Tuesday, 6 November 2012

SEO basics - keyword stuffing is so over

Think back to the late 1990's. Do you remember those old hmtl web pages, carrying huge chunks of text stuffed with keywords? The content would have looked something like this:

"PLUMBING IN BATH Get yourself a PLUMBER in BATH for all your PLUMBING needs call 0800-local-plumber today!!!!"

This would be endlessly repeated until the bottom of the page, possibly interspersed with some grainy, poor resolution pictures.

Do you know why web pages don't look like this now?

One of the key reasons is because over the years new inventions have come along, such as CSS which was officially launched by w3w in 1996 and more recently, HTML5 which is due for release in 2014. As with any new invention, the powers that be reward people for using the new shiny toys. Microsoft and Apple led the charge and as the world wide web became more prominent, search engines like Yahoo! and Alta Vista took center stage.

They never left.
Yahoo! logo
From an SEO perspective, Google is one of the major players of search, with the Yahoo!/Bing empire close behind. Search engines care about only one thing - bringing the most relevant websites to their customers attention when search terms are mashed in. The better they are at giving their customers helpful, sensible answers to their searches, the more likely that customer will use them again. This opens doors to advertising revenue and all manner of income streams.

For web designers, this was the beginning of an arms race that is ongoing today. Search engines come up with algorithms to asses websites, allowing them to identify and promote the comedy pictures and anecdotes that you are really looking for when you search 'Poodle haircut funny' instead of delivering up comedians that mention both haircuts and Poodles, for example. 

Extreme Poodle style
This is what we want...
Keywords are one of the signals they use to do this. By looking at the content of the page they can see the words Poodle, haircut and funny in the keywords. But they are not just interested in making sure its a page about that subject matter. They want to know that the website is of high quality, that the content is entertaining and that their searchers are going to appreciate this as a search result.

In short, the algorthim will assess the page by the same criteria as a human would - does it look good, is it informative, is it written in real english?

By slamming the content full of keywords in a sludge of badly written, repetitive and unhelpful content, you can guarantee that the search engine will take the same approach as a human would - bounce right off that page and onto another one. 

This practice of 'keyword stuffing' is so frowned upon by search engines that it has resulted in the runiation of websites all over, and has been abandoned by professional SEO's. 

See also
The battle of the browsers
Say hello to responsive web design

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