Websites are increasingly being utilised as marketing tools, which results in major competition amongst them for high rankings. However, many ranking-improvement techniques are being used which are considered to be unethical, and could result in blacklisting. Search engines are not clear on how they define or respond to all these techniques.


The purpose of this research project was to determine how the three biggest search engines interpret keyword stuffing as a negative design element.


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.


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% keyword density, were indexed.


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.


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 value.



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


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