of Google Search. However, we don’t agree that using many (even hundreds) of relevant keywords qualifies as keywords stuffing (more on why later).

ATRICA’s key feature is its world first AI-based Technical Ranking Algorithm software that automatically generates and implements the top-performing keywords for a website.

Since this keyword-based AI can only start working after 200 Anchor Keywords (AKs) have been placed on a website’s back- and front-end, we’re often asked by concerned website owners whether ATRICA’s keyword superpower is, in effect, keyword stuffing.

It’s a good and valid question. The simple answer is: no, ATRICA’s Anchor Keywords are not viewed by Google as keyword stuffing, because ATRICA does not ‘stuff’ the website’s visible content with keywords. The more complicated answer is also ‘no’, but it requires a somewhat more technical explanation.

Buckle your seatbelt and read on!

What Exactly Is Keyword Stuffing?

Let’s start by clarifying what keyword stuffing is, and why Google’s search engine doesn’t like it. Keyword stuffing in its simplest form is the practice of ‘stuffing’ as many keywords into a website’s content as possible in order to trick Google’s search engine into top-ranking the website. For example, if a website sells laptop bags, the keyword-stuffed content may look like this:

“We sell the best laptop bags on the market. Our laptop bags are rated number 1 by customers worldwide. If you want the best laptop bag ever, come to us, because our laptop bags are in the top 10 laptop bags ever.”

It’s obvious to any intelligent user that the content is poor and created only to rank on Google. Fortunately, it’s also obvious to Google’s super smart search spiders, and a site like this is likely to be penalised for keyword stuffing.

Here’s where it gets a bit more complicated: it doesn’t really matter how many times you use a particular keyword (like ‘laptop bag’). That’s because Google is not paying specific attention to how many times a phrase or keyword is repeated on a web page (also known as keyword density), but it is paying extremely close attention to how users are interacting with that page.

‘According to a 2017 study by SEMrush, the exact placement of keywords did not appear as significant as visits, time on site, or pages per session in determining a site’s rankings’

– Redefine Marketing Group

Put it this way: if any thinking person lands on the laptop bag page, they will see it as poor content and bounce off the page because it reads unprofessionally, and the Google algorithm will pick that up pronto.

However, if that same website happened to use the search term ‘laptop bag’ several times, but it was used in good, relevant copy that keeps the user on the page, Google’s algorithm will take note of this and improve the page’s ranking.

A great example is looking at medical resources online. Take this one-page article written by a doctor on the impact of tomato sauce on prostate cancer. Would Google penalise because the word tomato was used 42 times out of 898 words? Not likely. The user satisfaction signals – like time spent on the page, commenting and sharing – is what Google monitors.

ATRICA Versus Keyword Stuffing

Okay, now that we’re clear on what keyword stuffing is and what it is not, let’s dig down deeper into the difference between keyword stuffing and ATRICA’s 200 Anchor Keywords.

ATRICA places most of the 200 AKs in the back-end of the website, as well as in the back-end of ATRICA’s AI. A few strategic AKs are also placed on the front-end, in headings, product descriptions, etc. Is this an act that can be penalised? That’s a hard no!

Importantly, the AKs are all different – there are no repetitions of the exact same keywords. And each AK is relevant to the website, which Google likes.

Essentially, if the AKs are needed by people to find the site, Google sees the keywords as highly proficient tools for linking a user to the information they are after. If they were misleading keywords, then that would be a different story.

‘Keywords matter because they are precisely what users search for — and including them in your content can signal to Google your site’s relevance in answering user queries’

– Redefine Marketing Group

As for all the Performance Keywords (PKs) that ATRICA continually generates off the back of the AKs, these are also placed mostly on the back-end of the website, as well as on ATRICA’s AI back-end and our keyword cloud. These are not visible on the front-end and are therefore could not be viewed as keyword stuffing by Google. A few of the PKs are placed strategically on front-end content, but these are relevant and therefore useful to Google’s spiders.

Keyword Relevancy Is…Key

Keyword relevancy is clearly a major differentiator between keyword stuffing and strategically using keywords to improve a site’s ranking. This is why the onboarding process for ATRICA clients involves a detailed consultation to ensure our team of SEO experts is able to research AKs that are highly relevant to the client’s business based on:

–> Business experiences

–> Business strategy and goals

–> Current marketing

–> Target customers

–> What those customers need

–> What the business wants to achieve (direct leads, sales etc.).

This creates a comprehensive data set that enables the team to generate the initial 200 AKs needed to kick-start ATRICA’s AI.

Dynamite Fishing Versus Prize Catches

Now back to the original question but with a more technical viewpoint: is inputting 200 AKs in the areas of the website that only Google can see when crawling a site the equivalent of keyword stuffing? No, because there is a big difference between repeating keywords and listing a relevant keyword once (as an AK).

ATRICA’s AI gets going by monitoring AKs and, based on these foundational keywords’ performance over time, focuses on the top-performers to generate better, newer and more relevant PKs. Think of it like this:

AKs are like fishing with dynamite; chucking a bomb into the water and taking out all sorts of fish, even the ones you don’t want or need. ATRICA then looks at the dynamite’s catch, identifies that the prize catch is, for example, trout and then takes the time to understand what the trout are feeding on and then chooses the right flies (the PKs) accordingly.

And because ATRICA is AI, it constantly improves on its own intelligence, so the guesswork is eliminated. This results in only the most relevant Google search-friendly keywords (better fishing flies) being used, and there is no need to ‘stuff’ keywords into content.

So there you have it: the truth about keywords is that it doesn’t matter how many keywords you have on your website. What matters is that the keywords you use are relevant and help the user find what they’re looking for.

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