Keyword stuffing is when you overuse a target keyword. It’s among the more costly errors you can make in content marketing and search engine optimization for two reasons: readers don’t like it and Google’s search engine crawlers don’t abide it. Let’s look at both.

Why readers hate keyword stuffing

If the Google keyword for this section was “blue suede shoes,” it might make sense to have blue suede shoes show up as many times as possible in this paragraph to make sure the piece is indexed properly for blue suede shoes. The problem is that your reader would see blue suede shoes so many times that blue suede shoes would interrupt the flow of the paragraph for them. You couldn’t really move your idea forward because blue suede shoes would always get in the way. Eventually, your reader will become annoyed with all the blue suede shoes mentions, and they’d leave. And if they leave, they’re buying their blue suede shoes elsewhere.

Why Google doesn’t abide keyword stuffing

They used to abide it all the time. Back in the day, their backend system would match target keyword searches with keyword appearances. Naturally, Google users looking for blue suede shoes would get content like you just read, then get mad at Google for directing them to such unhelpful drivel. On February 23, 2012, Google introduced Google Panda, an algorithm designed to “reward high-quality websites and diminish the presence of low-quality websites in Google’s organic search engine results.” Today, Google’s party line builds off of what Panda started: “Beyond matching the words in your query with relevant documents on the web, Search algorithms also aim to prioritize the most reliable sources available. To do this, our systems are designed to identify signals that can help determine which pages demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness on a given topic.” In shorthand: we’re demoting crappy content.  

But appropriate keywords in context are still important, yes?

Yes. But not how they used to be. For Google, they’re more like the first layer of instruction for Google’s crawlers. It points them in the right direction, then Panda+ features of the algorithm take over. For you, your keywords will become one of your best targeting tools if you can start leveraging long tail keywords (a.k.a., key phrases). So, instead of trying to rank for “blue suede shoes,” which shoe stores and Elvis fans will also be competing for, maybe narrow your search by expanding your keyword to “blue suede shoes original single by Elvis Presley.”  Not too many people will be searching for that, but the ones that are will find you.

Tricks to avoid keyword stuffing while ranking for terms


Aim to have your keyword or key phrase appear once per 150 words. So a 1,500-word piece should feature the keyword 10 times. It should also be in your meta title and meta description.


Your keyword or key phrase should be in your H1 headline, within the first two lines of your opening paragraph and in half to two-thirds of your H2 subheads. This will give Google what it needs to find your page when a possibly relevant query comes in. After that, fill the rest of the frequency quota by placing keywords where they’ll add value to the sentence. Try not to force fit.


If you’re using a long tail keyword, you can break it up with punctation (which Google doesn’t recognize). Consider the following: If you’re looking for a “Blue Suede Shoes” original single by Elvis Presley, you’ve come to the right place. Nothing sounds crisper than a “Blue Suede Shoes” original single. By Elvis Presley, the song was originally sung by Carl Perkins in 1955. Same phrase, two different variations. This is particularly helpful in longer pieces where the same variation of a key phrase will eventually become distracting for the reader and could send them packing before getting to your call-to-action.

A final note about keyword stuffing

You’ll know it when you see it and you’ll feel it as a reader. If you feel it while reading copy you’re about to publish, send it for a line edit. A second pass could be the difference between ranking and tanking.