Is your web page uncomfortable to read?
Often less experienced SEO practitioners guide you to create copy that employs keyword stuffing. In the early days of SEO 10-12 years ago, repeating a verbatim keyword phrase several times on a web page was de riguer. Not anymore — now it can hurt.
Keyword stuffing is bad on many levels, and you’ll know it when you read it. That’s why it’s always a good idea to read your web pages aloud to yourself. Do they sound stupid? Are they repetitive? Is your keyword use obviously “over-redundant”?
The folks at RankedHard.com had some fun with the subject:
That kind of copy hurts.
- It hurts your image and reputation.
- It makes for a bad “user experience” on your site (and that’s a ranking factor at Google).
- It increases your bounce rate (visitors who leave without reading anything else on your site.)
- It sabotages your conversion rate (the % of visitors who become customers/clients)
- After the Penguin algorithm updates at Google, it may sabotage your rankings.
You need to fix it. But what if the page ranks well?
This can be a real concern. If the page ranks well, will changing the copy hurt your rankings? Sure, it might. But it might also help if you do it right. Take it slow, make minor changes at first and see how your rankings respond.
How to fix it
The first thing to know is that repeating verbatim keyword phrases is not necessary. Here’s how to fix them:
- Employ formatting ploys. Search engines don’t register punctuation and line breaks. If you can break up a keyword phrase by having the first word or words at the end of a sentence or paragraph and the rest of the phrase at the beginning of the next sentence or paragraph, your visitor won’t experience the sense of a repeated phrase. But it’s still there and can register with the search engines.
- Use “stop words” and near synonyms. These are words that don’t add value to a query and are mostly ignored by the search engines. The usually consist of pronouns, prepositions and articles. For example, these phrases are all essentially equivalent:
- replace air conditioner
- replace your air conditioner
- replace an air conditioner
- air conditioner replacement
- Keyword phrases may not even need to be on the page. If you have a page about replacing customers’ air conditioners, it will be quite natural to use the phrase air conditioner throughout the page. It also makes sense for the words “replace”, “replacement”, “repair” and “trade in” to occur on the page. Even if you never say “replace air conditioner” anywhere, it will be understandable to the search engines that your page is about that. Search engines have gotten much smarter over the years,
Understand that a page that ranks well but drives away potential customers is doing you no good.
Fix it. Make the copy read comfortably. Make it effective marketing copy that drives customers to buy from you. Include calls to action to help drive the buying decision. If your page is the best it can be about it’s subject, search engines will want to rank it highly.
If you’re still skittish about it, make incremental changes and watch your rankings. You may well be surprised to see your rankings improve rather than drop.