With SEO evolving more and more, the direct dependence of website optimization on keyword stuffing is no longer an absolute fact.
Google is continuously improving its search engine, and ranking pages are becoming more and more demanding and equipped with webspam-resistant over optimization checkers.
As the playing field is shifting towards an even more disruptive phase, many websites face an over optimization penalty for making websites easy to find, but not as reader-friendly as they are expected to be.
While there is not a single, universally-accepted over optimization definition, the term is commonly associated with SEO practices which are not dedicated to delivering valuable and beneficial content to readers. Basically, this means that all attempts to attract visitors without actually responding to their needs can be spotted and penalized by Google.
At the same time, SEO optimization is desirable and recommended to all WP users, so how do you know when it is enough? The good thing is that WordPress offers an array of anchor text best practices to help you build a Google-friendly site, and use a coding structure that will improve your SEO performance in the long run.
The best way to avoid over optimizing your website is to distinguish between ‘good optimizing’ and ‘overdone'(bad) optimizing). A borderline between the two does exist, and you can recognize it by thinking whether your website content is valuable to random visitors and regular readers.
Keywords and anchor text distribution for internal linking
Internal linking makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is to achieve internal linking with keyword-stuffed anchor text. Using anchor here and there, and in strict correlation with the URL will benefit your SEO, but the more you do it, the more likely you are to earn a Google penalty.
Your link profile is quite likely to be damaged by keyword-stuffed anchor text, and that’s a huge problem because of the profile being your most important SEO component. That’s the one and the only thing you’re not allowed to ruin.
Therefore, don’t force traffic with keywords that make no sense put into your content. While indexing the site, Google will consider every single keyword across your domain, and decide how to rank it based on what it discovered. If your website boosts with keywords that have nothing to do with its content, odds are poor that it will have the strength to climb higher on the SERP.
In 2012, Penguin was updated for the first time, and revolutionized, to say at least, the rules of the link building game.
Ever since, Penguin spotted low-quality, spammy, and artificial link building across the web, and targeted performers as ‘those forcing their way into the game’. There is no rule that can expel you permanently from the list, but going up SERP pages remains way more difficult than going down.
For instance, if your penalty is algorithmic, it means you have to solve anchor text issues and get the positive ranking back. In this case, Penguin and Google Panda join forces to re-analyze the site and consider all factors and pool data to examine spammy penalties just as they did the first time.
The most common reason for earning a Google penalty is keyword density, both in cases when you’re using too many keywords or repeat them more than you should. Regardless of how attractive it sounds to pump content with keywords, you should resist the temptation and use only what is important to your readers.
These are the spots where keywords should appear:
- Introductory sentences
- ALT tags on the first images
- First H1 or H2 tag (it is allowed to use different keywords here)
- Last sentences
Anchor text SEO and internal linking
What does healthy linking mean? According to Google, top link profiles include links directing visitors to the home page of the site and deeper internal pages. At least, this is how established and popular websites do it. The usual beginner mistake is to link content only to top navigation pages, in which case the power of the marketing campaign decreases, people miss some of the best content on that site, and show no interest to link to it.
This is another consequence of over optimization, caused by webmasters trying to link content to the homepage, About Us or Contact Us pages, or directly to subscription and check out.
While it is true that this is important info, not all links should point out to such pages. Instead, you should promote deeper internal content to improve the quality of your link profile.
The general rule is to avoid using the same link in a single post – just imagine you need to link to ‘follow blogging’ sentence to the blog post, and then repeat the same link for ‘follow blogging post’. As natural as it seems, it doesn’t make sense. Google will detect it, and tag it is an over optimization attempt, which means your interlinking efforts will backfire directly at you.
The most valuable and safest-to-use links are the editorially earned ones, so skip poor quality links as important you think they may be.
While building your backlinks, remember to follow all anchor texts you’ve included. Unless you do this, you will be wondering around not sure of what to do next.
Quality interlinking requires neat organization and careful selection of keywords, which means you should prepare an Excel spreadsheet to skip using the same texts over again. There are many anchor text distribution tools and monitoring systems that can automate this process for you, including Monitor Backlinks, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.
The leading anchor text types are in fact simple and branded anchors that are safe and effective, so make sure you build such in an organized manner and using only top content with correct co-occurrence and co-citation. In this way, you will improve your link profile and give Google no reason to penalize you.
Another smart way to add content value with no over optimization is blogging, where content is indeed useful and relevant to readers. The same as in the basic scenario, stuffing posts with keywords should be avoided at all cost.
Interested website owners should also consider social media marketing as a valuable SEO optimization practice, and one that will secure them lots of genuine followers and fans of their content. The process will certainly take more time and effort, but it will have a more positive effect on your SEO and Web Marketing footprint than any other strategy you can think of.
What happens to over optimized websites?
Google uses Panda to detect sites whose content is over-optimized and penalize them consequently. For what is worth, not all websites are deliberately stuffed with optimization bells and whistles – quite often, Panda’s list involves websites whose owners tried too hard to adopt footer SEO recommendations, and which end up lower in the rankings unexpectedly. This is why over optimization is never a good idea.
Another thing over optimization affects is the quality of your UX, as text becomes more difficult and less fun to read, both when you stuff it with keywords and links. Social media doesn’t pay attention to these texts either, simply because it knows visitors won’t be interested in it.
Basically, over optimization may happen with all types of SEO improvements (in particular when you combine several), as soon as Google starts ‘wondering’ why there is so much hassle happening on your website. Your pages won’t look natural, and end up raising Google bots; a red flag that rejects visitors rather than attracting them. Put into perspective, the only beneficial SEO practices are the ones that are relevant and appear naturally.
As we already said, over optimization may happen to all website owners taking technical SEO too seriously, despite the fact they only have good intentions paying attention to links and keywords.
After a while, they end up focusing on technicalities more than they do on the actual content, and that doesn’t look good on the whole picture Google has on their website. The main objective should always be to provide valuable content that will be attractive both to Google and visitors, as such content is far more likely to make SEO lasting and productive.