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How-to 25 min read

What Are Keyword Stuffing and Redundant Phrases?

Top eCommerce Lead Generation Strategies

Marketing Specialist
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key focus for every business owner, publisher, content creator, or brand that owns a website. It’s through SEO that search engines like Google understands and ranks pages in relation to a user’s query. However, over the decades, the way the algorithms used by search engines interpret content has changed significantly, and the tactics used 20 years ago won’t be so effective today. Two of these tactics are keyword stuffing and the use of redundant phrases.

Since the Panda algorithm update in 2011, Google has continually updated its algorithm to promote quality content over spam-like articles pumped out by content farms. Some of these include the spam update in October 2022 and the Helpful Content update in August 2022. All of these changes aim to reduce the rank of those pages that contain keyword-stuffed, low-value content.

What, then, is the best way forward? How do you avoid keyword stuffing while staying relevant? That’s precisely what we’ll be explaining in this article.

What Is Keyword Stuffing? Understanding Keyword Density

Before we can explain keyword stuffing, it’s essential to understand keyword density. Keyword density refers to the number of times a particular keyword is used within a text compared to the total word count. It’s most often reported as a percentage and is calculated according to the following formula:
(Total times the keyword appears in a text / Total words in the text) x 100 = %
For example, if your content contains 1,000 words and your keyword appears 15 times, the density is 1.5%.

It’s that simple!

There are, of course, more complex ways to calculate the keyword density. Some of these methods break down the calculation to include the number of words in your keyword or phrase, the total number of keywords you’re using, and more.

If you want an accurate keyword density or as close to accurate as possible, you can use one of the free tools we recommend later in this article.

How Does Keyword Density Relate To Keyword Stuffing?

Keyword stuffing is the practice of using a keyword as many times as possible within a body of text with the express goal of ranking for those words. However, keyword stuffing can also include using:
  • A keyword or phrase more than once or twice per 100 words.
  • Locations, addresses, and numbers as often as possible within the text.
  • Irrelevant keywords or phrases so that the text reads unnaturally.
Should you include keywords simply in an attempt to rank for them, regardless of their relevance to the content on a page or how they affect readability, you are “stuffing” the content. The first sign that you may be doing so is if your keyword density is too high, which we’ll explain later in this article.

How Does Keyword Stuffing Affect SEO?

You may find yourself asking, “If keyword stuffing allows me to rank for certain words or phrases, isn’t that a good thing?” The answer to that would be a resounding and undeniable “No!”

In the early years of Google and SEO, there’s no doubt that keyword stuffing was highly effective. However, due to changes to the Google search algorithm, it’s clear that this is no longer an effective strategy to boost a page’s rank.

According to Matt G. Southern, a Senior News Writer at SEO Journal, keyword stuffing definitely has a negative impact on your search engine optimization. However, he’s not the only SEO specialist who shares this opinion. Others include Neil Patel, renowned SEO expert and content creator, and Limor Barenholtz, Director of SEO at Similarweb.

Even Google makes it quite clear that keyword stuffing will poorly impact SEO, listing the practice under their spam policies.
To summarize, keyword stuffing is no longer a good or appropriate way to get your page to rank well in search results. Rather, it’s a spam-like tactic that should be avoided at all costs, lest your pages and content suffer penalties. Writers also avoid it when doing multilingual copywriting as it can be hard to translate the same keywords in different contexts.

How Many Keywords Are Too Many?

There’s been a lot of debate in the SEO community about the ideal keyword density. Some claim that the ideal percentage is around 1% - 2%. Others say that a density as low as 0.5% can still be effective. The general consensus seems to be that you should aim for one to two occurrences per 100 words. In other words, if your text is 1000 words long, your keyword should be present 10 to 20 times.

That said, despite the negative effect that keyword stuffing can have on your SEO, having an “ideal” keyword density doesn’t guarantee that your page will perform well. In fact, keyword density itself is not a Google ranking factor. Instead of forcing keywords into your content, the better approach would be to write your text as naturally and informatively as possible, allowing keywords and phrases to appear naturally.

If you’re determined to avoid any risk of keyword stuffing, there are many tools available to check the density of these words on your page - several of which we’ll list below. If you score a percentage over 3%, consider reviewing the text to ensure there are no unnecessary or odd uses of your chosen keywords.
Keyword density is only important to the extent that it encourages content writers to focus on their target keyword, but it should not be used at the end-all-be-all rule for content and keyword optimization. Your goal is to produce the best content to fit what the user is searching for. You should not compromise user experience for maximum keyword usage.
Jessica Forster, SEO Content Strategist at Keys&Copy

How To Check For Keyword Stuffing

Now that you understand what keyword stuffing is and the SEO risks accompanying the practice, it’s time to learn how to check for it. Several excellent free and paid tools can help you check your keyword density and identify whether you are stuffing a page with keywords.
Below, we’ve compiled a list of our top three favorite tools.

Yoast SEO Plugin

If you’re using WordPress for your website, you likely know that there are thousands, if not millions, of plugins available for the CMS. These can range from simple widgets and design dashboards to advanced optimization tools. The Yoast SEO plugin is one of these top-of-the-line tools, and it’s a must-have if you want to optimize your page content.
Yoast SEO Plugin homepage
If you’re using WordPress for your website, you likely know that there are thousands, if not millions, of plugins available for the CMS. These can range from simple widgets and design dashboards to advanced optimization tools. The Yoast SEO plugin is one of these top-of-the-line tools, and it’s a must-have if you want to optimize your page content.

The best thing about Yoast SEO is that it’s free. While there is a paid version available that includes several additional, useful features, the free version is perfect if you want to:

  • Optimize content for search engines from within the WordPress dashboard.
  • Review the density and distribution of a single keyword or phrase.
  • Get critical SEO recommendations regarding readability, text length, headings, meta titles and descriptions, and more.
Yoast SEO Plugin: Analysis results
What We Like About Yoast SEO

For a free plugin, Yoast is robust and thorough while still being easy to use. However, if you’re willing to put aside a very reasonable $99 a year, you can access the entire host of the plugin’s features, which includes:
  • Checking multiple keywords and phrases.
  • SEO training courses.
  • Internal link analysis.
  • 24/7 support.
As far as SEO and keyword plugins are concerned, Yoast certainly ranks as one of the best.

SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer

With this simple and easy-to-use tool from SEOBook, you can review your content by either pasting the text directly into the available box or by providing the URL of your page. The tool will quickly evaluate the provided content and determine the keyword density, which you can see below.
SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer homepage
An interesting feature of the tool is that it automatically hyperlinks your top keywords and phrases. Clicking on these hyperlinked keywords will take you to SEOBook’s keyword research tool. There, you can see:

  • A list of keywords related to yours.
  • The search frequency of those words.
  • The number of average impressions and clicks.
  • The value of the related traffic.
While the accuracy of these insights may not be of the same quality you’ll get if you use a paid research service, it can help you improve your content and give you an idea of how well it will perform.
SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer analysis results
What We Like About The SEOBook Analyzer

First, the SEOBook Keyword Density Analyzer is extremely simple to use and quickly breaks down density into three columns:
  • Single keywords.
  • 2-word phrases.
  • 3-word phrases.
That allows you to quickly see how many times a word or phrase appears, making it easy to see if there’s a keyword stuffing issue. Additionally, the tool excludes stop words like “the,” “and,” “if,” and many more. You can also choose to include meta tags and the page title in the analysis or even select your own stop words.

SEO Review Tools Keyword Density Checker

The Keyword Density Checker by SEO Review Tools is a very simple, straightforward free tool that will, as the name suggests, help you check the density of your keywords. Similar to SEOBook’s Analyzer, you can evaluate a piece of standalone text or enter the URL of a page for analysis. Unfortunately, you can’t add your own stop words.
SEO Review Tools Keyword Density Checker homepage
There are a few other limitations, the biggest one being that you can only see the top ten keywords in each of the three categories:

  • One-word phrases.
  • Two-word phrases.
  • Three-word phrases.
What We Like About The SEO Review Tools Checker

The best part of this checker is the additional features you can select from the “Keyword options” dropdown menu. These features include:

  • Keyword research tools.
  • A featured snippet suggestion tool.
  • A free Google keyword rank checker.
  • Link-building research tools.
  • An article optimization tool that will score your content out of 100 and give improvement recommendations.
Best of all, these tools are all 100% free.

How To Fix Or Avoid Keyword Stuffing

The simplest way to avoid keyword stuffing is to keep an eye on the number of times you’ve used a keyword in relation to the total number of words in your text. However, this won’t always be a viable option, particularly if you don’t know what the final length of the completed text, page, or article will be. Luckily, there are a few other ways to avoid overusing keywords.

Using A Variety Of Optimization Tools

We’ve already listed several free tools you can use to check your content for keyword stuffing. The right keyword density checking tool can provide a lot of insight, but, in general, their capabilities are still somewhat limited. If you need a little more help, you can use tools to help analyze your content thoroughly, including headings, internal links, meta details, and other factors, to ensure that it’s well-optimized. Instead of focusing almost exclusively on keyword density, some tools can improve the SEO of a page by recommending:

  • Alternative and semantically related keywords.
  • H1 and H2 headings.
  • How many images to use.
  • An ideal word count for your topic.
One such tool is Serpstat — the all-in-one platform to achieve your search marketing goals. If you want a simple density analysis tool, Serpstat may be considered overkill. However, our platform allows you to conduct thorough keyword research, evaluate trends, and analyze your content to ensure every page on your site is optimized and ready to rise through SERP ranks.
Serpstat Tools: Content Analysis, Backlink Analysis, Keyword Research, Keyword Trends, Rank Tracker
Serpstat Features

Serpstat Encyclopedia: Everything You Need To Know In One Place

Use Keywords In The Right Places - If It Makes Sense

While it’s important to use keywords throughout your page content, where you use those words can be just as critical. Ideally, you need to include your primary keyword in the:

  • Meta title / title tag.
  • Meta description.
  • URL.
  • H1.
  • The first paragraph of your page content.
That said, you shouldn’t try to force keywords into these spots. If a keyword doesn’t fit naturally or the placement appears odd, it’s better to leave it out entirely. For example, let’s say you’re targeting the keyword “how to learn SEO.”

While it’s relatively easy to use in those key spots we mentioned above, we instead decided to collect a list of resources that would benefit beginners. That’s why we went with “Where a Beginner Can Learn SEO In 2023: Ultimate Guide” instead - after all, we’re not teaching beginners SEO but sharing a list of valuable sources that could help them on their learning journey.

Use Alternative And Related Keywords

You don’t need to build an entire page or piece of content around a single keyword. If you insisted on doing so, you would quickly end up with several articles or blog posts focusing on significantly similar topics. Consequently, your own pages will end up competing for rank in search, which may have an overall negative impact on your site’s SEO.

Google’s algorithm can analyze and understand your content’s meaning based on “related keywords.”

For example, let’s say your primary keyword is “keyword research.” Related keywords could include “keyword search,” “keyword planning,” keyword tools,” “SEO keyword research,” and more.
Keyword results list
There are several free tools that can help you do keyword research, such as:

  • WordStream Free Keyword Research Tool.
  • Moz Keyword Explorer.
  • Ahrefs Free Keyword Generator.
  • Serpstat Keyword Research Tool.
Would you like to collect alternative and related keywords in just a couple of clicks via Serpstat ?
Click the button below, sign up and get a free 7-day trial!
You can also do a Google search using your primary keyword and look at the “Related Searches” recommendations at the bottom of the page for additional ideas:
Related searches on Google
By naturally including these variations in your text, you’ll find that your page will likely perform better. That’s because Google’s algorithm can interpret and understand these keywords within the context and, consequently, whether your content is relevant to a user’s search. In turn, you’ll find a lot more relevant traffic headed your way.

Don’t Aim For A Specific Keyword Density

As we explained earlier, there’s no definite “ideal keyword density,” and attempting to meet some mythical perfect number might do your content more harm than good. As we explained before, Google’s algorithm can recognize keyword stuffing and penalize your page accordingly.

Instead of using your keyword a specific number of times, aim to use it - and any other related keywords - as naturally as possible within your page’s text. Try not to keep track of the number at all; instead, write your content to read as naturally as possible while still being complete and informative.

Once done, you can evaluate your text using one of the free tools we mentioned to see if your density may be too high. The odds are that you’ll have just the right keyword density without trying to force the words into your content.

Write Quality Content That Covers A Topic Thoroughly

Our final, and most important tip, is to focus on quality over quantity. As we mentioned earlier, keyword density isn’t a ranking factor, and keyword stuffing is considered spam. What, then, is the best way to tell whether your page content will rank well?

The answer is simple: detailed, informative, and helpful topic coverage.

In other words, instead of focusing on using a keyword as many times as possible, or using a broad selection of keywords, focus on covering a topic in detail:

  • Include subtopics that might appeal to a user.
  • Try to answer any questions that a searcher might have about the topic.
  • Touch on related topics and, if need be, explain them in more detail - or link to relevant pages that do so.
  • Include links to valuable sources of related information.
If you’re unsure how to cover a topic in that much detail, there are two easy ways to get ideas.
The first way is to use Google Search. Use your primary keyword as your search query and look at the section “People Also Ask.”
People also ask feature on Google
Here you will find many headings that include some of the most commonly asked questions by searchers. If you include these within your page content, you’ll be more likely to rank for them as well.

The second method takes a little more time. Again, use Google Search to find articles related to the topic you want to cover. Open the top ten results and look at the headings they use within their pages. Since these pages are already ranking for the search query or keyword you’re targeting, it’ll give you the best idea of what to include in your content.

In short, your goal should always be to answer a searcher’s question regarding a particular topic as thoroughly as possible. Do that, and you’ll soon find that trying to keep track of keywords (density or stuffing) is no longer necessary.

What Are Redundant Phrases?

While there are many ways to interpret the term “redundant phrases,” we’ll be focusing primarily on the definition relating to keyword stuffing and its impact on SEO. In that instance, redundant phrases are the number of words in your content that appear odd, nonsensical, or out of context and not appearing naturally on the page. A common way these phrases occur is when strangely worded keywords are used verbatim within a text.

For example, let’s say that you have a website that gives advice on cryptocurrency and related blockchain investments. You decide to do an article on NFT investment, and as you do keyword research, you discover that the term “invest NFT” has a good search volume and medium competition.
Keyword results list
If you were to use “invest NFT” verbatim in your article as a keyword, you would quickly end up with several sentences that made little sense. For example:

“If you are considering invest NFT today, you will need to do your research.”


As you can see from the example above, the use of the keyword verbatim makes the sentence appear nonsensical and reads poorly. Clearly, the better way to use the keywords would be to say:

“If you are considering investing in NFTs today, you will need to do your research.”


This begs the question, how do you target keywords when you can’t use them exactly as-is?

Using LSI Keywords

This is where LSI keywords come into play, although the name is something of a misnomer. According to John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, “There's no such thing as LSI keywords -- anyone who's telling you otherwise is mistaken, sorry.”

However, Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), also known as Latent Semantic Analysis (LSA), is very real. This natural-language programming technique was developed in the 1980s and is a patented technology. However, Google uses the same principles to learn how natural language works, determining which words and phrases are effectively related. You’ll often see examples of this at the bottom of Google’s search result pages.
LSI keywords at the bottom of Google search results
What does this mean for SEO and keywords in general? Simply put, it means that it’s critical to write content, whether for an article, post, or page, that reads as naturally as possible. Google’s algorithm can process natural language, learning which terms are synonyms, related, or linked in some other way.

Other Forms Of Redundancy That Affect Your SEO

Interestingly, redundant phrases may not be the only form of redundancy affecting your SEO. Others include:

  • Redundant content.
  • Redundant synonym-based statements (ex. Added bonus, end result, 12 midnight, etc.)
While the former is important for search engine optimization, the latter is simply a poor practice that should be avoided when possible. Let’s look at redundant content in a bit more detail.

Redundant Content

Redundant content, also known as duplicate content, means having multiple articles or pages on your website that contain similar text, address the same user intent, or target the same keywords (keyword cannibalization). In this case, we’re not referring to plagiarizing content from other sites, which is also an extremely poor practice that may see your content penalized, but rather a form of self-plagiarism.

There are a lot of contradicting opinions on duplicate content and how it can affect your site or page rank in search engines. According to Search Engine Journal, you’ll never receive an actual, visible penalty in Google Search Console if you replicate articles or pages on your site. However, while that’s true, you may still find that these pages perform poorly in search results. That’s because of how Google handles duplicated pages and canonical URLs.
In short, Google will decide how to weigh the authority of these duplicated pages against each other, highlighting again how you would be competing against yourself. To fix these issues, you can:

  • Use tools to find the pages and replace them with unique content.
  • Alter the content to target different, semantically-related keywords (LSI Keywords).
  • Use canonical URLs as per Google’s instructions.

Conclusion

Google’s search algorithm is continually evolving and being improved to understand user requests and page content better. It’s no longer enough to stuff a web page, article, or similar piece of content with keywords and rise to the top of SERP results. Instead, it’s now critical for creators to focus on providing only top-quality content written in natural language and containing relevant, helpful information.

If your goal is to rise to Google’s first page of search results, keyword stuffing and redundant phrases should be avoided. With the tips and tools we’ve shared, you should be well on your way to improving your content and your SEO score
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