Over Optimization or SEO Overkill?
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.
Signs of Over-Optimization
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 back links to your site contain the exact same keywords over and over
What criteria does Google use?
To understand why Google can consider certain websites over-optimized, it is important to factor in the criteria that Google uses to rank websites.
When fully indexing a website, Google does not just look at the optimization of the target website; it also compares the website with all the other websites that belong to the same niche / category / keyword range. Through this comparison, Google can then figure out the following:
- Is this website "way more" optimized than the current top ranking websites?
- In the past, have over-optimized websites been discovered as spam websites?
- What are the trends / acceptable limits for well-optimized websites in this niche/keyword range?
Since Google is automated, it cannot do what we do - look at the webpage and determine if the purpose is spam or delivering truly useful information. Instead, the search engine uses historical trends to predict what the acceptable limits of over-optimization are, and how likely over-optimized websites are to be found out as spam.
In other words, your website may be red flagged as being a potential spamming website even though your only fault might be that you were "perfect" in optimizing your website while your competition was left far behind.
Google takes both on-page and off-page optimization into account when checking for over-optimization / spam, and as such it watches out for over-optimization in all ranking factors - your backlinks and your tag optimization (meta tags, title tags, header tags) being most important.
A lot of what I am talking about becomes invalid if one tries any overt search engine spamming technique , such as stuffing your pages with keywords, white on white text (something I talked about in the first few lessons) or backlink spamming (building too many backlinks with the same anchor text in a short period of time. But it is also possible that you have followed advice and still have your website penalized for over-optimization. The real question then is: How can you avoid such penalties?
Finally, to Google and the other search engines it makes no difference if a site is intentionally over-optimized to cheat them or over-optimization is the result of good intentions, so no matter what your motives are, always try to keep to reasonable practices and remember that do not overstep the line.