Once upon a time
Years ago you had to include specific keyword phrases multiple times on a page — verbatim — to rank highly for them. Since then, Google has gotten much better at recognizing synonyms and even near-synonyms. More recently, Google has gotten better at piecing together a sense for keyword phrases even when the words in the phrase aren’t adjacent to one another.
Much better now
Today, if you want to optimize your copy for people searching for plugin hybrid SUVs, you no longer have to pepper that 3-word phrase throughout your copy and in your code. If your page is about SUVs and mentions the word hybrid and includes the term plugin, Google can tell that it’s relevant for the phrase plugin hybrid SUVs.
That’s much easier on the patience of your readers and allows you to optimize for the phrase naturally, without keyword stuffing. It may even positively impact your conversion rate because your copy will read so much more naturally.
In fact …
Google’s Penguin update last spring addresses this very thing. Google may now consider as “over-optimized” websites that repeat the same verbatim phrase too many times. What may have been necessary for rankings ten years ago can actually earn you a penalty today.
Karon Thackston wrote in High Rankings Advisor a couple of months ago about a conversation she had with Google’s Matt Cutts on this very subject. I recommend her article and her presentation of that conversation.
If your website was optimized years ago and involved sprinkling verbatim keyword phrases throughout your pages, you may be seeing some loss of rankings. If so, we can help.