It is a phrase that sounds like a total contradiction in terms: website over-optimization. But nevertheless, it is a term that’s frequently used in the world of SEO.
That is because some websites take their optimization strategies too far and actually end up negatively impacting their search engine ranking as a result.
In fact, one technique that’s often associated with over optimization – large-scale link building – has triggered Google’s Webspam Team to reach out to webmasters.
In a recent blog post, they reminded webmasters about the importance of attracting decent, non-spammy links, and warned that guest posts, partner posts and syndicated posts, whose primary intent is to build large-scale backlinks instead of to inform, could violate their guidelines on link schemes.
“For websites creating articles made for links, Google takes action on this behavior because it’s bad for the Web as a whole” – in other words, if Google deems that your website is placing link building ahead of producing quality content, you could be hit with a penalty.
So What Is Website Over Optimization?
Too much of a good thing can be harmful, and that is definitely the case when “too much” SEO leads to over-optimization. The bottom line is that while taking SEO seriously is great, you have to ensure your website remains natural and relevant at all times.
Fortunately, website over-optimization can be avoided. You just need to know what to watch out for and make sure that your content’s main objective is to inform people – not search engines.Make sure that your content’s main objective is to inform people – not search engines.Click To Tweet
Here are ten signs that could point to your site being over-optimized:
1. Non-Branded, Keyword-Rich URLs
Ever seen those websites with the long, keyword-rich domain URLs? You know, URLs like http://supercheaplaptops.com (this is a hypothetical example, by the way).
Domains like this, which use a hyper-optimized URL instead of a balanced brand name, are a red flag when it comes to over-optimization. Of course, if your business is genuinely called Super Cheap Laptops, then that domain makes sense. However, creating a website using that URL simply for its keyword value is SEO suicide.
Your domain should be your business or brand name in the first instance or something equally relevant if that is not available.
2. Keyword-Rich Anchors For Internal Links
Internal linking is a standard part of content creation and, usually, it is a good thing. Internal linking using keyword-rich anchor text that isn’t really that relevant to the target of the link is not so good.
Google views internal links that use keyword-rich anchor text and anchors that use the exact URL of the destination as red flags. Don’t get me wrong. An occasional anchor that matches the URL exactly or is keyword-rich can positively impact SEO. However, do it in a way that’s natural and adds value to the reader.
3. Duplicate Page Content
Duplicate page content is content that appears in more than one place on the Internet, and it can hurt your site’s rankings in some cases.
For instance, if you write a guest blog and publish it in several places for the sole purpose of getting a link back to your site, Google may view this as an attempt by you to game the algorithm. Guest blogging is still a great way to get your name out there, but be sure to do it the right way.
4. Non-Relevant Keywords
You should never try to increase traffic to your website using keywords that aren’t relevant – even if they do attract a lot of searches and are relatively easy to rank for!
Remember, Google is all about providing the best possible user experience, and it takes bounce rates into consideration.
For example, if someone conducts a Google search and your site pops up in the results, there’s a chance they might click on it. However, when they discover that your site isn’t relevant, they’ll soon leave again.
When Google indexes your website, it takes into account all of the keywords across your domain. Non-relevant one can end up detracting from your site’s overall search engine results pages (SERPs) ranking.
5. Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is the term used when webpages are loaded with keywords in an attempt to rank higher in the SERPs.
All of the top search engine algorithms are designed to recognize keyword stuffing nowadays, and a website could find itself penalized or completely delisted if it is deemed to be keyword stuffing.
Here’s an example:
“Ryan’s cheap Chicago plumber is the best cheap Chicago plumber in the plumbing business. Contact Ryan’s cheap Chicago plumber if you need a plumber in Chicago before it’s too late.”
It looks spammy and doesn’t actually provide the reader with any value – which is what Google and the other search engines are always striving to do.
6. Multiple H1 Tags
An H1 title tag should be reserved for the main title of an article or page. However, some webmasters try and leverage H1 tags to gain extra ground in the SERPs.
The reality, though, is it doesn’t actually work (Google and the other search engines are too smart), and it screams over-optimization.
It’s fine to use several H2 and H3 tags, but only ever use one H1 tag on a page or article.
7. Linking To Toxic Websites
It’s important to remember that link juice flows both ways, so the websites you link to are just as important as the sites that link to you. That’s why you should never, ever link to toxic websites or sites that are out-and-out spam.
A link to a toxic spam site could lead to negative SEO repercussions, which is why you should always look to link to quality websites with a strong reputation and not websites with a low Domain Authority (DA).
Such websites are inevitably there for a reason – maybe even because of over-optimization. Avoid associating yourself with them at all costs.
8. Keyword-Stuffed Footers
Have you ever seen those websites with footer sections that are loaded with keywords? They are classic examples of over-optimization at work.
Google devalues footer links anyway. Their location at the very bottom of a site means they get very little crawler recognition.
You see footers stuffed with keyword-rich links on the websites of companies that serve several different geographic locations.
Let’s go back to Ryan’s plumbing business in Chicago again (poor Ryan). He might have a footer that contains links to pages on his website, like ‘cheap plumber in Chicago,’ ‘cheap plumber in Kenwood,’ ‘cheap plumber in Bridgeport,’ and so on and so forth.
Ryan is over optimizing his website by listing all of these locations (and possibly more), and Google could penalize him for it.
Your footer should serve as a nice, clean end to a page – not be stuffed with keywords in an attempt to rank higher.
9. Backlink Creation Speed
Backlinks to your site should be natural. They should arise because someone has found your content interesting or your products/services useful. Great content and awesome products/services makes people want to link to you, and these kinds of natural backlinks take time to build.
That’s why a ton of new backlinks in a short space of time can be viewed as suspicious by the major search engines.
A much safer (and better tactic) is to attract strong, natural backlinks over time. Brand new websites that suddenly have lots of backlinks to them will likely find themselves falling foul of Google’s trust barrier.
10. Content: Write For People, Not Search Engines
The old “Content is King” mantra is just as relevant today as it has ever been.
Your blog posts should be informative and provide your readers with real, tangible value. Not only does this boost your chances of obtaining backlinks, but it also increases the chances of your posts getting shared on social media too.
Always write posts that appeal to people and not just search engines. Sure, you can (and should) include relevant keywords, but don’t overdo it or Google might hit you with a penalty.
Over-optimization definitely devalues your website in Google’s eyes. A whole site may be downgraded for hosting dubious content or for publishing substandard articles on other sites with the sole purpose of getting a link back to yours.
If you’re still not sure if your website is over optimized, my advice is to work with a qualified SEO expert who understands your industry and is up-to-date with SEO best practices. Furthermore, you should look for an SEO expert who will take the time to explain what they recommend and why they recommend it.
COO and co-founder of Creative Mindscape. Lover of marketing, psychology, tech and all things sport. Family man with a passion for living life outside the rat race and chasing your own dreams.