One of the deadliest mistakes an online marketer can make is known as over-optimization. Basically, it’s SEO carried too far. Like it or not, search engine optimization is also manipulation. One uses techniques that are believed to elicit a favorable response from search engines, such as Google. When you do SEO too well – or rather, use it too much – you could be over-optimizng your website. And this in turn can lead to penalties or worse.
What Is Over-Optimization?
Over-optimization usually occurs when targeted keywords are used too often on the same web page, or when they are emphasized too much with formatting. For example, it used to be that the number of times a keyword appeared on a page determined how relevant that page was to that keyword. Spammers have abused this knowledge. Now if you use keywords too frequently in the same article, you could get penalized by Google for over-optimization.
Most honest online marketers are aware of “black hat SEO” such as placing invisible text on a page and avoid it. However over-optimization may not be as self-evident as black hat SEO techniques. You may think you are doing it all right, when in fact you are going too far.
Are You Over-Optimizing Your Website?
The easiest way to tell if your site is over-optimized is to read the content to yourself. Does it look and sound natural? Or is it very obvious you are targeting specific keywords? Do you repeat the same exact phrase over and over? Do you emphasize them in bold or italic text unnecessarily? Even though search engines are mere artificial intelligence that operate based on preprogrammed algorithms, they are shockingly good at judging the quality of a web page. If the content of a page seems over-optimized to you, it will probably be that way to search engines as well.
You could also ask a friend to review your website for you, if you trust anyone with your business. Hiring an SEO consultant to do this is not essential.
Signs of Over-Optimization
Here are some common signs of an over-optimized page:
- Keywords are repeated unnecessarily in the title (e.g. “Las Vegas Vacation: Things to Do on a Las Vegas Vacation”)
- Keywords are used without variations, for example “facebook fan page” and never “facebook page,” “facebook business page,” etc.
- Keywords are used so often that the text sounds unnatural and repetitive
- Keywords are unnecessarily formatted in bold, italic or other special formatting
- Keywords appear repeatedly in headings (h2, h3, etc.)
- Titles are repeated in the body exactly as in the page title
- The anchor text of backlinks to your site contain the exact same keywords over and over
Fix It Quickly
As soon as you identify an over-optimization problem with your website, fix it immediately. Research your keywords and look for alternative long tail variations. For example, instead of merely targeting “facebook emoticons,” try “emoticons for facebook,” “facebook smileys,” “facebook symbols,” and so on. Use these in your on-site text as well as your linkbuilding articles, such as guest posts and marketed articles. That doesn’t mean you should stop using your primary keywords; just don’t overuse them.
When using keywords, choose the words that best describe the content to a human reader. Do not think of manipulating search engines when you do this. Think of what searchers need and help them find what they need on your site.
Remember, too much SEO can be a bad thing. Search engines use algorithms to help searchers, not online marketers who want to make a profit – and they will severely punish anyone caught manipulating their systems. Google Panda has been a lesson for everyone. Take that lesson to heart. Focus on great content and pleasing your visitors first; think keywords and search engines second.