How NOT to Use Keywords

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At our search engine marketing agency, webShine, we get to see all sorts of the rather “creative” ways people choose to place keywords on their web pages and in their content. Although typically well-intentioned, often these keyword placements end up doing more harm than good.

We are going to shine a spotlight on some of the “creative” keyword uses we see in hopes of giving you a better understanding of how NOT to use keywords.

Keyword Stuffing

Using the same keyword over and over on a page in an attempt to manipulate the way it ranks in search results is what we call keyword stuffing. There are dozens of places you can stuff keywords into your website. The most common place is in page copy, but we also see people stuffing keywords into page titles, meta descriptions, image alt text, etc.

Search engines began adjusting to this antiquated SEO tactic a long time ago. And now, they typically penalize websites using it today, even if these websites doing so unknowingly.

Instead, we recommend you use your keyword:

    • Once in your page title, title tag and meta description
    • In a page’s URL
    • Once in a H1 tag
    • Once in the first paragraph of body text
    • Sprinkled a few times throughout the rest of a page

Meta Keywords

Meta tags are snippets of text in a page’s code that tell search engines what kind of content is on that page. While some can be helpful, think title tags and meta descriptions, meta tags that contain keywords, a.k.a. meta keywords, are a waste of time. We tell you this because we still see people using them and we still get questions about them.

Back in the day, meta keywords made sense to include in your code. Search engines paid attention to them. Like so many things on the internet, people started spamming meta keywords. And, search engines stopped paying attention to them.

Long story short, don’t waste your time creating meta keywords for pages on your website.

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Same Keyword on Multiple Pages

We sometimes see people trying to pair the same primary or focus keyword with multiple pages. While this might occasionally be a useful tactic if you only want pages on your website to rank for one keyword, typically it’s going to do more harm than good.

When you use the same keyword on multiple pages, those pages end up competing with one another for that keyword in search results. If your page has a ton of authority, sometimes you can get multiple pages to rank for one keyword, but most sites don’t have that luxury.

Instead, we recommend you pair each page on your site that you want to see rank with its own primary or focus keyword that is representative of the content on that page.

Keywords on Standard Pages

We sometimes see people trying to get standard pages like contact, pricing, or privacy policy to rank for a keyword, instead of letting those pages be exactly what they are.

Let’s take a graphic designer’s website as an example. Instead of just letting a pricing page have a keyword of “pricing”, they might try to use the keyword “graphic designer pricing.” The chances of a basic pricing page ever ranking for “graphic designer pricing” are pretty slim.

Not every page on your site needs to be paired with a primary or focus keyword. Sometimes it makes more sense to just let a standard page be exactly what it is.

Keywords in Place of Context Adding Vocabulary

We regularly see people use keywords in place of other descriptive and diverse vocabulary that might add more context to a piece of content.

Search engines are pretty darn smart in this day and age. Not only are they going to recognize the primary keyword you optimize a piece of content around, they are going to look at all the other related keywords in that piece of content. If you have a good mix of keywords that add context and depth to your content, the page they are on is going to have a better chance of ranking.

If you replace that mix of descriptive and diverse vocabulary with a single keyword, your content will lose context and be seen by search engines as shallow.

Let’s Review

Avoid keyword stuffing. It could get your website a Google penalty.

Don’t waste your time with meta keywords.

Pair each page on your website that you want to see rank with its own primary or focus keyword. This will keep pages from competing for the same keyword in search results.

Let standard pages with nominal content be exactly what they are instead of trying to optimize them with a keyword that doesn’t really make sense on that page.

Last but not least, instead of using just your primary or focus keyword, use diverse and descriptive vocabulary that adds context to your content.

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Erik Wardell

Erik Wardell

Erik loves breaking down complex SEO topics into understandable instructions anyone can follow. In his role as an SEO coach, he guides Pathfinder SEO customers through the SEO process on a daily basis, giving them helpful tips, instruction, and advice along the way.