Thursday, May 18th, 2023

Keyword stuffing has no place in modern content marketing

Photograph of the front of the old Tokyu Hands store in Sannomiya, Kobe, after it closed. The remains of the

I tried to read an article on the decline of Japan’s department stores and failed miserably. 

What should have been solid analysis on the challenges facing an important sector in the local retail landscape was ruined by keyword stuffing. Content that should have informed and educated, instead frustrated with over long sentences, unnecessary repetition and frequent, “Did I just read that” moments.

In the 850 words there were 25 references to “Department store” and its plural. Of the 19 text blocks, only 2 omitted the keyword phrase. “Retail” was used 21 times. 11 uses of “Japan” and “Japanese”. About 10% of the text was given over to what appears to be keywords.

This kind of cramming might have worked once, but it has lost its shine. Google and Bing are smarter, picking up on nuance as much as old-school SEO “keyword” optimisation. It’s true that many top-ranking pages use keywords a little too much to be comfortable reads, yet often they are old posts shared and referenced regularly over many months and years. Narrow your search to more recent times and you will see a difference in how copy is constructed and structured.

Even if it scores highly, what then? I’m sure the author had a noble mission to share important information on why department stores are closing across Japan. However, the constant repetition of “department store” and “retail” made it difficult to get to. Appearing so frequently, it was easy for the eye to skip to the wrong part of the paragraph (or even miss entire sections as I discovered I had done because of how the keywords lined up at the start of sentences and copy lines).

There’s a rule of thumb in some SEO circles that keywords should only appear once every 100 words or so to be effective. The counterpart in writing circles is to only repeat phrases when you need to remind the reader of something you’ve already mentioned.

I suspect we should focus more on writing for readers rather than mythical machines.

My name is Ross Hori

I'm a freelance writer, designer and photographer. By day I create articles, features and reports. At night I take photos and write fiction. Find out more.