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Over Optimization - How much is too much SEO?
We are going to touch a very sensitive subject in the article. Over Optimization in the SEO world.
There is a huge number of articles and pieces information about SEO out there. All of them instruct you in doing things the right way and follow the best practices guide lines. But none or very few of them, inform you about the possible dangers that over optimization holds and the fact that it is a real thing.
Over Optimization is actually a very old subject in SEO it has been around for more than 10 years now and there is a real penalty Google applies to websites that go over the top in terms of SEO.
Gary, webmaster and data analyst at Google was asked about over optimization on Twitter:
So when exactly does Google starts penalizing websites for too much SEO? I'll least below some of the main reasons Google might hit you with an over optimization penality. Although we don't have a complete list of what Google thinks it is overoptimization, I personally formed an idea along the years studying each ranking update in detail to figure out what factors Google wants to crack down on and what Google values above all else.
Let's start with the on-page optimization, here are the main factors that main lead to over optimization and maybe a Google penalty in the end:
1. Exact matched highly searchable keywords.
If you go around implementing exactly matched highly popular keywords in all of your on-page SEO you are not doing yourself a favor and chances are you won't rank for that keyword. If you go around implementing it in H1, H2, Title tag, Meta description, URL, in the first paragraph and numerous times in the content itself, well, just think about it, that clearly isn't natural and Google is not blind, will take notice of that and rank you accordingly or even hitting you with a penalty.
I personally like diversifying my keywords, I split my main keyword into 5-7 subject oriented keywords, this will make my on-page optimization look natural and totally "unforced".
2. Your overall on-page optimization is too perfect!
So, you managed to implement everything possible in terms of on-page optimization. Perfect optimized headings (h1, h2, h3, h4 and h5); optimized URLs, title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags based on exact matched keywords for images, perfect robots.txt, sitemap,XML, open graph, twitter card, AMP, loads of schema.org and microformats you don't even need you even have meta keywords implemented - THAT'S too much!
If everything is too perfect and way too keyword orientated, you reached over optimization and Google doesn't like al this "control" you managed to achieve. It means you don't focus on offering users the best content possible, the best users experience and you focus more on positive search engine "signals.
Off-page over optimization:
1. Your anchor text is the same on more than 50% of your backlinks and the text itself is a highly searched and popular exact matched keyword. There is no other way of signaling to Google that you bought backlinks or made them through black hat methods than having loads of exact matched anchor text keywords. Seriously, if you are doing this, evenin a manual way, stop!
Google has penalized stuff like this for ages now and something tells me that it just got better and better at understanding fake backlinks. At the best, you will get no effect from such backlinks.
2. Big influx on backlinks in a short period of time. There are a lot of ways we can earn backlinks, we all know that. Everything that doesn't fall into completely natural backlinks, meaning you don't need to interfere in any way, falls into the black hat or gray hat territory. Personally, I'm all for gray hat backlink building, but you need to be careful. Getting too many backlinks in a short period of time singles Google you may have gotten those backlinks in "illegal" ways, therefore Google may consider not transfering any value or even hit you with a penalty.
Google knows the value and the potential of your site so you are definitely gonna raise some red flags if your website hasn't got more than 10 backlinks in the last year and abruptly in one week, it gets loads of new backlinks from multiple sources.
So there you have it, my main over-optimization insights. Keep in mind Google can and WILL penalize you for focusing too much on SEO. I'm not saying you should ignore SEO but when you put a lot more effort into your on-page SEO then improving the content you offer to your users, then you might be on the overoptimization road.
If you have anything to add please do it in the comments bellow!