Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

Help! Is My Website Copy Over-Optimized?

Rankings fell after Penguin updateDid your rankings drop around the end of April?

The recent Google Penguin update is focused on web sites that are over-optimized and have been getting better rankings than they really deserve as a result. Some of what Google is looking for relates to unnatural link structure. But a lot of what they are penalizing sites for is copy that’s been over-optimized. If you saw a significant drop in your Google rankings around the end of April of this year, that may be a signal that your website has come to the attention of the Penguin algorithm change. Asking yourself three important questions can reveal whether or not you stepped over the line and need to make some changes to your copy.

Three Over-Optimization Questions

  1. How does your website sound when you read it out loud?
    If it sounds awkward or if it feels like you are tripping over one or another of your keyword phrases too often, then you may have crossed the line. Look for places in your copy where the keyword phrase isn’t needed, and drop it.
  2. Did you try to achieve a certain keyword density?
    Keyword density is a persistent myth, with many believers struggling to achieve a certain percentage of the words on the page being keyword phrases. This is a major item that Google’s latest update is focusing on. If you’ve been trying to achieve a certain density of keywords, you may have stepped over the line. Remove or paraphrase some of your keyword phrases in copy and read it out loud to yourself again.
  3. Does your copy suffer from logorrhea?
    If you wrote a lot more words that needed just so that you could work more keyword phrases into your copy, chances are that’s hurting you. When we pad our copy in order to work in keyword phrases, we typically don’t actually add more valuable information to the page. We restate things and we paraphrase thoughts, sentences, and even whole paragraphs  — and all that allows us to work our keyword phrases onto the page more times. That’s a mistake. If you have more words than you need to make your point it hurts you two ways. First it may trigger the over-optimization flag at Google, and second it may be driving visitors away from your page. If there’s too much text on your page visitors find it intimidating and either don’t read all of it or leave the page without reading any of it. The trick is to write as much as necessary about the topic and no more. Blaise Pascal once wrote “I would have written a shorter letter but didn’t have time.” On your website, take the time.

Have questions? We welcome comments and try to respond promptly.

Do your rankings need improvement? Rank Magic can help.

  1. I always make sure I have a high keyword density in my blogs and posts as this is what Google will recognise and get your site ranked better

    • I’d rethink that, Steve. Google’s Matt Cutts has been repudiating the idea of keyword density for quite awhile now. He addresses it here. In addition, the recent Penguin algorithm change is targeting pages with to high a keyword density. See the tag for Penguin in our blog for more.

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