Keyword stuffing and the big three search engines

Herbert Zuze (Faculty of Business, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa)
Melius Weideman (Website Attributes Research Centre, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town, South Africa)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Publication date: 12 April 2013



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 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.


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. and Weideman, M. (2013), "Keyword stuffing and the big three search engines", Online Information Review, Vol. 37 No. 2, pp. 268-286.

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Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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