Keyword Stuffing and other Over-Optimisation Indicators

Keyword Stuffing

The black art of keyword stuffing has been a breach of Google’s spam policies for years. This can and almost certainly will result in the offending page or the entire website being penalised by the algorithms – or not indexed at all. A manual penalty action is less likely than an automatic Panda algorithmic penalty.

Don't Create Search Engine First Content - Screenshot 2023 10 06
Write for people, not for search engines

“Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of filling a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate rankings in Google Search results. Often these keywords appear in a list or group, unnaturally, or out of context.”

Google Link Spam Policies

This harks back to Google’s encouragement over the past couple of years to “write for people, not for search engines.” in your on-page SEO. Do use long-tail keywords though, as these are most often used in conversations. Natural language – as spoken – doesn’t have your target keywords sprinkled everywhere. Nor should your text content be studded with primary keywords everywhere. Previously, it helped Google figure out what the intent and purpose of a page was. Now, complex algorithms and artificial intelligence can calculate the meaning of a page without the excess of keywords. Writing in a conversational manner is now more effective and good content is mathematically defined and further refined by AI algorithms. That said, AI-generated content is not good content at all, and Google finds it easy to detect and dismiss as spam.

Keyword meta-tags are an over-optimisation Indicator

There are people who continue to use this meta-tag, but in the post-Panda penalties environment, it’s more likely to be seen as a clear indication of a site engaged in spam “black hat” tactics. After all, if you are still using this tag, what other little tricks have you got up your sleeve?

Title tags, Keyword Meta-tags and meta descriptions were once used to accelerate a website to #1 placement for virtually any phrases you’d found with keyword research tools of the day – merely by including it into the Keyword meta-tag. Those were the “good old days” early in the evolution of the internet. You could stuff that tag with “Pamela Anderson” and immediately get volumes of unqualified traffic looking for the #1 bikini babe. What the hell, if it works, let’s DO it!

The eventual response by search engines to the growth of spam usage was to either devalue or completely ignore the Keyword meta-tag. By 2011 / 2012 this meta-tag was no longer used as a ranking element by any of the major search engines. There is much to be lost by using it, as it may be an easily found indicator of other substandard practices on the site!

As well as stuffing dozens (or hundreds) of keywords into the Keywords meta-tags, there are other places where it at one time or another been trendy to insert more keywords.

Comment and comment tags

This was once an effective way of increasing word count and getting lots of additional exact-match keywords inserted into a page! There was a downside in terms of link spam and garbage text, link-backs and track-backs spam. Comments have proven to be a magnet for spambots and for most business sites, the best option is to deactivate the feature entirely.

Text anchors on a page

Adding a hidden text anchor on a page and using an <a name=”_keyword1_keyword2_keyword3″></a> allowed you to get more keywords into the page in a new area. Plus, when you linked TO that anchor from any other page, it increased the keywords associated with the target page. This needs to be done with great care!

Instead, you could make it a functional element just as Google does – by having an anchor on headings that can be used as an internal link from other pages.

Crosss Linking Your Content Screenshot

A good way of doing this is by implementing a Table of Contents (TOC) for headings, a technique which Google also does for headings. The WP Lucky Table of Contents plugin can insert a TOC at your choice of locations. It can be opened or closed by default, and the Heading links can be customised and linked to from other pages.

Text links to other pages

Instead of rushing into it – read and inwardly digest Google’s guide to internal anchor text links.

“Every page you care about should have a link from at least one other page on your site. Think about what other resources on your site could help your readers understand a given page on your site, and link to those pages in context.”

Google – cross-link your content

Given the importance placed on the context (words surrounding a link), the Yoast internal cross-linking tool might now be on the outer edge of what is acceptable to Google’s latest algorithms. I’ve removed all iterations on all pages as one of many steps to reverse a sudden drop in rankings on my own sites. Instead, follow Google’s cross-linking guidelines and confine your links to paragraph text content.

Image Alt Text:

Google advises you to accurately describe images. That should not be seen as an invitation to write a mini-article and stuff it into the Alt tag!!! Being brief and accurate is the rule. If you consistently abuse the opportunity across your website, a penalty is beyond likely. Read the Google Image alt guidelines…

“When writing alt text, focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and is in context of the content of the page. Avoid filling alt attributes with keywords (also known as keyword stuffing) as it results in a negative user experience and may cause your site to be seen as spam.”

Google – descriptive alt text

Page & Category File Names:

Especially within a Domain that lacks keywords in the name, it can be helpful to both viewers and search engines to include indicators of the content within the page file names. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing, so exercise restraint in keyword insertions! Be especially careful in CMS programs that allow you to use verbose page Titles and then use those to create the filename/slug for the page!

The problem is magnified with lengthy Category names, onto which overly long page file names are added! Equally, a long page name to which a child page file name is appended can quickly generate unwieldy and keyword-stuffed URLs.

Image file names:  also useful places to insert accurate use of keywords specific to the image. That is a better approach than using the default camera image file naming conventions. Again, brevity and accuracy are the important factors.


Because Google actively targets and penalises it, you should avoid keyword stuffing and over-optimisation. If your site transgresses the new rules, punishment is inevitable. If your SEO strategy was getting yourself an old copy of SEO for Dummies from a garage sale, throw it away! The effective little tricks of yesteryear listed above will definitely bite you in the ass when Google’s Helpful Content algorithm assesses your workmanship.

If you have an older website which has previously been optimised, an SEO page audit might very well uncover old work creating new issues.

Page last updated on Saturday, October 14, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp