Search engine optimization is the science (and art) of strategically including a keyword you want more traffic for throughout a website page. If done correctly, it allows people to find you when they search for that keyword in search engines. If done with black-hat SEO techniques, it can ban your site from Google. If done poorly (or overdone), even with the best intentions, it will just make you look foolish to your readers.
This post isn’t about intentional black-hat SEO techniques like content cloaking, invisible keyword stuffing, link farming, link exchanges, and other practices. It’s about websites that overdo their SEO to the point where it ruins what would have been a perfectly good site, page, or blog post.
Here’s how to kill a great website page by overdoing search engine optimization.
1. Keyword stuff to the point where your sentences don’t make sense
I caught a website in the act this evening. I was doing a bit of a redesign on this blog, and I did a search for “best wordpress plugins” to see if there were any new plugins worth checking out. I clicked on the site that ranked third at the time of this post. Upon first glance, it looks like an excellent list of plugins. But as I read the sentences, I was blown away by the blatant keyword stuffing going on for the term “best wordpress plugins.” Go ahead, click on the link and count the mentions.
No really, go ahead and count.
It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt.
29 times. And that’s not including the post title. Or the 3 additional “wordpress plugins” and 4 more “wordpress plugin.”
If you still don’t think this is a lot you’re weird, here are some of my favorite quotes:
- “uBillboard are slider best WordPress plugins.”
- “UberMenu is a user-friendly, highly customizable mega menu ( or mega drop down menu ) best WordPress plugins.”
- “…and the great variety of best WordPress plugins and themes makes it even more useful”
- “Currently this best WordPress plugins for autoblogging can add…”
If those 29+ mentions actually made sense, I might have missed the overuse of the term. But the complete lack of editing is what makes this keyword stuffing strategy so obvious. Which is a shame, because the article did have really good content.
2. Stuff your title tag and meta description with similar keywords
If you optimize your title tag (70 character max) and meta description (150 character max) of a website page correctly, it should include one or two mentions of the keyword you’re trying to get traffic for. Then use the rest of the space to convey your value proposition, and include a good call to action in the description.
You should not, however, fill the character limits of your title and meta description with keywords. It’s not necessarily a “black-hat” technique, but it makes you look silly. Because it’s funny hilarious to pick on SEO agencies that have made this mistake…
SEO agencies aside, if you stuff your titles and meta descriptions with keywords, you may get ranked by Google but you’ll get less traffic from the humans who clicked the stronger listing below you.
3. Create a horrible user experience
There are several tactics (and many WordPress plugins, for you bloggers out there), that add breadcrumbs to the top of a post, tags to the bottom of the post, tag clouds, tag lists, etc.
Overdoing it can confuse the navigation of your site, making for a very poor user experience. Some companies even cram keywords into the navigation of their site.
Don’t get me wrong, geographic SEO is great, and can be a huge traffic driver for businesses who target a local audience. But calling out the city in each and every navigational element isn’t helping anyone.
4. Stuff keywords into the sidebar or footer
Some consider this a black-hat SEO technique. I don’t think it’s quite as shady as other black-hat practices. Even if your content is great, as soon as I see that dense paragraph of keyword after keyword, I’m clicking the back button. So if you’re going to stuff your footer with keywords, at least do it “right” so that it serves a navigational purpose:
Still, both of these websites offer comparable Halloween Costumes, but I’d be more likely to stick around and explore the first site.
And just because it’s funny to see SEO agencies do this:
5. Copy other websites’ content
Unless you wrote a guest blog post that you’d like to share with your readers, you shouldn’t copy another website’s content verbatim. In search engine speak, this is known as duplicate content. If uncited, to the average reader this is known as plaigarism. If discovered, it looks extremely unprofessional. And can get you into quite a bit of trouble.
Unfortunately, a lot of professionals don’t even realize this is a bad tactic. They think “Hey, that blog post was really helpful, my readers would like that” or “it’d look great on my blog,” or worse yet “there’s an easy way to get traffic.” They don’t think of it as stealing. So think twice before you copy/paste!