Really good news here for digital marketers who like to take shortcuts.
Google is on record saying that keyword-rich titles don’t violate its guidelines.
So feel free to do some legal keyword-stuffing!
The Recent Revelation
The welcome news dropped this past week during a Google Search Central SEO live stream. At that virtual meeting, an SEO told John Mueller that he frequently sees small businesses cram titles and descriptions with keywords to gain rank.
That seems like a strategy that worked back in the late 1990’s. But not any more.
Apparently, though, it does work.
At least according to that SEO. He said a florist in Brighton rolled out some content with the following description: “wedding flowers Brighton, funeral flowers Brighton, anniversary flowers Brighton, birthday flowers Brighton…” and so on.
That same SEO said that it’s not unusual to see pages that do keyword -stuffing rank high in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
He went on to ask Mueller why those kinds of pages rank so well when keyword-stuffing is against Google’s guidelines.
The Question Stems From a False Premise
But that kind of keyword-stuffing isn’t against Google’s guidelines.
“It’s not against our webmaster guidelines.,” Mueller said. “It’s not something that we would say is problematic. I think, at most, it’s something where you could improve things if you had a better fitting title because we understand the relevance a little bit better.”
So it makes sense that sites don’t get penalized for not breaking the rules.
However, Mueller did advise people who practice keyword-stuffing in titles and descriptions to rewrite their work so they get a better click-through rate.
“If you were looking for ‘flower delivery Brighton’ and as a title in the search results you see ‘flowers, green flowers, yellow flowers, Brighton…’ and all of the cities nearby. You might look at that and say: well is this some SEO result? Or is this actually a business that will do a good job and create some nice flowers for me?”
In other words, that florist’s description might get a decent rank, but does it really convince anyone to click on the link in search results? It’s safe to say that it’s not very good marketing.
So the trade-off is whether you want to rank well or get decent click-throughs at a lower rank. Some businesses will make the decision to go with rank while others might find a persuasive meta description generates more sales.
Additionally, Mueller also advised people to create titles that match the search query as opposed to just matching a keyword. If you can put together a title that matches what the user is looking for, you’re probably going to see a better CTR.
Still Bad for Content
Although the subject didn’t come up in the meeting, keyword-stuffing is still bad for SEO.
Why? Because Google looks for that kind of practice and views it as an illegal attempt to manipulate the search rankings. Many websites have lost rank because people put the keyword in the content too many times.
So how much should you put the keyword in your article or blog post? I wouldn’t exceed more than once out of every 100 words. And you’re probably better off bumping that up to 150 words.
Also, use keyword variations.
For example, if your keyword is “wedding flowers Brighton,” you could mix it up a bit with something like “wedding bouquets Brighton” or “wedding ceremony flowers Brighton.”
These days, Google’s algorithm is smart enough to pick up on context and synonyms.
That wasn’t the case back in the 1990’s.
Wrapping It Up
Bottom line: play by the rules.
But the rules do allow for keyword-stuffing in titles and descriptions. It’s up to you to decide if that’s a better strategy than opting for a high CTR.