How to Avoid Keyword Abuse

Episode #4 in Gary’s “Top 10 Reasons for Article Rejection” video series!

For Gary, the EzineArticles champion of high-quality articles, no sacrifice is too great in his ongoing quest to help you understand why articles get rejected. In this edition, Gary sets his own personal health and comfort aside just to help others avoid the pain and delays of keyword abuse.

Don’t let Gary’s suffering be in vain. By simply watching this video, you can help insure that Gary’s metaphoric sacrifice has purpose.

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We’re happy to report that Gary recovered from his little episode. However, he asks that next time you’re thinking about writing a keyword- or keyphrase-heavy article, remember the word “cake” and think of him.

Bottom line: Keywords are like cake – A little bit is good. Too much is bad.

Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid using the same keywords and phrases over and over in an article. Do you have any tips for overcoming that hurdle? If so, please leave a comment to share your thoughts with the other members of the EzineArticles family.

To see all the videos in the “Top 10 Reasons for Article Rejection” series, surf over to our video archive page.


Cathy Chapman writes:

My problem continues to be that I’m unable to find out how to talk about the limbic brain and its role in emotions, the amygdala, and its role in emotions, without using the terms more than once every 100 words.

I had an article rejected (later accepted when I appealed) because I was talking about the heart-to heart connection. I used the word “heart” several times.

Another time I was talking about the immune system. Although I got it to read so it was accepted, the writing was atrocious. I had to use convoluted phrasing to avoid the simple and direct words “immune system.” The article did not flow naturally.

The article was so bad, I now write in my field, mind-body psychology on my blog, rather than spending so much time in convoluted phrasing.

This has definitely limited the number of articles I write.

And, yes, I’ve asked, implored, begged for assistance … but no one is interested.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 8:57 AM


Andrea Monk writes:

Hi Cathy,

I have experienced a similar problem when writing about reading music.

One thought is to NOT include the repeated essential word as a key word in your tags. Then you can use it as often as you like.

Just a thought!


Cathy Chapman writes:

Dear Andrea,

I found out that wouldn’t work, either. I can’t remember the topic of the article, but it was rejected for keyword abuse. I was so puzzled because the word that was overused wasn’t the point of the article, and was not listed as a keyword, but was flagged.

There are just some topics I can’t write about because words need to be repeated. I would love to have published more direction oriented articles in the mind-body field, but, unfortunately, I’ve had to abandon a few articles because I couldn’t find a synonym.

I’m going to develop another blog and use it for writings that I can’t avoid the word.

I am working on my HAHD and am almost half way through. So, I’m managing fairly well, just am not able to write about some things close to my heart.



Low word count articles (250-400 words) typically make excessive keywords or keyphrases stick out moreso than larger word count articles.

Most people don’t naturally write with the same keyword density when the word count approaches the 700-900 word range.

Lastly, we’re always reviewing when a member feels they’ve been wrongly rejected for keyword or keyphrase density abuse. We have yet to see enough arguments that we should allow very low word count articles (under 400 words) to have an increased keyword density limit. The challenge we face is to distinguish between the quality low word count author vs. the spammer low word count author. When the keyword density is high and the word count is low… it’s difficult for us sometimes to make a distinction.

My theme here is: Increase word counts and you’ll see your keyword repetition naturally decrease.


Geoff writes:

Anothere excellent video. Hope Gary recovers from too many cakes.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 9:05 AM




We allow up to 2 uses of the keyword or keyphrase per 100 words. In your case, [Strengthen Your Immune System – Live From Your Heart] your article used the word “HEART” 11 times in a 264 word article (4.1%)… which is more than double our allowed rate and quadruple more than our recommendation.

One way to overcome this issue is to expand your article word count length…without expanding your inclusion of the keyword.

I liked your article and as you can see, it was published…

Our 2% threshold is necessary to combat the WAR we’re in against those who wish to game the search engines using us as a tool. We’ve drawn the line in the sand and aren’t budging. I know you didn’t intend to do that, but your unhappiness with us is a casualty of the war we have against those who game the system. It’s unfortunate, but true.

What’s really amazing to me about your case, is that you’re a PhD who is writing high-value low-word count articles. That is so rare. :) Usually, PhD’s crank out volumes of unnecessary words qualifying all of their statements.

For now, all we can offer genuine experts who aren’t out to game the system, is a manual review process after the auto-rejection.

We are moving towards cracking down hard on KEY PHRASE abuse as it’s a larger threat to us than KEYWORD abuse. Keyword abuse happens by accident way more often than KEY PHRASE abuse (that happens on purpose moreso than accident).

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 9:40 AM


Rick S. writes:

Ah, throwing up is always funny. :-)

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 10:03 AM


RA Butters writes:

If you’ve spent a lot of time writing commercially, forgetting some of the “rules” can help a lot when it comes to keyword density. In technical writing or newspaper articles, for example, it’s often wise to assume that unless you’re extremely specific you’re apt to be misunderstood; if you’re writing about XYZ, it’s perfectly acceptable (and maybe even preferable!) to use the term XYZ in almost every sentence if necessary. It’s not the way we actually talk, but it’s part of some types of writing.

I’ve found it helpful to view articles in a slightly different light – rather than assuming that the reader will misunderstand and compensating for that in advance, I assume the reader WILL understand what I mean if I refer to the key concept in less specific terms. For me, at least, maintaining a more conversational quality in articles helps cut down on keyword problems.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 10:31 AM



Number one tip for not using the same keywords is … use a thesaurus. There’s a free one at

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 11:06 AM


Ron Thompson writes:

Not Cake , Any thing but cake , it’s my most favourite food out there . Liver, I hate liver. . You know I think I may have used too many cakes in my last article.
Great video and now I know.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 3:06 PM


Phil writes:

It is a battle I agree, in SEO terms you want your keyword to appear several times but I have also found it a battle to reduce the count when you are writing highly targeted articles.

The only solution is to keep changing the keyword to an alternative phrase or word which does then spoil the flow and focus of the article unfortunately.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 3:50 PM


Lance Winslow writes:

I feel Cathy’s pain, especially when she is not an SEO keyword stuffer, she is a legitimate writer of important articles stuffed with great information for the human race.

When we make rules here or anywhere in society to stop a few bad apples and inforce them onto perfectly good citizens or in this case writers without regard to the intent of the rules or genuine legitimacy of the individual who does no harm, we all lose.

The true solution to this dilemma is to have a by-pass for legitimate authors who occassionally go over the rule due to the need to accurately describe what they are talking about. To ask them to submit substitute words that do not do justice to their work is actually hurting the public, the reader and the entire reason of the Internet; to share human information.

I recommend that rather than making more rules to torment writers with rejection notices or teach them how to work within these artificial rules, that someone work to solve the problem. Ditch the SEO writers who abuse, and allow the legitimate article authors to run free. That way you’ll have both compliance and fairness to all concerned. THINK!

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 9:27 PM


Calvin writes:

One more problem I noticed is EZA’s rejection of profane words. I recently had an article (previously approved) pulled from circulation because someone reported that it used profanity. It seems the reader did not like my using the word “shit” when writing about cat litter training.

I checked with the editors, and they said that the context of usage doesn’t matter. Unfortunately, they were not able to give me a list of profane words which I should avoid using.

It would be useful for authors if EzineArticles would supply a list of disallowed words. After all, in many cases, you are already automatically disqualifying articles, so it shouldn’t be a problem to also display a list of these words on a separate page in your system, or have it included in your Editorial Guidelines or TOS pages.

Comment provided June 3, 2009 at 10:10 PM


Willox Perez writes:

Gary is the best! :)

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 12:26 AM



Go Lance, Cathy’s Champion!

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 1:09 AM


Jean Andrews writes:

Thanks for the reminder about keyword abuse. I had one article rejected because of this, ages ago. It was unintentional and just one of those articles that required the use of a certain phrase to get the point explained. It was a challenge to fix it too! Have to admit I sometimes forget to check on the number of keywords I’m including. Thanks, Gary, and the Ezine Team for the great tips and training!

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 3:03 AM



I’ve never had this stop an article for me, but I’m aware of this rule, so I do review and edit as I go. Sometimes I can say “CTS” rather than “Carpal Tunnel Syndrome” or I can use other key phrases like “hand and wrist”. Some are sort of easy, like Fibromyalgia. Could be Fibromyalgia Syndrome, FMS or “fibro.” Being more specific or less specific might help, yet still be perfectly understandable. “Heart”–well, that would be a hard one. Or, “Liver.” I guess you might be able to say “that organ” or “the place where you feel your emotions” or “your center.” And, Good Job, Cathy, for knowing how to keep your articles short and sweet! Editing is a wonderful skill for a writer!

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 8:05 AM


Roey writes:

It would be interesting to see a list of disallowed words. I have avoid some subjects just because they may contain questionable words. For example, I have a site about newborn babies. Well, an interesting and valuable subject for moms-to-be is about circumcision. However, I am concerned about using the “p” word. It’s pretty hard to write about circumcision without using the “p” word. So, that subject is not included in the website.

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 8:17 AM




We’ve allowed the use of the word “PENIS” 59,400 times so far, so I’m pretty sure we’ll allow you to use it too.


I’m talking internally with our team about our stop words and restricted phrase routines….and will report back.

I’m certain we will not be releasing our restricted phrase list as it’s based on legal demand letters and the downside to us outweighs the upside.

One acid test we do use is whether or not a word will make an advertiser look bad for having their ad appear next to content that contains such a word. In the case of penis enlargement ads, it’s perfectly ok/preferred to have the word penis in the article… but if the ads being served are about yoga (just a random example), then having the F word in the article doesn’t make contextual sense.

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 8:35 AM


Roey writes:

Dear Chris,

Thanks for the reply. I was just using the word “penis” as an example to represent all of the questionable words. I will write an article about circumcision. I’m a little confused about the cat litter example above. To compare apples to apples, I assume “feces” would be equivalent to “penis.” In order to avoid being too keyword heave (ref: heart example above) we would use synonyms. So was the problem with the kitty litter article the use of slang? I can think of more mild synonyms for “feces” but they are mild in my northeast USA book. I wouldn’t want to use a synonym that would offend someone in another part of the country/world. Maybe you could set up some kind of flag system for writers to ask if a specific word is acceptable or needs revision from the get-go. (Prior to the rejection or worse, getting reported as abuse after publication.) Thank you for your answers. You clearly care about this issue and are looking out for the interest of all involved (the readers, writers and advertisers.)



Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 4:13 PM


Rachel Agheyisi writes:

Another good one, Gary.

I was stopped by the “cake police” on one article. It was a Cathy-type situation (Oh Cathy, you are our torch bearer for this one, I hope you’re OK with this!) But I fixed it, even though it made the piece a bit less fluid. But the intent of the article remained essentially intact.

My guess is there might be times when this rule will cause a writer to post elsewhere if they feel that editing the original content might adversely affect its readability.

However, from what I hear, Google is quite strict with “excessive” keyword users — and they don’t have Gary (or the EZ staff) to tell you why you rank low or don’t show up in the searches.

Comment provided June 4, 2009 at 5:40 PM


Malcolm Evans writes:

Good reading. I am increasingly of the opinion that it is great content, spread around wisely but not thinly, coupled with a reasonable number of well-placed backlinks, always linked to having something useful to sell, wins out every time, In short, don’t forget the business logic in the rush for backlinks!

Comment provided June 6, 2009 at 1:03 PM


John Chablo writes:

Great videos Gary, very entertaining and informative, just like a good article should be.

Comment provided June 9, 2009 at 10:21 AM


Ellen Bell writes:

I echo Cathy’s sentiments. When you’re writing a perfectly good, not spammy or keyword-stuffed article about a very specific topic, it can be really tough to limit the use of a specific word.

In my case, I write a lot of gardening articles, and recently I’ve done a series like “Growing Your Best Tomatoes”, “Growing Your Best Watermelons”, “Growing Your Best Beans”, etc. When you’re writing an informative article about beans, and the article is only 500 words long, it’s pretty tough to limit the use of the word “beans” to 5-10 times! Especially when you’re discussing different varieties of beans to choose from, how to plant, cultivate, harvest, etc.

Like Cathy, I did end up rewriting my “Growing Your Best Beans” article and got it approved, but did have to convolute some sentences, and I really don’t think it reads as well or is quite as informative as the original version. I had to remove a few sentences all together that were good content, but used the word “beans” a couple times, just to get my keyword count down. Frustrating!!

I do think that there needs to be some discretion as to which articles are rejected for keyword abuse. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to read a keyword-rich article and know whether an author is writing spam or genuinely good content.

Comment provided June 9, 2009 at 11:32 AM




I’ve reviewed the list of profanity words we’re currently disallowing and we won’t be releasing it.

The end goal is to provide our users with a positive experience…and if that means losing a few articles that include profanity; we’re ok with the loss.

In your case, I’d hate the lose the article if a simple word change could keep the article accepted.

Comment provided June 9, 2009 at 1:22 PM


Marivic writes:


I cannot really understand why you are reluctant to promote me to platinum level. Can you cite a particular issue to support such refusal?

All my submitted articles were approved and published, meaning have met all your requirements, so what’s the reason?

Thanks anyway for allowing me extensions (for several times already). I suggest you better review your policy and be specific.


Comment provided July 21, 2010 at 1:13 AM


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