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What is keyword stuffing? Is using synonyms safe?

     
12:52 pm on Aug 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Let's consider the following example: a 100-words text containing 10 occurences of a certain keyword. This is probably a clear case of kweyword stuffing.

Now let's assume I can find 9 synonyms or paraphrases of the said keyword and I replace 9 of the 10 occurences of the keyword by those synonyms/paraphrases. So now, with only 1 occurence of the keyword, there's tecnically no keyword stuffing. Or is there? What we have now is a text with 10 occurences of the same meaning - albeit 9 out of 10 are via synonyms/paraphrases. But Google can identify those 10 synonyms/paraphrases and might see them as tentatives to manipulate the ranking.

How safe is it to use synonyms? And: if it is safe now, how long till Google will penalize this as spammy? I mean, today's good practice can easily become tomorrow's grey/black hat technique.

What's your take on this?
10:14 pm on Aug 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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You should write your content for your users, not for Google. If you write your content for Google, sooner or later Google will figure that out.
11:18 pm on Aug 30, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I know that, I've been doing websites since before Google even existed. But writing naturally, for the users, can sometimes lead to a high(ish) keyword density that Google doesn't like and the page gets slammed. Writing without keeping an eye on Google's requirements is not the best bet IMHO. After all, it's not right what is right, it's right what Google says is right. And Google has been known to change its mind.
1:02 am on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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There is no ratio or count of keywords that is used by Google to signal keyword stuffing. It's not like if you use 8 keywords in 100 your fine but if you use 9 then you get a penalty. There are many different signal that are used to determine whether or not a page is spam. So provided you write naturally you should be fine.

In fact using synonyms in place of a normal writing style may be such a factor.

Google's algo are advanced enough to know that a "cup or coffee" and "cup of joe" refer to the same thing. A page that uses a "cup of joe" instead of "cup of coffee" may even rank for the keyword "cup of coffee" despite the fact that the term never appears on the page. This is not to say that Google is perfect, using more obscure terms may still be mis-interpreted especially if the term is commonly used for something else. An example might be writing something like "I was drinking my java while coding this new website." Given that the sentence is related to coding and the web, Google could misinterpret the term "java" to be the programming language instead of coffee.

But generally, if you are writing content naturally in a style and using term that the intended audience understands and expects then you should be fine.
7:02 am on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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writing naturally, for the users, can sometimes lead to a high(ish) keyword density that Google doesn't like and the page gets slammed.


Yes, it can, and that exact thing has happened to a couple of my own pages. Your pages are at risk of becoming a false positive in a future purge whatever you do.

Ignoring whatever the next purge might do, you are more likely to achieve link-based traffic (and therefore, indirectly, Google traffic) if your pages read well and convey wanted information to your users. Making that your primary concern - as NickMNS has already said - is unlikely to cause serious problems in the longer term.

As a related issue, keywords are currency with diminishing value: search engines have moved on. Google's focus has been on more verbose searches for some years now, and their aim is clearly ro move searchers from pigeon English ("Exhaust Maserati Manchester") to queries that are closer to natural speech. Twenty years ago Google was for people who knew how to query a database. Now it is for people who don't.
7:11 am on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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What is keyword stuffing?
It is when keywords and their synonyms are put into content in an effort to unnaturally gain ranking advantage.

Even though keyword weight has greatly lost influence, the artificial attempt to use them is still a dangerous risk and very easily detectable.

Give up playing the SEO game. As noted above, just write natural content of interest to your visitors and your pages should rank well.
10:06 am on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Google can detect keyword stuffing?

Wow, which version of Google search are you using since my widget industry SERPs still displays incredibly over-stuffed sites and they have been there for years.

Insofar as synonyms are concerned, for my widget products that are sold globally and I have a specific product page section listing these synonyms, many are sold as a direct translation of the original product name and many have their own locally-known names, I am not aware that I have ever been penalised for this and I do know that I often have visitors who actually search for a specific synonym.
11:18 am on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Define keyword stuffing: Overuse of keywords in any length of text.

I think it depends on your niche. I'm seeing a lot fewer keyword stuffed sites doing well.

Natural language is far better, imho. If I land on a keyword-stuffed site, especially if it is obvious, it's an instant turn off.
1:04 pm on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I agree with Wilburforce. Just write for your users. I use synonyms but naturally as I write (I don't put any more or less in) as Google can detect some but not others IMO. I base this on when I perform searches and the results I see based on what Google returns on the serps.
1:27 pm on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@keyplyr
Give up playing the SEO game.

So you know I'm doing it. I envy you. I've been wasting so much energy doubting this and that.
Wanting to speculate on an alleged feature of Google's algo shouldn't make me a spammer.
Now I should probably defend myself. I won't. Your reply looks to me like an argumentum ad hominem.
Sorry to have bothered you. Feel free to delete this post.
7:37 pm on Aug 31, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@asterickx - I didn't say "I know you are doing it"

My comment about not playing the SEO game was more rhetorical and so much directly to you. Sorry if that offended you.

These discussions are read by many and the topics often become broader than the specifics related to just one person.
8:30 pm on Sept 4, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@asterichx,

My experience is it is very much dependent on the topic, and industry. I view their algo as looking at all the pages that deal with the topic / keywords and determining through fuzzy logic what is a normal density. Then apply that normal density as the preferred density, and apply the in range normal statistical diversions. In order to make things interesting, (who would want SEO to be boring), they vary what density is considered Ideal and apply the changes slowly to pages that are already indexed ... thus one does not see a change when one changes the page for a while.

On synonyms ask the question are other well researched pages on the topic using the same synonyms? They become a good and easy binary test for the robot ... if the synonyms are common to good pages and a new page shows up that does not use them there is a good chance the new page is novice written by somebody who has little information on the topic. Certainly if that binary test is wrong it does not harm the search results to sandbox the page to the fifth page. If an old page deemed worthy of the first page drops synonyms, it is instructive to the bot that the synonym is optional, and to reconsider other pages going forward, thus moving the target.

I'm starting to think Google has gone beyond synonyms and is now attempting to create consensus of truth, lets not point out that Argumentum ad populum is a fallacy. Since controversy creates interest and I'm no stranger to using controversy to drive traffic ... It looks like I'll need to be modifying my methods a bit :(

Good practice vs bad practice ... If the content is sound and not spammy for the user. I would call it a good practice, but understand as the targets move pages with higher density vs lower density switch places. For consistent traffic have pages with both higher and lower density. Microsites are always in danger of falling from the top ten.
 

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