Just because you read a few SEO blogs or heard from a friend of a friend of a friend who once heard that changing meta tags is all it takes, or just because you know how to write great content doesn’t make you great at SEO.
On the contrary using too many overlapping search engine optimization elements on a page can also send the wrong signal to ever watchful algorithms and trigger an over-optimization penalty.
How can you tell if you have been hit with an over optimization penalty?
- De-indexation (a loss of pages in the search engines index).
- Rankings plummets (either for specific keywords or groups of keywords).
- Your web traffic dries up to a mere trickle or shadow of its former volume.
SEO requires a delicate balance between what is considered relevant, natural and popular from the perspective of off-page SEO (link velocity) and peer review. This requires impeccable continuity for on page considerations such as how to employ internal links, prevent duplicate content or structure superb navigation, page templates or site architecture.
Get any of these metrics wrong by overdoing them and you’re likely to incur a penalty. First you should understand the parameters of optimization before knowing which metrics to focus on and in what order.
How Far is Too Far?
I have seen everything from people abusing the noscript tag to stuff links, creating 1 pixel tables and keeping the text the same color as the background (to hide content), stuffing alt text to optimizing CSS values with keyword-rich anchor text to get a boost in search engines.
The point is, things taken past the point of moderation are a red flag waiting to happen. We understand that competitive markets exist and not everybody plays fair (such as database driven dynamic insertion based on keyword clusters, RSS arbitrage, cloaking and other gray areas), but the last thing you should do is follow suit in an attempt to inflate relevance.
There are enough challenges to contend with online, the last thing you want to do is contribute to your own demise. Here are some useful tips to avoid over optimization penalties and earn your rankings amongst the other more authoritative websites in your market or niche.
Relevant and Succinct Titles:
Keep titles focused to what users can expect to find “on that page”. Rankings are by the page and a title that is stuffed with keywords from other segments of the site can get that page flagged for stuffing.
For a perfect example of relevant titles, url’s (universal resource locators / the web page address), h1 tags (what that page is about) and internal links, just refer to any page in Wikipedia.
Linking The Same Anchor Text to Multiple Sources:
If you have multiple occurrences on a page with the same keywords anchor text (the text in the link), then try and make sure that they do not all link to the same place. The only exception to this rule might be in the main site navigation if you link to the homepage with the word home, then link from the body text to the homepage with a keyword rich-anchor.
Search engines are smart enough to distinguish navigation blocks within your website template from the body area or contextual links vs. links in the sidebar or footer of your website; but there is no need to intentionally or unintentionally create links to different locations with the same anchor text. The rule is, one link location per anchor per page (not 5 links on the page with the same anchor trying to link to 5 different pages).
Minimize Outbound Links where Applicable:
The more links you have leaving each page, the more link flow that page passes to each of the links. Unless your pages are replete with excessive link flow, then try to consolidate a top down approach or use relevant lateral linking (from relevant page to relevant page) to reinforce topicality of your theme (page focus).
In layman’s terms if you have a real chunky navigation with 150 links leaving each page, none of those pages win (since they are hemorrhaging potential ranking factor through dividing the link flow) as well as those recurring shingles (groups of words) also skew the page focus.
Less is more when it comes to navigation or structuring links in to links out on a page by page basis. Although traffic reaches your website from multiple keywords, use the minimal amount of navigation (enough to get visitors back to a category page or hub page), but not too much to eliminate the possibility of that page providing ranking factor for itself of other pages.
Link Metrics, Varying Anchor Text:
Link clusters leave a trail and aside from IP diversity, the most prominent mistake for many SEO wannabes is to overdo the inbound links to a page with the same anchor text. Understanding that link velocity and link discovery time all play a part in uncovering automation or link inflation tactics, the last thing you want to do is overdo it and build too many links too fast with the same keywords.
Once you’re in the penalty box, you have to figure out which type of filter you may have tripped to get back out of it. What you lose in the long run is not worth the short term gain you may benefit from acquiring links from bad neighborhoods, stuffing keywords, using tons of me too pages with nearly indistinguishable content to inflate search engine ranking factors.
The best SEO strategy is to understand the appropriate balance of site structure, relevant navigation or server side includes, the proper use of alt attributes and images, best practices for internal links and not to abuse off page ranking factor from excessively or disproportionately getting a small series of inbound links based on a redundant keyword or similar keyword cluster.