Will SEO Strategies Involving Keyword Repetition Hurt Your Search Engine Rank?
A reader on Quora asked the following question:
Why does Google penalize excessive uses of the same keyword/terminology on the same webpage?
I answered as follows:
NO! NO! NO! REPETITION is NOT the same as DENSITY!
Using Keywords OFTEN and CORRECTLY is still a winning strategy.
Every page should have a reason to exist. SEO Work makes that reason clear to search engine algorithms as well as human readers. Intentional SEO work will include keyword research to focus on the right keywords.
Once you have the right keyword(s) targeted THEN YOU SHOULD USE REPETITION, albeit intelligently, to make it clear what the page is about!
Honestly, using a keyword OFTEN on a page can only help – as long as the usage is intelligent.
- Excessive keyword REPETITION, like, say, 25 times on a page…
Using the keyword dog food 25 times just might be reasonable on a 1500 word article. Let’s face it. If dog food is the topic, then that is the topic, right? The writer has a focus? Sure enough, Intelligently written sentences have subjects, and the keyword is the subject…. right? No Problem!
- Excessive keyword DENSITY, like using a keyword 25 times in a 300 word blog article that is mostly keywords and fluff… This is stuffing, and it will get you sent down the road to search rank oblivion. Anything past page 1 rank is oblivion. This means nobody finds your page. Now That’s a Problem!
HOW TO USE YOUR KEYWORD OFTEN AND EARN SEARCH RANK: Use your keyword as often as you can reasonably expect that usage to be sensible, and as long as your page is really about the keyword or strongly correlated conceptual substitutes for the target keyword. And… the page should have a lot of other words in well structured sentences following great rules of grammar and punctuation. Those other words should address specific points of interest for a specific type of buyer or beneficiary (a persona). Overall, the page should address as many buyer interest, lifestyle, and motivation triggers as possible. Throw in as many topic related synonyms as you can, especially the most searched synonyms or substitute goods. Use these keywords and points of interest / benefit as well as synonyms as often as you can, while still providing useful information instead of gibberish.
Remember, Google exists to help searchers find meaningful content addressing their immediate question or need, based on topics of interest AND apparent search intent. So it’s not about HOW OFTEN you use the keyword. It’s about HOW you use the keyword.
The problem happens when you use keywords just as often, but surround them with poorly written sentences sharing more or less meaningless information. Pages that regurgitate commonly known information AND employ a keyword stuffing strategy will be sending up red flags to Google signaling that somebody is trying to game the system.
So, instead of writing keyword stuffed fluff content, you will get ranked better if you write intelligent and meaningful sentences.
What if somebody is selling… let’s say “dog food”? They need to create a page that is about… well… “dog food” 🙂
They will surely include the keyword ‘dog food’ often. But this will help and not hurt as long as they write at an appropriate reading level with intelligent sentence structure and good grammar while highlighting benefits that clearly appeal to a specific persona in a specific buying stage.
- FOR EXAMPLE: Maybe the dog food buyer is a young couple with no children, both partners are extremely health conscious in that they eat only whole, unprocessed, locally sourced foods. Their dog is a Golden Retriever who is a substitute child. One should expect to see the word dog food a lot on the brand’s page, along with words that clearly appeal to an educated, discriminating, health-conscious buyer who may be a little overboard on ‘healthy nutrition’ and “babying” their dog.
Copy might look “something” like this.
- “Dog owners who care feed XYZ DOG FOOD to their Fur Babies because XYZ DOG FOOD provides the most natural and healthy ingredients that your bundle of joy deserves in order to be strong, active, and healthy! XYZ Dog Food is made for your special friend from fresh, whole, unprocessed, organically grown and locally sourced proteins with no fillers.
The page should go on to extol the virtues of Dog Food Made With Fresh Ingredients, the virtues of Dog Food Made With Whole Foods, the virtues of Dog Food made with unprocessed ingredients, Dog Food made with organically grown ingredients, and Dog Food made with locally sourced proteins.
- I would devote at least a paragraph to each product feature / benefit in order to present the keyword in a meaningful sentence about a benefit instead of a fluff sentence.
- Then I would conclude with a paragraph or three on the evils of Dog Food made with fillers. Should Dog Food really be made from Corn? Wheat? Can dogs digest this kind of Dog Food? Will it cause bloat and malnutrition? Surely your Fur Baby deserves the one Dog Food that is nutritionally sound enough to keep your special friend strong, healthy, fit happy, and looking their very best at all times.
SO, I REPEAT: KEYWORDS CAN BE REPEATED OFTEN WHEN USED INTELLIGENTLY AND ON TOPIC. Go ahead and use them often as follows:
- Use keywords in domain names
- Use keywords in page titles
- Use keywords in content
- Use keywords in captions
- Use keywords in headings
- Use keywords in meta tags
- Use keywords in image tags
- Use keywords in ‘snippets’
- Use keywords in navigation menus
- Use keywords in anchor text on your pages
- Use keywords in anchor text posted on other sites or social media pages
All of these strategies will help earn favorable search rank for publishers, marketers, community builders, and etc. I know because I get sites ranked all the time.
Once upon a time… “Long, Long Ago – In The Ancient Days” in web terms, or a few human equivalent years, keyword stuffing used to help pages win organic rank on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP).
Something like this used to work to get a page ranked for “widgets” (substitute any product or service for “widgets”)
“We sell widgets that are made from widgets in order to become part of your widget in a widget driven universe where widgets are the only way to go if you want real widgets for those who love widgets. We are so crazy about widgets that we even ship those widgets exactly the way widgets should be shipped, packed with other widgets in shipping containers designed for widgets. Our widgets shipped like widgets should be shipped will reach the person buying widgets on the perfect widgets delivery day for a weekly widgets shipment that is right for that widgets buyer to get their widgets needs met“
BUT THOSE DAYS ARE OVER! Google’s algorithms have gotten much better these days at augmenting recognition of a searcher’s keyword usage (and variations of that keyword) with simultaneous recognition of and respect for grammatical sophistication, context, helpful detail, usefulness of content, and even page intent.
MISUSE OF KEYWORDS WILL DEFINITELY GET A SITE PENALIZED!
Here is a simple example: Google knows if the page is selling or educating. If a page offers product for sale with heavy keyword density and context that might be important to a shopper who is ‘ready to buy’, including product features, options, colors, prices, and a sense of urgency…. then that page is not going to rank for searches where search intent is more aligned with casual reading on the subject, simple information gathering, or even serious research for college papers or corporate reports. On the other hand, a page that reads like a press release or research paper won’t rank for a search that google thinks shows shopping intent.
Now: For an interesting assignment, count how many times I used the keyword “keyword” in this answer! (Hint… it is more than 25! Maybe more like 42!)
Let me know if you want professional help getting your website ranked on Google!