A new report from McAfee may cause some search engine optimization (SEO) experts to rethink which keywords they use as some are seen to be closely tied to malware.

The company studied more than 2,600 of the most popular keywords used in search engines during 2008 and examined more than 413,000 unique URLs associated with those searches.

Although the study found that only a fraction of the results contained risk (1.7 percent), some keywords did have a higher risk than others. According to the report, the most risky keywords where those associated with song lyrics (26.3 percent) or the word “free” (21.3 percent).

The most dangerous keyword variation, according to the study, was screensaver which had an average risk of 34.4 percent. Conversely, the safest categories were health related and those based on the current economic situation.

McAfee contends that its study confirms that scammers use popular trends in order to reach the most amount of victims online.

“[O]n the web, popular trends and visitor traffic are highly correlated,” the report says.

With this information, some in the search engine optimization (SEO) industry may want to rethink using popular search terms that are not necessarily related to their website. In a recent article, Jane Sumerset argued against loading sites with keywords saying that keyword-heavy content can actually backfire for companies.

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.