Does Keyword Stuffing Still Work?
Google has beat the drum for years that keyword stuffing absolutely won't game its search engines. That's difficult to take seriously sometimes, since anomalies still pop up here and there. Take Apple stock. Late last month, Apple was showing up in Google Finance when users typed the word "sell" into the search engine. Google said it wasn't deliberate but that there was an explanation - keywords.
Wait, keywords aren't supposed to game the search results. Yet, Apple's problem, according to Google was that, "our algorithms seem to be keying off of the words “sell” and “sells” in the description of this very popular stock symbol. We’re working on how to adjust things so it doesn’t happen anymore." Here is what Apple's description looked like prior to the fix:
and here is what it looks like now:
Notice the keyword changes? What's peculiar is that Danny Sullivan reported, on Search Engine Land, that Amazon.com had a similar keyword setup in its description on Google Finance. In a brilliant move, Google's explanation also included, "The popularity of the ticker is indeed part of this, and why Apple in particular is coming up even though the word may appear in other stock tickers’ descriptions."
If you go and type in "sell" you'll no longer see Apple in the search results. It's gone. Google denies that this was an "Easter Egg" joke. It does raise some interesting questions though, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. Google has basically hinted that popularity and lots and lots of keywords is a recipe for ranking.
Maybe Google only wants to give popular brands a prominent place in its search results, but won't say so publicly. Maybe it will look the other way on "gray" or even some forms of blackhat SEO if it's coming from some very popular company - sometimes - as long as nobody really speaks up and raises a stink about it. Or maybe it's all just a big misunderstanding, as they say.
Most webmasters will have to pay attention to the official Google rules which basically frown on putting a lot of keywords into your content with the intent of manipulating search results. Even companies like J.C. Penny have been nailed for violating Google's Webmaster Guidelines so it's anyone's guess as to whether this is baked into Google's algorithm or whether it was truly a fluke.
Takeaway: This seems like another example of Google saying "there's nothing to see here. Move along folks." But there is something to see. A chink in the armor. A vulnerability. Google made a mistake. Most webmasters feel that this is true, and every once in a while, they get a glimpse of it. Yet, how many of them diversify their traffic sources. Maybe 2013 should be the year that sees more diversity in SEO. Maybe webmasters should start buying traffic from reputable brokers. Maybe more guest blog posts are needed. Maybe webmasters need to turn to old-school tactics like direct mail and direct response. What would you do without a Google fire hose of traffic? Would you survive a glitch like this if it was not in your favor?