Body Text: Optimizing Content Without Keyword Stuffing

By Alan Eggleston

Optimized body text is as important to higher search rankings as optimized headlines, meta tags, and linking. They all work together. Together, they are critical to someone finding your website in a search.

To hear some tell it, you need to sprinkle your text with keywords and use your keywords a certain percentage of your total text. Not quite. What you need is for your keywords to appear naturally in your text, and you can add them strategically for clarity without tripping the “keyword stuffing” tripwire. Here’s how.

Keyword Stuffing: Loading a Web page with keywords to improve its search engine ranking. Keyword stuffing defined by Google itself…

Keyword Rules for Body Text

Rule one: The more often a keyword or keyword phrase appears on a Web page, the higher that page should rank in search engines for that keyword or keyword phrase.

Rule two: To be effective a keyword or keyword phrase should be used a number of times on the page, but don’t worry about trying to match a certain “keyword density” or percentage. For best results, go for quality over quantity.

Rule three: Write keywords early into your content, then write them at the end of your content. The most important keyword should be at the beginning of the first paragraph.

Rule four: Highlight keywords by making them bold or italic (first use), using them as anchor text for links (first use), and using them in subheads and alt tags.

Rule five: Write naturally. It shouldn’t be apparent to your reader (and, thus, the search engine) that you are optimizing your page. Write for the reader.

Rule six: You may use variations on the keyword, such as various verb forms, since the search engine will recognize them. Use different spellings only if your audience will use them in doing a search or will expect to see them in use.

Rule seven: Use keywords to help you write more clearly, replacing nouns you might be tempted to use otherwise which might confuse readers. However, do not simply use keywords to add keywords.

An Example

Let’s go back to the Lone Ranger and Tonto example we used for writing SEO headlines. For this exercise, we assumed that instead of working together until they can ride off into the sunset, the Lone Ranger and Tonto decide to split early and go their separate ways. Here’s a possible article, the text first unoptimized then rewritten to be optimized:

Not-so-optimized…
Masked Man and His Faithful Sidekick Split
Silver and Scout never saw it coming. One day they were helping the Lone Ranger and Tonto chase outlaws, the next day they were all going their separate ways. The foursome made the split after a news conference announcing irreconcilable differences and an even division of the loot they had compiled from turning in bank robbers, stage coach bandits, and petty thieves. Marshall Matt Dillon accepted their resignation with reluctance but said it was understandable given the group’s tumultuous relationship. They will hand in their outfits and turn in their six shooters before riding out of town tomorrow, although the masked man is expected to keep his hand poured silver bullets.

Optimized…

Lone Ranger and Tonto Go Their Separate Ways
The Lone Ranger
and Tonto are going their separate ways. The famous Masked Man and his Faithful Sidekick, with their fleet-footed steeds, Silver and Scout, announced the split at a news conference citing irreconcilable differences. The Lone Ranger and Tonto will leave with considerable loot, which they compiled from catching bank robbers, stage coach bandits, and petty thieves. Marshall Matt Dillon accepted their resignation with reluctance but said it was understandable given the heroic duo’s troublesome relationship. Tonto said that he and Kemosabe will hand in their outfits and turn in their six shooters before riding out of town at high noon, although the Masked Man is expected to keep his signature silver bullets. We bid the Lone Ranger and Tonto a hearty “High-oh, Silver, away!”

What I did in the last paragraph was replace common nouns like he or they or them with the keywords The Lone Ranger, Tonto, Masked Man, Faithful Sidekick, Kemosabe, Silver, Scout, and so on. It’s easy to use the common nouns when referring to the subjects of the article, so it’s also easy to replace them – when it will read naturally – with the actual keywords. What you will find is that in attempting to optimize the text you will actually be clarifying it as well. In longer articles, you can also add subheads, quote boxes, and other devices that also contain the keywords. After you work with the copy, read it over and make sure it reads naturally – if it doesn’t, you may have tripped the keyword stuffing tripwire and you may be penalized.

Next Up – An Editor’s Look at Links

How many links are too many? We are told we need outbound links, inbound links, internal links, but no one says how to tell when enough is enough. We’ll have a discussion next time – join me!

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