Keyword stuffing and the big three search engines

Zuze, H. & Weideman, M.

Online Information Review, Vol. 37 Iss: 2, pp.268 - 286.

Zuze, H. & Weideman, M. 2013. Keyword stuffing and the big three search engines, Online Information Review, Vol. 37 Iss: 2, pp.268 - 286. Online:

Purpose - The purpose of this research project was to determine how the three biggest search engines interpret keyword stuffing as a negative design element. Design/methodology/approach - This research was based on triangulation between scholar reporting, search engine claims, SEO practitioners and empirical evidence on the interpretation of keyword stuffing. Five websites with varying keyword densities were designed and submitted to Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Two phases of the experiment were done and the response of the search engines was recorded. Findings - Scholars have indicated different views in respect of spamdexing, characterised by different keyword density measurements in the body text of a webpage. During both phases, almost all the test webpages, including the one with a 97.3 per cent keyword density, were indexed. Research limitations/implications - Only the three biggest search engines were considered, and monitoring was done for a set time only. The claims that high keyword densities will lead to blacklisting have been refuted. Originality/value - Websites should be designed with high quality, well-written content. Even though keyword stuffing is unlikely to lead to search engine penalties, it could deter human visitors and reduce website be unique.
  1. Abernethy, J., Chapelle, O. and Castillo, C. (2009), "WITCH: web spam identification through content and hyperlinksR, Proceedings of the 4th International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web (AIRWeb 08), Now Publishers, Hanover, MA, pp. 1-23.
  2. Alimohammadi, D. (2003), "Meta-tag: a means to control the process of web indexing", Online Information Review, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 238-242.
  3. Apex Pacific (2010), "SEO suite: how long does it take to have my website indexed?", available at:⁄48 (accessed 25 October 2011).
  4. Appleton, R. (2010), "Are spam tactics stopping your site from reaching its rankings potential?", available at: rankings-potential (accessed 19 October 2011).
  5. Berman, R. and Katona, Z. (2011), "The role of search engine optimization in search marketing", Social Science Research Network, available at:⁄41745644 (accessed 15 October 2011).
  6. Borchardt, J. and Weideman, M. (2008), "A theoretical discussion of the role the use of images and videos play in the achievement if top search ranking", working paper, Munich University of Applied Science, available at:⁄4 1052&context1⁄4inf_papers (accessed 15 October 2011).
  7. Borglum, K. (2009), "Getting your website to show up in search ranking (Practice Management Q&A)", Medical Economics, Vol. 86 No. 14, pp. 438-444.
  8. Castillo, C., Gyongyi, Z., Jatowt, A. and Tanaka, K. (2011), "Joint WICOW/AIRWeb workshop on web quality (WebQuality 2011)", Proceedings of the Joint WICOW/AIRWeb Workshop on Web Quality (WebQuality 2011) In conjunction with 20th International World Wide Web Conference in Hyderabad, India, 2011, ACM Press, New York, pp. 313-314.
  9. Charlesworth, A. (2009), Internet Marketing: A Practical Approach, Butterworth-Heinemann Publishing, Oxford.
  10. Chen, L. (2010), "Using a two-stage technique to design a keyword suggestion system", Information Research, Vol. 15 No. 1, available at: paper425.html (accessed 10 October 2011).
  11. Egele, M., Kolbitsch, C. and Platzer, C. (2009), "Removing web spam links from search engine results", Journal in Computer Virology, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 51-62.
  12. Eisenberg, B., Quarto-vonTivadar, J., Davis, L.T. and Crosby, B. (2008), Always Be Testing: The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer, Sybex, Indianapolis, IN.
  13. Erdelyi, M., Garzo, A. and Benczur, A.A. (2011), "Web spam classification: a few features worth more", Joint WICOW/AIRWeb Workshop on Web Quality (WebQuality 2011) In Conjunction With the 20th International World Wide Web Conference in Hyderabad, India, 2011, ACM Press, New York, pp. 27-35.
  14. Google (2010), "Webmaster guidelines and keyword stuffing", available at: support/Webmasters/bin/⁄466358 (accessed 15 September 2011).
  15. Henzinger, M.R., Motwani, R. and Silverstein, C. (2002), "Challenges in web search engines", ACM SIGIR Forum, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 1-12, available at: IJCAI-2003/PDF/278.pdf (accessed 18 October 2011).
  16. Karma Snack (2011), "Search engine market share (April 2011)", available at: www. (accessed 07 October 2011).
  17. Kassotis, C. (2009), "Keyword stuffing and anchor text - mortal enemies!", available at: 193162 (accessed 1 October 2011).
  18. Kimura, M., Saito, K. and Sato, S. (2005), "Detecting search engine spam from a trackback network in blogspace", Proceedings of the 9th KES International Conference on Knowledge-Based & Intelligent Information & Engineering Systems (KES2005), in Melbourne, Australia, 14-16 September, Springer, Berlin, pp. 723-729.
  19. Lewandowski, D. (2008), "A three-year study on the freshness of web search engine databases", Journal of Information Science, Vol. 34 No. 6, pp. 817-831.
  20. Malaga, R.A. (2009), "Web 2.0 techniques for search engine optimization: two case studies", Review of Business Research, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 132-139.
  21. Mathews, J. (2011), "Get on Google front page: 2011 SEO tips", available at: http://books.⁄46n70oyVmgAQC&pg1⁄4PT7&dq1⁄4howþlongþdoesþitþtake þ to þ index þ a þwebsite&hl1⁄4en&ei1⁄4f1R3TYymIpC38QPhto2gDA&sa1⁄4X&oi1⁄4book_ result&ct1⁄4result&resnum1⁄48&ved1⁄4 0CE8Q6AEwBw#v1⁄4onepage&q&f1⁄4false (accessed 9 November 2011).
  22. Ramos, A. and Cota, S. (2004), Insider Guide to SEO: How to Get Your Website to the Top of the Search Engines, Jain Publishing Company, Fremont, CA.
  23. Ricca, F., Tonella, P., Girardi, C. and Pianta, E. (2004), "An empirical study on keyword-based web site clustering", Proceedings of the 12th IEEE International Workshop on Program Comprehension, IEEE Press, Los Alamitos, CA, pp. 204-213.
  24. Shin, Y., Gupta, M. and Myers, S. (2011), "Prevalence and mitigation of forum spamming 2011", available at:⁄45935048 (accessed 28 October 2011).
  25. SPSS Inc (2007), "SPSS advanced statistics 17.0: Kaplan-Meier survival analysis", available at: %20Statistics%2017.0.pdf (accessed 18 October 2011).
  26. Sterling, G. (2012), "Bing and Google gain market share while Yahoo drops", available at: http:// (accessed 14 March 2012).
  27. Todaro, M. (2007), Internet Marketing Methods Revealed: The Complete Guide to Becoming an Internet Marketing Expert, Atlantic, Ocala, FL.
  28. Visser, E.B. and Weideman, M. (2011), "An empirical study on website usability elements and how they affect search engine optimisation", South African Journal of Information Management, Vol. 13 No. 1, available at: 428/459 (accessed 28 August 2012).
  29. Weideman, M. (2004), "Empirical evaluation of one of the relationships between the user, search engines, metadata and websites in three-letter .com websites", South African Journal of Information Management, Vol. 6 No. 3, available at: article/view/312 (accessed 28 August 2012).
  30. Weideman, M. (2008), "Internet searching and other research challenges: publish or perish", Inaugural speech, Faculty of Informatics and Design, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, available at: (accessed 31 October 2011).
  31. Weideman, M. (2009), Website Visibility: The Theory and Practice of Improving Rankings, Woodhead, Oxford.
  32. Weiss, A. and Weideman, M. (2008), "An empirical study on the importance of keyword use in webpage naming conventions, in achieving top webpage rankings", working paper, Munich University of Applied Science, available at: viewcontent.cgi?article1⁄41051&context1⁄4inf_papers (accessed 15 October 2011).
  33. Wikipedia (2010), "Keyword density", available at: Keyword_density (accessed 27 October 2011).
  34. Wilson, R.F. and Pettijohn, J.B. (2008), "Search engine optimisation: a primer on outsourcing key tasks", Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, Vol. 10 No. 2, pp. 133-149.
  35. Yung, M.E. (2011), "Search engine optimisation: have you been crawled over?", available at: Over (accessed 25 October 2011).
  36. Zahorsky, R.M. (2010), "A web trick catches a venerable law directory", ABA Journal, Vol. 96 No. 2, pp. 32-33.
  37. Zaslavsky, D. (2010), "Pro webmasters: how long did it take for your new website to be indexed by search engines", available at: how-long-did-it-take-for-your-new-website-to-be-indexed-by-search-engines (accessed 25 October 2011).
  38. Zhang, J. and Dimitroff, A. (2005), "The impact of webpage content characteristics on webpage visibility in search engine results (part I)", Information Processing and Management, Vol. 41 No. 3, pp. 665-690.
  39. Zhao, L. (2004), "Jump higher: analyzing web-site rank in Google", American Library Association, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 108-119.
Full text of Journal Article No 0047: Keyword stuffing and the big three search engines

Digital Library with full-text of academic publications on website visibility, usability, search engines, information retrieval

Back to Home page