10 Ways to Over-Optimize Your Website
Penguin against over-optimization
The recent Penguin update to the Google ranking algorithm has lots of website owners, webmasters and SEOs concerned about”over-optimization”. Some forms of overly aggressive optimization have worked in the past to gain rankings that are undeserved. That’s one of the main things the Penguin algorithm was designed to correct. And I’d be surprised if Yahoo and Bing weren’t paying attention to over-optimization as well.
What is over-optimization?
But just what constitutes over-optimization? How do you know if you’ve over-optimized your site? Hannah Howard has outlined 10 ways you may have done that in a post at LonghornLeads.com. She goes into more detail than I will here, but this may tell you pretty much all you need. Here’s the list:
- Keyword stuffing — “If you’re looking for red widgets, you’ve come to the right red widget place because we’re the red widget experts. When it comes to red widgets …” You get the idea. Don’t do it.
- Hidden text — This is an old technique I’m surprised to see some people still try to get away with: white text on a white background that’s just repeated keywords. It becomes visible only if you sweep your mouse over it. This will hurt you.
- Over-use of backlinks — too many low value or worthless backlinks can hurt you. (Yes, you can have too many links, if they’re crappy links.) Your important link popularity is based on the number and quality of your backlinks.
- Weak links — Too many reciprocal links above the fold on your content pages to help rankings of a partner or another website of yours is another red flag for the Penguin update.
- Forcing what should come naturally — The practice of creating many mini-sites to feed links to your main site or creating large blog networks to drive links is one that’s become too obvious to do any good and Google will catch you.
- Content that’s too keyword-driven — Content should be keyword driven to a point; you need to be aware of what keywords your visitors will be searching for. But focusing too much on that brings you close to keyword stuffing. If your text reads awkwardly because of your attempt to incorporate keywords, you’re over-optimizing.
- Too much keyword-rich anchor text on inbound links — This is a relatively new one. Most people link to websites unthinkingly by making the anchor text (the clickable text in the link) simply be the name of the company or even the URL. For SEO, we hope to get keyword-rich links. But if too many of your inbound links have keywords in them, it doesn’t look natural, and is a symptom of link over-optimization. Many of those people are linking to you, not spontaneously because you have great content they want to share, but because you or someone on your behalf has asked them to. Google may de-value those links.
- Doorway pages — This got some BMW and Ricoh sites completely banned from Google for more than six months a few years ago. People still try this technique, and the Penguin update will get them.
- Paid ads: too many or too prominent — Yes, it’s legitimate for some kinds of websites to have some ads that generate revenue, but if you overdo it, or if the ads are irrelevant to what you’re discussing on a given page, that may earn you a Penguin update slap-down.
- Duplicate content — I see this too often — a company that does, say housecleaning, creates a page for every town in their coverage area. And the content on all those pages is bound to be awfully similar. In some cases the content is identical except for the town name. Penguin will jump on that with both feet. Don’t do it.
Have you over-optimized your site?
Have you done any of these things? Most of us have, more or less, at one time or another. And over-optimizing your site is as bad as — or worse than — not optimizing it at all. Take a good, honest look at your site with these transgressions in mind and fix any you may have inadvertently committed.