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Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords

Avoid keyword stuffing, but do keywords right

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Last week, Google unleashed its Penguin update upon webmasters. The update, as you may know, was designed to decrease the rankings of sites engaging in black hat SEO tactics and webspam. One of the classic black hat tactics is keywords stuffing, so if you’ve been doing this and getting away with it in the past, there’s a good chance the update took you down a notch.

Specifically, Google’s Matt Cutts said the update “will decrease rankings for sites that we believe are violating Google’s existing quality guidelines. Avoiding keyword stuffing has long been one of these guidelines. The guideline says, “Don’t load pages with irrelevant keywords.”

Google has a page about this in its help center, where it elaborates a little more. Here’s what Google says, verbatim, about keyword stuffing there:

“Keyword stuffing” refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results. Filling pages with keywords results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

To fix this problem, review your site for misused keywords. Typically, these will be lists or paragraphs of keywords, often randomly repeated. Check carefully, because keywords can often be in the form of hidden text, or they can be hidden in title tags or alt attributes.

Unlike some of the other black hat tactics advised against in the guidelines, such as cloaking, Google specifically named keyword stuffing in its announcement of the Penguin update. Cutts even provided the following image in the announcement, highlighting this particular tactic:

Penguin Announcement: Keyword Stuffing

Cutts has spoken out about the practice plenty of times in the past. Here’s a humorous example of when he called out one site in particular about five years ago.

More recently – last month, in fact – Cutts talked about a related violation in a Google+ update. He discussed phone number spam, which he essentially equates to keyword stuffing.

““I wanted to clarify a quick point: when people search for a phone number and land on a page like the one below, it’s not really useful and a bad user experience. Also, we do consider it to be keyword stuffing to put so many phone numbers on a page,” he wrote. “There are a few websites that provide value-add for some phone numbers, e.g. sites that let people discuss a specific phone number that keeps calling them over and over. But if a site stuffs a large number of numbers on its pages without substantial value-add, that can violate our guidelines, not to mention annoy users.”

Here’s the image he was referring to:

Phone Number Spam

Getting Better At Keywords

Cutts has advised that you not spend any time worrying about the keywords meta tag (though Google does use the meta description tag):

In March, Google released a video about 5 common SEO mistakes and 6 good ideas:

One of the “good ideas” was:

Include relevant words in your copy: Try to put yourself in the shoes of searchers. What would they query to find you? Your name/business name, location, products, etc., are important. It’s also helpful to use the same terms in your site that your users might type (e.g., you might be a trained “flower designer” but most searchers might type [florist]), and to answer the questions they might have (e.g., store hours, product specs, reviews). It helps to know your customers.

I’d suggest including them in your titles as well.

Matt Cutts has talked about keywords a lot in various Webmaster Help videos. If you want to make sure you’re getting keywords right, I’d advise watching some of these discussions (straight from the horse’s mouth). They’re generally short, and won’t require a lot of time:

Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords
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  • http://www.gijoeactionfigures.net Robert D Blackburn

    This is just one more update in what I’m sure is a long list of future updates. It seems as though there will always be something Google is looking to fix. Big brands rule and the little guy is only getting smaller. I suggest diversifying the way your site gets traffic, it’s the only way to weaken the hit your site takes. The less significant Google traffic is to your website the better off you will be.

  • http://redpenredtemper.com Geraldine

    That’s good news for us internet users but bad news for SEO people (well, those who are doing it the wrong and illegitimate way). I always have this problem like when I search for a topic, and what comes up in first page of Google result page, I’m always using Google for online searchers, are blog posts that contains very little helpful information.

  • http://greenleaf-net-solutions.com/ Colin Crawford

    There is so much information out there about keywords etc but I can’t seem to get the idea why some software programs still use the Meta Keywords tag in their analysis of your website. So what is right? If you look at other web sites, their Keywords Meta tag is full of repeated keywords but in a different order or used with other keywords. From my understanding you only have to use the keyword once and seperated by a comma. But as Matt Cutt’s has said the meta tag is not used so why is it still being measured with these so called SEO software from big companies?

  • http://imninja.net/ Chikara

    It seems to me that too much ‘exact anchor text’ is causing the problems for many sites. Also, a lot of old designs and outdated looking websites have been hit. This is the continuation of the direction that Google has been moving in IMHO. They want better websites to rank higher in the SERPs. SEO is losing its grip.

  • http://www.alexanders.co.nz Rachel Alexander

    Only one client’s site was hit badly by Penguin and that had only a narrow range of links from social bookmarking sites. We have not used article marketing sites for a long time. Seems the key is varied anchor text links, and avoiding spammy black hat tactics like keyword stuffing. I’m a bit worried that I have a few lists of keyword links in footers – but they’re not long.

  • http://www.sellstockphotos.biz Matt Brading

    What gets me is the self-centered view that everything webmasters do is all about Google, and the assumption that people know exactly what they’re looking for when they go online.

    For years I’ve swapped links with other websites that I believed my visitors might find useful … we catered to a similar audience/interests so quite often they linked back. Presumeably that’s useful for visitors to both our sites, but now we get penalised for it?

    I’ve also built lots of links from all over the place to direct traffic to my websites, starting way back before Google even existed. That’s now considered spam … even though we get a good portion of our visitor traffic from those kinds of links.

    The main theme of my websites is photography, and people looking for virtually any ‘subject’ are quite often interested in seeing images of that subject. Google acknowledges this by adding ‘images’ results to their search page, but I have to cop a quality penalty if I have links on non-photography website?

    Penalising linking like this shows a lack of understanding by Google of how their people use the internet. Could you imagine how dull the web would be if no one was game link to another site, or let another site link to them, for fear of Google deeming it irrelevant and penalising them?

    They call it ‘web browsing’ for a reason, and half the joy of the internet is finding stuff by accident. It’s not always about search and it’s not all about Google.

  • http://www.caraccessoriesdelhi.com/ Varun Bansal

    Awesome ! Is the world. The videos are just amazing. Better than reading posts telling about SEO. Its better to sit back and listen. Thanks .Helped in the 2 things : keywords and url paths.. :)

  • http://www.squidoo.com/women-colonial-costume-wigs Sunny

    I don’t understand why backlinks are causing such a hard time for legit and quality websites that have been ranking and getting traffic for many years now ans then to suddenly get the axe because of a few people who do not play fair is really sad. Those who run an online business will have to diversify their traffic away from the major search engines to survive these days.

  • http://www.mountainmarttreks.com Dolakh Thapa

    hi web master
    i don’t understand about google panda 3.5 update all content are spam so what type of website does work please let me inform.

  • http://MyNYCBirthday.com NYC Birthday

    Excellent article, and I very much appreciate you sharing the videos. They were exactly what I was looking for to answer a question about keyword density.

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