How to avoid a slap from Google and maximise gains from keywords

There was a time when SEO pundits told you to stuff your website with paying keywords and the site would be on top of the search engine pages and (therefore) would generate huge incomes. In fact, many early website owners made good money doing that.

Then search engines got smarter and Google, the daddy of search engines at present, started penalizing websites for keyword stuffing. In recent changes, Google has become (i) very strict and unsparing of unnatural action that is taken to boost traffic or search position, and (ii) very smart at knowing the intent of searchers so that they get relevant search results for their queries.

Reams have been written on how to bring your content to the top of search pages without annoying today's smart search engines. Without going into the theory behind the science of web search, we bring you top tips that are up-to-date, ethical and effective.

1. Relevance is what Google, Yahoo and Bing want

Do not put keywords that are not relevant to the topic of discussion. Chances are that if you stuff irrelevant keywords, Google etc will call your bluff. If they find this out during their manual check (which, though, is very rare), they might slap a heavy penalty on you. Even if you manage to optimize your page for a keyword that is not relevant and you get to the top search page, you will be downgraded soon because people who go to your webpage will not find information that they were seeking. This quick bounce of traffic gives the signal to search engines that the page is not relevant for that keyword.

2. Depth of content gets you high marks and automatically gets you natural keywords

As Google says, the depth of content is a very strong signal for its rating of websites. All search engines like pages that have well-researched content. For that reason, long articles are preferred to short ones and original content is taken as much more important than copy-pasted one.

Coming to keywords, long and well-researched articles rank high without your trying to optimize the page because the general sense of the article will be enough to tell Google, Yahoo or Bing that the article can be very useful to people searching that topic.

On top of it, it helps if you have a look at various expressions in the article that could be subtly directed towards a particular keyword. What we mean is that quality of content supported by a bit of keyword optimization is what works the best in the long run.

3. Write often, update often.

Search engines take your site as a useful, updated resource when you write on the same topic again and again. It also shows you are really interested in that topic, perhaps you are an expert. In fact, that gives your website enough relevant keywords without you giving much thought to keywords.

4. Write for humans and then check if it will be liked by machines.

SEO guys or those in a hurry to reach the top of search pages do things upside down; they first think of keywords and decide where all to stuffed them, and then develop the article around the keywords.

It is fine to think of a topic that would get you traffic (and money), write about it and then optimize it for expressions that are likely to be real-life search expressions.

5. Don't be wary of optimization; just do it right.

Keywords are not dead, as yet. SEO in total is not irrelevant, as yet. People are likely to continue using words or phrases, and add specific attributes to them as they type their search queries. Search engines will also keep matching the search terms with webpages in their index. 

Since the indexing of pages and producing search results are done by computers, search engines develop complex algorithms for filtering good and relevant resources from the www. In doing so, they downgrade the webpages when they find use of tricks to fool search engines or searchers. What we are telling in this post is to use keywords but don't do things that might even mistakenly be considered wrong by these algo's.

Sprucing up the webpage with highlighting key phrases, using keywords to draw reader attention etc (which is natural keyword optimization) is not only liked by Google, they even recommend it.

Google itself has a free online Keyword Planner Tool. You can, if you have time and patience, use it to know what keywords would get you more traffic and more revenues. There are many ethical ways you can use good keywords ethically and without inviting wrath of search engines. Some are given at this link:

Keywords, let's repeat, will remain relevant for a long time to come. But keyword optimization should be part of a well-rounded SEO strategy for the website, which should not be too aggressive.

6. Pages matter but domain too.

This is a fair keyword strategy, and search engines will never dislike it: remain focused on the main topic or theme of your blog or website, and have individual pages focusing on different aspects or sub-topics. For example, you have a website on "blogging and social media". It will have many pages on "blogging" and many on "social media". Within the "blogging" sub-topic, you can have hundreds of pages on different aspects. In fact, you can have sub-sub-topics such as "fashion blogging" and many posts on each of them. Over a period of time as you keep updating the blog or site, you generate a huge article base on individual niches and an encyclopedia on the main theme, with all the gains and no fear of penalty from search engines!

Likely position of a site on Google due to kw optimization
We'd end the article with a few reminders on what NOT to do in applying keywords so that Google does not penalize you:
  • Don't use the same keyword many times in the body text. If the expression needs to be there naturally (e.g. "keyword" in the present article), you cannot avoid it, but in that case too, it should not be over-used artificially.
  • Don't use the same keyword more than once in title, post heading, sub-headings, URL etc. Avoid even its close variations. The days of scattering keyword around "so that it tells the search engine more strongly that the content is relevant to the keyword" are long gone.
  • Don't have more than 1% words as keywords. Even less is better.
  • Don't hide keywords in transparent font or in font color similar to the background. In fact, any type of keyword cloaking or fooling the searcher is a serious crime in the eyes of search engines.
  • SEO gurus have long been advising optimizing anchor text (the text that links to something else when you click on it). It worked well for many years but now search engines don't like anchor text that looks optimized for a keyword. They dislike it even more if it points to internal pages (pages in the same website).
  • SEO guys will also tell you, long tail keywords are liked by search engines. The reality is that they might lead to problem more easily than short keywords, if you repeat them too often. For example, "watch" can get repeated five dozen times in a natural way in a long article on watches, but even two exact occurrences of "buying analog watches" are not likely. This will be frowned upon by search engines.
  • Don't check your website or blog using SEO checkers. We used to recommend using them some years back, not now. They have not only become irrelevant, they are likely to mislead you.
  • If you take services of an SEO expert, ask how they'd optimize your site. Better, ask to share a site optimized by them and check what techniques they are using. Buy their services only if you are sure they use such techniques that would not be seen as "fooling the searcher" by search engines.
  • Finally, when in doubt, under-optimize rather than over-optimize.
This is a great resource from Google on how the search works, and from here you get links to more best practices and importance of avoiding SEO tricks. You may also like to visit this post on Google penalties to check that you are not taking actions that search engines do not lik.

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