Keyword Stuffing: When good SEO copywriting turns bad

The following is a guest blog from one of the top ecommerce copywriters in the country, “Jim L.” from New York City. One of Jim’s and my pet peeves is SEO copy gone overboard. This is when companies forget direct marketing copywriting principles and try to game the system by giving too much of a good thing and “stuffing” their online copy with unnecessary keywords that only gets their search rankings penalized.

While SEO is important, so is legibility and creating and keeping interest in the customers once they arrive at the site. Unnatural language can drive your audience away!

Below are some real life examples that Jim provides of bad copy written for keyword density rather than the audience vs. some top-performing subject lines:

As a copywriter/SEO copywriter I’m always amazed at the number of people who think copywriting isn’t a big deal. They figure anyone who can write a grocery list can write effective, motivating copy to convince potential customers to make a purchase. Let me give you an example of someone who is too cheap to hire an SEO copywriter to write effective, optimized copy for a high natural search ranking. Take a plus size prom dress as an example:

Plus size prom dress with sash in back

If you’re a plus size girl and want a plus size prom dress, we have a lot of plus size prom dresses. We have blue plus size prom dresses, black plus size prom dresses, yellow plus size prom dresses, green plus size prom dresses, white plus size prom dresses, aqua plus size prom dresses, mint green plus size prom dresses and many more plus size prom dresses for plus size girls. This particular plus size prom dress is sleeveless and has a pretty sash in the back.

(Then they list the sizes and prices.)

A search engine spider crawling this copy is going to basically give it the electronic version of the finger. What’s going on here is a practice called “stuffing”. Simply regurgitating what someone feels is their best keyword over and over again can backfire on them—in a big way. 

By the way, several of my subject lines that have achieved extremely high open rates were:

  • This ain’t your grandma’s girdle.
  • Macaroni art is nice, and so is free shipping. Happy Mother’s Day.
  • Peanut butter and jelly, tanks and capris…some things just naturally go together.
  • Who said you can’t get anything for free these days?
  • You only paid how much for that coat and those boots?

Jim L.,

Sr. Copywriter, NYC

So a comment and a question to my readers from Michele: All of these “good” examples from Jim show that success belongs to the copywriter that engages, intrigues or amuses his or her audience.  So what good and bad examples of balanced and “unbalanced” keyword-rich copy can you share?

About my guest blogger: Jim L. is renowned for his expertise in writing search-optimized copy that not only gets found by search engines but also creating entertaining direct marketing copy that drives the desired action (open rates, a purchase) by the humans who read it, particularly in email marketing and on-site promotions.


One response to “Keyword Stuffing: When good SEO copywriting turns bad

  1. Jim is correct:
    Companies need to balance their need for customer acquisition with the need to retain their existing customers.

    When you are sending out an email to a targeted group of customers or placing on-site promotions to customers visiting your web site, you need to be engaging and entertaining to keep your customers coming back for more.

    An email marketing message going to your customers’ mailboxes has to get opened. And on-site promos need to get clicked on by visitors. In both these circumstances, SEO won’t help you at all.Instead, great direct marketing rules apply- keep ’em interested.

    As FreeBlogHelp says (see
    “You don’t need me to tell you that if every sentence has the same keyword phrase in it, that’s bad! Even if the keyword stuffing actually worked, your article would be unreadable. No one in their right mind would stay longer than two seconds before clicking the Back button.
    There are so many “experts” out there who will recommend a certain keyword density… What do I recommend? How about writing for your audience and not for search engines?”

    So beware: too much of a good thing can be bad. Keyword stuffing may not only lose you good search rankings and get your site penalized by the search engines, it may also lose you customers.

    – Michele Bartram

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