Common DIY Marketing Fail: Keyword Stuffing

This is the first part in a series, “Common DIY Marketing Failures,” in which we examine some of the common pitfalls for businesses who attempt to market themselves online without the guidance of a professional.

SEO, that’s just making sure you have keywords, right?”

If we had a nickel for every time someone asked this, we’d… well, we’d have a lot of nickels. People who ask this are often the type of person you could describe as knowing “just enough to be dangerous.”

Let’s imagine a business owner who runs a company that sells pants. He hears about “SEO” from his nephew and decides to look in to it. It’s not difficult for him to find a rudimentary explanation of how search engines read, rank, and index webpages, and after half an hour of research, he walks away with the conclusion “I need ‘pants’ keywords on my page so Google knows what I sell!”

So, on Monday morning, our hypothetical pants salesman logs in to his CMS and writes a bunch of pages that look like this:

Thank you for visiting our pants store, where we sell pants online! Our pants for sale are the best pants for sale online, so if you’re looking for pants for sale online, you should buy our pants, that we have for sale online. Whether you want to buy red pants, black pants, blue pants, green pants, or any other kind of pants online, browse our online pants store for more pants you can buy online.

pants buy pants online pants store

Pants? Pants!

Pants Raleigh, NC, pants Durham, NC, pants Cary, NC, pants Chapel Hill, NC, pants Burlington, NC, etc…

It looks like our friend has ignored one of the biggest rules of SEO: content should be written for humans, not search engines!  Really, just listen to how awkward this sounds when read aloud:


Spammy tactics like this may have worked, briefly, 15 years ago when people were just starting to feel comfortable making purchases online. It didn’t last long, though. Any search engine worth it’s salt quickly implemented spam protection measures to protect against this tactic, now known as “keyword stuffing.”

As technology advances and search engines grow more and more sophisticated, they are able to better determine genuine, original, helpful content from spammy, templated, generic junk.

Being a good SEO means paying attention to a variety of ranking factors: meta tags, links, social signals, CTRs, site usability and more. But the starting point for all of it is page copy. To be a good SEO, you must first be a good writer. And that means writing helpful content for the people using search engines, not trying to game the system to make a quick buck.