Matt-Cutts-with-Red-CardThe world of SEO has been up in arms since the announcement from Google that they are working on a penalty for over-optimization. Apparently there is such thing as too much SEO.

Google’s Matt Cutts has indicated that the changes will take place in the next few weeks. The changes are being introduced to give website with genuine high quality content a chance to rank higher. This is opposed to websites with lower quality content but more advanced SEO tactics. The penalty aims to even this problem out so that websites are given a higher chance to rank on their content.

This all seems to make perfect sense so far but what exactly does this mean for the future of SEO? Well it appears the fine line between spam and over-optimization is shrinking by the minute. However, those working hard on their SEO tactics should not be discouraged by this recent news. It’s more a case of making sure that the SEO on your website is at a happy healthy medium.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid over-optimizing your website.

Keyword Stuffing

An example of keyword stuffing is when you visit a website and every other word is a keyword. This is not good news at all. Randomly repeated words will also count towards this and Google will not hesitate to penalize.

The keywords on your website should be spread around evenly and fall organically with your text. Aim to get your keywords in your URL, header tags and once or twice in the first paragraph. Avoid using the same keywords for every single description and tag. The same goes for images on your site. It’s important to title your images accurately. Don’t just put an irrelevant keyword in there if it doesn’t actually describe the image.

From here, you can insert your keywords wherever you see fit but REMEMBER moderation is key.

Note: If you think you have been using too many keywords across your website then remove as many as you can. Once you’ve made your changes and are confident that your site no longer violates Google’s guidelines you can submit your site for reconsideration.

Quality content

High quality content is always going to work in your favor. If your content in is unique, engaging and well written then you’ll have nothing to worry about in terms of the penalty. Duplicate content is also a no-go area in Google’s books. This can happen if you have pages which are very similar. Make sure the content is unique even if you have only changed the wording around. There are online tools such as Copyscape which you can use to check your content against other webpages both internal and external.

Continue to create excellent content as this will keep your readership happy and could attract more links.

Link Building

You should be avoiding link exchanges at all costs. This is definitely classed as over-optimization and something you will get penalized for. You may have been fooled as this tactic has previously proved popular and effective until Google cottoned on. The initial temptation of exchanging a bunch of links will soon subside when you realize they’re poor quality, poor authority and bad news for your website. Instead, you should be aiming for quality links from authority sites. This will show that you have quality content that is worth linking to. You should also make sure you have a varied link profile as over-using the same keyword link will result in punishment. It should be natural and organic.

For example, if your main term was ‘web design’ you might also target ‘designing a

website’, ‘web design templates’ and even ‘(brand) web design tips’. In addition to this, you

should look to include links that are straight URLs or even images. Websites linking to you may not automatically do so using anchor text or keywords.

Internal Linking

While adding an internal link where relevant is great, you should really avoid overdoing it. Having internal links littered over your webpages linking to internal pages will look extremely spammy.

Writing descriptive anchor texts is a useful tactic to help search engines and users to gain a greater understanding of your content.

The more Google knows about your site—through your content, page titles, anchor text, etc.—the more relevant results you can return for users (and your potential search visitors). For example, if you run a web design site and you have videos to accompany the textual content then you need to be careful about how you reference it.

This could be classed as over-optimization:

To see all our web design videos, <a href=”videos.html”>click here</a> for the entire listing.

Instead of the generic “click here,” you could rewrite the anchor text in more detail:

Feel free to browse all of our <a href=”videos.html”>web design videos</a>.

The second reference is more specific and useful to your user.

Note: For verified site owners, Webmaster Tools has the feature “Links > Pages with internal links“, where you can check to see if Google has picked up all your internal links as you intended. This is especially useful if your site uses JavaScript within the navigation which is something Google is not always able to pick up on. 

Additional tips

  • Build links slowly and surely. Overwhelming Google with a mass of new links will look spammy and suspicious. Work on building up a collection of high quality links.
  • Avoid using hidden text – text which is not visible to humans. The text is normally hidden in HTML, behind images or disguised as the same color as the background. These manipulation methods most definitely fall under over-optimization.

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