This may sound rudimentary, but I found it alarming enough in the recent past to write this warning regarding SEO: too much of a good thing may end your website’s rankings and put you in some hot water. I’m talking about keywords and stuffing keywords into places on your web page in overabundance. 

Very recently, a client contracted a firm to help with the SEO of their website. The agency made some changes which I found strange. My “spidey-sense” was tingling about what I witnessed on the pages which were updated, and I wanted to share this little tidbit of information to help you avoid what could potentially become a bit of a problem now or later down the line.

First, what is “SEO?” Search Engine Optimization is what someone does to a website to improve its ability to get found online. It can be broken down into essentially three parts:

  • Technical SEO: this pertains to site structure, image optimization, canonical URLs, caching, SSL certificates, and other website performance and structural traits which can have an effect on search engines’ willingness to index and rank a web page.
  • Off-site SEO: this consists of backlinks and generally how popular a page is. With good backlinks from authoritative sources, a page may be deemed worthy as a resource to others.
  • On-page SEO: this has to do with the content that’s on a page, the organization of that content, and the meta data pertaining to the page.

In this particular instance, the agency performing the SEO work created extra-long title tags with repeated keywords in different iterations. They then did much the same to the meta description. Furthermore, they changed some of the other content areas on the page to reflect those other keywords in ways that did not read well, but which contained the keyword phrase.

This is not recommended.

Stuffing your site’s page may on the surface feel like you are adding additional context. However, being redundant (albeit with different iterations of the same phrase), particularly in high-value areas such as your title tag may hurt you more than help you.

Keep in mind, a title tag is the first thing that will show on a SERP (Search Engine Results Page). On Google, it’s the blue-colored lettering on the search results that links to the page. If you have a title tag that looks uninviting and is not really in natural language formats, you may immediately turn someone off from clicking. Moreover, your meta description might be the snippet of your page located under the URL. If that looks like it was written by someone who can’t speak or write properly, no matter how relevant your page may be, it may not seem trustworthy.

If you really want to know what Google thinks about how you should structure your site content, look no further than Google’s SEO Starter Guide:

Use Helpful Title Tags

Regarding Title Tags, keep them under 70 characters. Google says specifically to do this:

  • Choose a title that reads naturally and effectively communicates the topic of the page’s content.
  • Each page on your site should ideally have a unique title, which helps Google know how the page is distinct from the others on your site. If your site uses separate mobile pages, remember to use good titles on the mobile versions too.
  • Titles can be both short and informative. If the title is too long or otherwise deemed less relevant, Google may show only a portion of it or one that’s automatically generated in the search result. Google may also show different titles depending on the user’s query or device used for searching.

And to avoid this:

  • Using extremely lengthy titles that are unhelpful to users.
  • Stuffing unneeded keywords in your title tags.
  • Using a single title across all of your site’s pages or a large group of pages.
  • Choosing a title that has no relation to the content on the page.
  • Using default or vague titles like “Untitled” or “New Page 1”.

Craft Meaningful Meta Descriptions

For Meta Descriptions, a good rule of thumb is to keep it under 140 characters. Google says to do the following:

  • Accurately summarize the page content
  • Use unique descriptions for each page

And to avoid:

  • Using a single description meta tag across all of your site’s pages or a large group of pages.
  • Writing a description meta tag that has no relation to the content on the page.
  • Using generic descriptions like “This is a web page” or “Page about baseball cards”.
  • Filling the description with only keywords.
  • Copying and pasting the entire content of the document into the description meta tag.

I find it surprising sometimes that people marketing their business or helping others to market try to “bend” the rules to be different. But, in the search marketing space, it’s absolutely the best course of action to play inside of the constraints of best practices. We’re dealing with software which is very rules-based. If you don’t play by the “bots’” rules, you may find yourself on the bench.