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

Busting The Keyword Stuffing Myth

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. At ATRICA, we don’t agree that stuffing a website’s content full of keywords technically qualifies as the more sophisticated practice of Black Hat SEO. However, we firmly agree that the outdated practice of keyword stuffing is a lazy and unprofessional way of trying to rank a website on Page 1 of Google Search.

Since ATRICA is a keyword-based AI that can only start working after 250 Orientation Keywords have been placed on a website, 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 keyword-based AI is 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 intelligent 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’). 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 Link

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 nutritionfacts.org 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 what ATRICA’s keyword-based AI does.

Keywords that are visible in the text is one thing, but there is also the option to place OTKs into areas of a website that only Google can see when crawling a site. For example, OTKs can be placed within data privacy files or at the end of a website, which is what ATRICA does.

Is this an act that can be penalised? That’s a hard no!

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

Essentially, if the OTKs 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: Link

As for the thousands of Rank Up Keywords (RuKs) that ATRICA generates off the back of the OTKs, these are not placed on the website at all; they are generated on ATRICA’s back-end (more on the difference between OTKs and RuKs here: LINK).

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 the 250 OTKs are relevant (bear in mind this is the most input required from clients – after the OTKs are in, ATRICA runs itself).

During the onboarding process, we work with clients to ensure their OTKs are as relevant as possible, so as to include:
  • 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 informs the research component and enables us to help generate the initial 250 OTKs 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 250 OTKs 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 OTK).

ATRICA’s AI gets going by monitoring OTKs and, based on the OTKs performance over time, focuses on the top-performers to generate better, newer and more relevant RuKs.

Think of it like this:

OTKs 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 RuKs) 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.

Still Worried About Google Penalisation?

The other question we get asked (even after explaining the difference between ATRICA’s keyword-based AI and keyword stuffing) is: how do I know my website won’t be penalised?

Well, the proof is undoubtedly in the pudding. We don’t offer a free trial period for the simple reason that ATRICA, like any good SEO service, takes 3-6 months to show results. But you need only look at the website ranking performance of ATRICA clients worldwide here to see how the AI software has boosted – and not penalised – their SEO rankings.

And of course, we’re always here to answer any questions about how ATRICA Software works. Simply contact us to set up a video call here.

By Robert Otte, Co-Founder / Linkedin

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