Many businesses are so eager to get ranked in Google that they over-do it. They use aggressive SEO techniques that ultimately backfire, pushing their website further and further down the rankings…
It reminds me of the guy who is trying so hard to impress a girl that he ends up doing the complete opposite – she runs away. When you over-do it with Google, she’ll push you away as well!
So, in today’s article, I’m going to walk you through 4 “over-optimization” mistakes to avoid to ensure you don’t get pushed away by Google.
1. Stuffing Keywords into Page Titles
Google looks at the title of every page, and it helps to tell Google what your page is about. Your titles have a major impact on how your pages will rank in Google.
In case you’re not familiar, your title is part of the code of each page. It’s actually not visible on the webpage itself, but if you open up a browser, in the upper left-hand corner of that browser, you’ll see the title of the page.
(For a primer on how to find meta tags, read this article: How to find title tags and meta descriptions)
Because of the weight Google puts on titles, a lot of people try to force their keywords repetitively in the title. I see this mistake very often when I’m reviewing websites.
Back in the day, this type of keyword stuffing could improve your search engine rankings. But these days, that tactic does not work as well. Instead, it can be counter-productive.
It’s important to include your keyword in the title, but if you repeat your keywords a lot or include lots of different variations unnaturally, that can actually hurt your search engine rankings because Google will see that as manipulative.
And here’s another way that stuffing your titles with keywords can backfire…
The title is actually what shows up in the search results – it’s the blue underlined link in Google’s search results. And if you’ve just put a lot of keywords as the title, then when somebody does search, and your website shows up, then that’s going to look pretty spammy.
I know, personally, I’m not going to click on that link if it doesn’t look like a legitimate website.
2. Forcing Keywords into Your Webpage Copy
The second over-optimization tactic I see all the time is stuffing keywords into the actual webpage copy.
Before, I was talking about stuffing keywords into the title. From a website visitor’s standpoint, you could sort of fly under the radar stuffing keywords into your title tag, because most people actually don’t notice that when they’re on your website.
But putting keywords directly into the body of the webpage is obviously much more noticeable to your website visitors.
If you force keywords into your copy, your website visitors will read unnatural sentences and random keywords stuffed into the content. That looks really spammy, and it can be counter-productive for your ultimate marketing goals.
After all, what’s the goal of SEO anyway?
It’s not just rankings. And it’s not just traffic either. The ultimate goal of SEO should be to generate leads and sales. And if your website content is spammy, that could really hurt your website conversions.
Plus, if you force keywords into your website copy, Google will see that as unnatural and spammy as well. And that can hurt your search engine rankings. So it’s just not a good idea.
3. Creating Near-Duplicate Pages Purely For SEO
Imagine you’re a dentist, and you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase “New York City dentist.” You might create a page on your website focused around that keyword phrase, right? Maybe you’d optimize your homepage for that phrase.
But then, you might decide you’d also like to rank for a similar phrase like “Manhattan dentist.” And so, maybe you’d create a page for that keyword phrase too.
And so on, and so on.
Creating those near-duplicate pages used to work OK years ago…
But not today.
Google has gotten smarter at figuring out that a lot of different keywords are synonyms with the same search intent. And the Hummingbird update improved Google’s abilities even more.
You don’t need to have two different pages for New York City dentist and Manhattan dentist because Google understands that’s the same search, so they’ll display the same results for that.
Instead of creating near-duplicate pages for different synonyms, you should group your keywords into topics, and then create the best page you can for each topic.
4. Over-Optimized Anchor Text
When it comes to SEO, you need to build up your website’s authority.
And a major factor in your website’s authority is the quantity and quality of links from other websites that are linking to your website. You can basically think of a link from another website as a vote in your favor.
Every link to your website has what’s called anchor text, which is the clickable text. This anchor text helps Google understand what a particular page is about.
Again, imagine you’re a dentist based in Manhattan, and you want to get your website ranking at the top of Google for “New York City dentist.”
Wouldn’t it be great if lots of websites linked to your website with the anchor text New York City dentist? That would help you reach the top of Google for that phrase.
And so, that’s how a lot of companies have approach SEO for years. They would go out and build tons of links with identical or very similar anchor text.
When we’re conducting an SEO audit, we’ll take a look at a website’s link profile, and see how many links they have and where they’re coming from, and the anchor text of those links.
Often, we find that websites have very highly-concentrated anchor text, with almost all the incoming links containing the same keyword phrases. Well, this is extremely unlikely to happen naturally!
Google knows that, and increasingly, this type of linking has become a big red flag to Google. When Google sees this, they know you are trying to manipulate the search results. As a result, taking this approach with your SEO can do more harm than good over the long-term.
Google’s Penguin updates and “unnatural link” penalties are focused on devaluing (or penalizing) these unnatural linking schemes. So you should avoid building links to your website with overly-concentrated anchor text.
If you’re in business for the long-term (which I hope you are!), then it makes sense to take a long-term approach to SEO. By avoiding these 4 mistakes, you’ll stay on Google’s good side and protect your rankings for the long-term.