On page SEO (and keyword stuffing)

How vital is on page SEO to overall SEO efforts?

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword Stuffing

On page SEO is absolutely vital.  On its own, on page SEO will not get you far. Without it however, your overall SEO efforts will not get far.  This  is where a lot of people make lots of mistakes though.  There is not a lot that can go wrong with link building by comparison with on page SEO.

The prime mistake by people with their on page SEO is keyword stuffing.  Lets take a look at each element of a page and see how keyword stuffing can stuff you up.

Page Elements

Page title

  • The page title is the words that appear at the top of your browser when you visit a page. It is a meta tag that goes <title>some text</title> and lives in the head section of your html page.
  • Try to keep it to 40 characters or so and do not repeat keywords in it (stuffing).
  • That includes variations like “Jobs Dublin”, “Jobs Cork” etc.
  • Try to place your keywords at the beginning.  If you must include a company name then put it at the end.

Meta Description

  • The Meta Description also lives in the head section of the html page.  It looks like.. <meta name=’description’ content=’blah blah blah’ />  It is usually the text that appears below your page title in search engine results.
  • This should be aimed at users, not search engines.  While Google has not ruled out that it may use the content, it is given little importance in terms of gaining rank in the SERPS. Use it to sell your page to a viewer.
  • What is certain is that if you stuff it with keywords you could well find yourself penalised, while simultaneously putting off any human visitors (and these are the ones you are after).

Meta Keywords

  • Meta Keywords also live in the head section of your html.  These used to be used by search engines to determine what the author thought were relevant keywords for the page. Widespread abuse in the forms of keyword stuffing and non-relevant text mean that it is quite alright to leave this section out.  I still include it, but I make sure that I only include a handful of extremely relevant keywords that are actually in the visible text of the page.

H1 tag

  • This is the title of the page, and will appear on the actual page. It is found in the body section of you html page.
  • I often have the h1 tag exactly the same as my page title tag.  If this does not make sense to the page then I make sure it is at least extremely similar, containing the same keywords.
  • The h1 tag is the most important piece of text in the visible page.  Choose your content wisely.
  • There should only ever be one h1 tag per page.

h2-h6 tags

  • The rest of the h (heading) tags are also important. The higher the number, the less important.  Treat them in the same way as your h1 tag.

Paragraph tags

  • Everything on your page should be contained within tags.  The text in your paragraphs needs to be relevant to your title.  Remember you are dealing with dumb machines.  If you have a keyword in your h tag then make sure it is also in your paragraph tag below it.
  • Write for humans.  Do not repeat keywords too much.

How Do I know if I am Keyword Stuffing Unintentionally?

A simple rule of thumb is that if it does not read well to a human, you are probably guilty of keyword stuffing.

To avoid unintentional keyword stuffing try to keep your keywords to about 5% of your page text.  If you go too far over then you will be penalised.  If you see a competitor above you who has a higher proportion of the same keyword it is likely that they are above you as a result of off page optimisation rather than on page optimisation.

Sometimes keyword stuffing works.  I have had pages usurped by pages from competitors with tons of keyword stuffing.  The good news is that it rarely lasts.  They climb and then they drop again as a general rule.  I want to teach you how to have more stable, long term results.

SEO should not be about cheating your way to the top, it should be about working within guidelines and optimising your efforts within those guidelines.  Anything else is risky.  You may get away with it for a while, maybe even a long time, but eventually your site will suffer.  It is easy to be temped by the ‘dark side’, but it is not a good idea for a business that depends on its website.  If you have a non-critical website, then feel free to practice all the dark arts of SEO – it will teach you a lot.  Just don’t host the site on the same server as any sites you care about.

The really bad keyword stuffing practices

  • Hidden text. This is where you make the text the same colour as the background so that it is not visible to humans.  This text is often smaller than 8 pixels.  It is always full of keywords.  It works – until you get caught.
  • Cloaking. Displaying different text to search engines than to human visitors.  Again this works – until you get caught.

If in doubt, don’t do it.

How far can I push it?

There is only one way to find out…. and that is to push it.  You can either slowly increase your keyword ratio on the page until you lose rank, or you can put in as many keywords as you can and slowly remove them until you gain rank.

The great thing about losing relevance as a result of keyword stuffing is that you can reverse it by fixing the problem.  It can be a slow process though, since it takes days for most sites to be crawled enough for changes to be reflected in the search rankings.

Final Advice on Keywords

  • Beware of having keywords (particularly long tail – several worded – keywords) in close proximity.
  • Make sure that your headings relate to the surrounding text.
  • Remember that on page SEO is just the start.  You need to build links too.

About Ian Wortley


Ian is one of Irelands leading SEO consultants with over 8 years experience in the Irish market. Ian discovered his love of all things internet related in 2005 and has been living nearly exclusively online since then, causing much worry to friends and family, but getting great results for clients. Contact Ian: Phone: 01 6854806 Mobile: 086 3817149

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