Keyword Spamming: Are You Doing It Without Knowing It?

The subject of keyword spamming comes up on a regular basis. This is usually a result of either a misunderstanding of what keyword spamming is or a deliberate misuse of keywords. Most Internet e-commerce sites frown on the inappropriate use of keywords or spamming. Even experienced, long-time Internet shop owners have been known to ignore the unwritten rule against the use of inappropriate keywords in their titles and categories. And, in cases where a shop owner is notified by a shopper or other interested party that an item listing appears to contain keyword spamming, although the shop owner may take the time to correct the listing in question, they often do not address other instances of keyword spamming within their shop. This is unfortunate, and we'd like to take this opportunity to educate e-commerce shops on this important and often misunderstood subject.

What Is Keyword Spamming?
Many, even very seasoned and successful shops, don't thoroughly understand what it is. Keyword spamming is the practice of including words unrelated to your item in titles and catalog categories, and is strictly prohibited by most Internet mall sites, whether it is done intentionally or not. Usually when unrelated keywords are intentionally used, it is to mislead those searching with the intent of attracting more visitors to the shop. The assumption is that more visitors equals more sales. But in fact, this type of strategy usually has the adverse affect. It is frustrating for a customer to time and again, search for a specific type of item, only to end up in a shop offering something that is not what they are searching for. Someone searching for a set of Bakelite flatware is not going to land in a shop that sells only Bakelite jewelry, and decide to forget about the flatware and purchase a piece of jewelry instead. It renders the search engine ineffective, and in the process, damages the credibility of the shop, and/or the Internet mall site. The search engines such as Google do not take kindly to it, either. Their systems are designed to detect keyword spamming, and if they do, your item(s) and/or pages of your shop risk being removed from the search indexes altogether.

Real Life Examples
For those shop owners who are unsure as to what constitutes keyword spamming, we are including a list of examples. These are actual examples taken directly from an Internet mall site in recent weeks:

1. Keyword Spamming in Catalog - Categories: Including multiple manufactures' names within a catalog string is considered keyword spamming:

Example: Collectibles: Home Accessories: Glass, Crystal: Lalique, Baccarat, Val Saint Lambert, Daum

If the item is Baccarat, it can't be Lalique. Using one category within a catalog to capture the names of several manufacturers may simplify listing items, but it is keyword spamming.

2. Keyword Spamming in Catalog - Categories: Using a manufacturer's name in a category for an item when the shop owner clearly does not know whom the manufacturer is:

Example: Collectibles: Glass, Crystal: Fenton
But the description reads, "Offered here is a gorgeous Jadite Candy Compote or Console Bowl! I believe it is either Clambroth or Fenton."

In order to be included in a Fenton category, the piece must be made by Fenton. Multiple choice identification scenarios are not acceptable and are considered keyword spamming.

3. Keyword Spamming in Titles: Another case of multiple-choice scenarios:

Example: The item title reads "19th C. Ridgway or Davenport Scenic Dessert Set"

It is either a Ridgway or a Davenport, but it cannot be both. Titles and categories must be accurate and not a "best guess." Either/or scenarios are considered to be keyword spamming.

4. Keyword Spamming in Titles: Identifying an item as from a specific period when it is not:

Example: Title reads, "French Louis XVI Painted Oval Mirror"

The item description states, "Circa date 1940." If an item is identified as "French Louis XVI" then one should expect the item to be of the period from which the style evolved. The piece may have design elements representative of this period, and may be referred to as in the "style" of Louis XVI within the description, but it is keyword spamming to include a period reference in the title when the item is not from this period. In fact, there are those in the online community who deem the use of the term "style" to be misleading as well, and feel it should not be used at all. Thus, we recommend that the term "style" be used judiciously.

5. Keyword Spamming in Titles and Catalog Categories: Is it a period Chippendale? Is it a Federal Cabinetmaker Desk? Is it from the 1800's? Is it American Centennial?

Example: Title - "Period Chippendale Federal Cabinetmaker Desk 1800's American Centennial Gentleman's Vanity Desk Honduras Mahogany..."

Catalog Category: Antiques: Furniture: Period: Chippendale: Federal: Cabinetmaker: Desk: American Centennial: Gentleman S: Vanity: Desk: Honduras Mahogany: Historic

Part of the Description: "This lovely antique desk is correctly made to Period Chippendale. I can not say for sure that it is a Period late 18th century original or if it is a mid to 1870's Centennial Cabinetmaker's piece ..."

Whatever it is, it is not all of these things. This is keyword spamming

6. Keyword Spamming in Catalog - Categories: Another example of combining two unlike items within a category string:

Example: Title - "Vintage Creamer and Sugar Bowl"
Catalog Category: Collectibles : Pottery : Kitchenware : Collectible Glass
If it is pottery, it is not glass. However, if the piece were indeed constructed from pottery and glass, then using both terms within a category string would be acceptable.

These are only a few examples of keyword spamming. Unfortunately, there are more. Whether intentional or not, keyword spamming is not acceptable for any reason. It is the shop owner's responsibility to become familiarized with what keyword spamming is and to make every effort to not use keywords inappropriately when listing an item for sale on the Internet. Improving the accuracy of search results benefits everyone, especially the customer. It is what he or she wants, and should expect, from a professional marketplace.

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