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SEO Copywriting Tomfoolery

January 20, 2010

Hi Jill,

Do you have any info on the issue of spamdexing – specifically the practice of adding keywords into text unnaturally and then emphasizing just the keywords (for example, boldfacing and/or italicizing them)?

My boss is making me pick one keyword phrase for each blog post, insert it in each paragraph, boldface the first reference, and then italicize every subsequent reference. To me, it looks spammy and my eye "trips" over the emphasized text.

Is it something that the sites could be penalized for, or are the SE algos not rigged that tight? It's hard to not feel proud about my work, but if I'm actually harming our clients' sites, I can't continue to do this. When I walk away I feel that I am, but I thought I'd ask a more experienced SEO.



++Jill's Response++

Hi Anne,

While it's unlikely they'd get completely banned for such stuff, it could be hurting more than helping. It's certainly going to hurt more from the visitor standpoint as well. And honestly, it's tomfoolery of that sort that gives SEO copywriting – and SEO in general – a bad rap. It's what many clients think they will get when they hire an SEO because too many of them do it that way. But of course it never has to (nor should it) be that way.

I think my Art of SEO article sums up this issue.

Hope it helps!



Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Services company.

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Post Comment

 Glenn Abel said:
In doing overhauls of small-business sites, I typically encounter this outdated kind of "optimized" editorial. Typically the content was created years ago, or the owner tried some do-it-yourself SEO. Of course, there are so many ways to emphasize keywords organically without puzzling or alienating readers.

Usually this kind of spammy content signals related keyword-stuffing attempts throughout the site, all of which need to be ferretted out and cleaned up.

I find almost all clients understand organic contextual linking and other basic SEO concepts once the logic is explained.
 Rebecca L. said:
Something I will often do is bold a single keyword once per paragraph. However, if it looks bad, I won't do it. And if it doesn't read naturally, I DEFINITELY won't do it.

That said, I had a client who demanded we remove all of the bolding from a site which I inherited from another SEO. The next month their first page rankings went up 5%. Do I think the bolding was hurtful? No, I honestly don't. However, I think compared to the other positive things the site had going for it, any negative effect suffered by removing the bold text was just that insignificant.

Bold when it makes sense to bold. I like to do it at least once for the main keyword for the page toward the beginning of the content just so that a visitor can see the page topic in the content at a glance. The trick is to do it in a way that is not off-putting. Put the human audience ahead of the search engine.
 Jill Whalen said:
Personally, I wouldn't be surprised if the removing of all the bolded keywords DID help that site.
 David K. Enders, D.C. said:
I find that keeping things looking as natural as possible gets the best results. Inserting keywords in content where it will flow smoothly. I don't insert a keyword if it breaks up the flow of the sentence or paragraph.