Why Over-Optimized Content Will Backfire?
If you’ve ever been part of the content writing community or have even just a hint about how online content is optimized for search engines, chances are, you’re familiar with terms such as “optimization” or “SEO”.
However, are you aware of the word “over-optimized content” and its horrors? Over-optimization exits, and we’re here to tell you why it can backfire.
But first, let’s talk about the basics. What is SEO?
SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization”. Search engines such as Google “crawl” through search indexes online and use specific algorithms to churn out search results that are most relevant to searches.
To reach maximum optimization and most hits on your website, you need to be mindful of a few things such as, words, titles, links of the website to other relevant websites, words used in those links and the reputation of the website. Good SEO means that your website ticks all these boxes.
This tussle between the websites for the highest spot on Google can lead to companies and website owners using certain techniques to optimize their content.
Unfortunately for you, Google is cracking down on these tactics. The reason being, a lot of these techniques are unethical and might get you users initially, but the overall user experience takes a nosedive.
A Brief History of Google’s Optimization
Today’s SEO service providers know that keyword stuffing is nothing but an SEO disaster, which is why we say that the over-optimized content will certainly backfire!
In 2012, Google leveled the over-optimization penalty, which then deindexed sites that were still in the over-optimization game.
Now let’s talk about Google’s Panda Update.
In February 2011, Google introduced this search filter, which refrained sites with poor content quality from popping into Google’s top search results. Thus, over-optimizing your content might result in a Panda penalty, which would then cause a rapid drop in your ranking.
Moreover, over-optimization always leads to substandard UX. Content flooded with links will not be easy to read anymore. Over-optimized content may annoy the reader and will thus receive less social media attention.
Some other bad optimization techniques include:
- Duplicating your content:Plagiarized content and repetition can lead not only to Google cracking down on you, but also to you losing your reputation among users.
- Cloaking: Cloaking aka invisible text, means that you show different versions of a page to different searchers.
- Paid links: If you’re being paid by someone for links, chances are, the content of that link is not really relevant to the searcher.
- Too many outgoing links:Just like having paid links is bad, having too many outgoing links is bad too.
- Not being versed with Google’s Webmaster: Consider this your holy grail of being found on the internet. Without these guidelines, you are a lost soul across the narrow sea.
Examples of business/websites affected by over-optimization
Let’s now talk about an actual example to give you an idea of the adverse effects of over-optimization.
In May 2014, Webopedia suffered from a severe Google Panda penalty for having stuffed keywords and poor-quality content. The Panda Penalty caused the website to lose its ranking for the many keyword phrases.
Hence, it’s important to have relevant and specific content for Google to make a strong connection..On the other hand, if you have irrelevant, repetitive ads and stuffed keywords, the site may experience a severe drop in its ranking.
Another example: On February 24, IBStales.com website owner, Sophie Lee, was surprised when she checked her website’s statistics data. The number of visitors to her income-generating site, which had been operational since 2003, had decreased significantly.
Google’s Panda Update had downgraded Lee’s site to such an extent that instead of appearing in the top ten results—as it used to appear before the update—was now about 300th!
Hence over-optimized content on Lee’s website decreased her website visitor’s number to a great extent!
Over-optimization’s negative impact didn’t just end here. A couple of weeks later, this Panda Update was also introduced in the UK. Not only this, in October the Google engineers tweaked the search algorithm again, which then caused another decline in Lee’s visitors.
You might be wondering why we’re referring to Google’s Panda Update again and again? And how is it linked with over-optimized content’s negative influence?
Basically, Google introduced this update because a lot of sites over-optimized their content just to attract more visitors from the search engine. They didn’t care really about the quality of the content as much as they did about the traffic.
Hence, Panda Update was just a measure taken by Google to ensure that people deliver real, useful and specific content on their sites.
Panda Update has ensured that over-optimizing the content will significantly decrease your visitors rather than increasing it.
Save yourself from over-optimization by using these techniques
So, how do you know if the Google Panda algorithm is affecting your website? As a webmaster, this should be the first thing that should come to your mind if you’re aware of Google Panda’s effect.
The recent Panda update came into effect on 23 September 2014. Go to your site’s analytics and see the graphs and statistics for the dates above and compare it with the last ten days.
If you notice a significant drop in traffic, that clearly indicates that your website has been affected due to Panda’s algorithm and over-optimized content may be a huge factor to this.
Have you overused website optimization services and are panicking now? Don’t worry. We’ll now talk about fixing the damage that might have already been done.
There are numerous steps you take to avoid over-optimization.
Diversify your anchor text. A clickable text with a hyperlink is known as anchor text. Diversifying this text means to avoid using the same keywords as anchor text again and again.
For this, you might find the replacement feature that allows you to automatically replace and add links for specific keywords, very helpful.
Other aspects that will help you identify over-optimized content include: Non-branded URLs, high backlink velocities and keyword-stuffed footers.
Running a website audit might help find your lowest-performing content that doesn’t comply with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Another thing you can do is the use of pertinent keywords for your content.
Google evaluates the quality and relevance of your content. This is how they rank various sites. You can re-optimize your content based on Google’s Quality Guidelines that will significantly improve the legitimacy of your work.
Also, re-directing the out-of-date information to better content existing on your site will not only help provide a much more satisfying user experience, but also a more optimized search.
While linking to an external site, you’re developing a connection between your website and theirs. These connections are being evaluated by Google.
If you link your website to a spam/junk/less credible/illegitimate site, this will also poorly affect your ranking. Before making any such associations, make sure you’re linking to an already highly ranked site that is authorized.
Another mistake you might make while developing your site is to create unnecessary links to top-level content, which essentially is your home page or other landing pages.
This might lead to undesirable effects on the overall user experience and your site’s link profile, ultimately leading to lower rankings.
This fundamentally, applies to both external and internal links. A very simple solution to this is linking to more ‘in-depth content’, and the best way to go would be to split evenly between deep links and top-level.
How to De-Optimize Over-optimized Content
If you’ve made the mistake of over-optimizing your content and are now wondering what can be done to fix it, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.
The first thing you should do is identify the over-optimized content.
This includes keyword-rich anchor text for internal links, keyword-stuffed footer and header, non-branded URLs and high backlink velocities.
For this purpose, conduct an SEO audit using tools, such as Google Analytics. They will highlight the content that’s not bringing in the traffic it should.
Keyword density is the percentage of keywords included in a page. So if you have an article of 1000 words with 200 keywords stuffed. The density will be 20%. The optimal number is less than 5%. Calculate the keyword density on each page of your site and reduce it.
For focus keywords this number should be below 3%.
If your content is over-optimized there’s a good chance you’re using exact-match keyword anchor texts. To save your site from a Google Penguin penalty, reduce the percentage of exact match keywords to as few as possible, they should be linking to relevant pages.
Another thing you can do is to make sure that only some of your H2 headers include the focus keywords.
The tactic of stuffing keywords in meta description tags is outdated. Add only one focus keyword in meta descriptions.
The chances are that you’ve already identified the keywords that need to be included in your content. What you might be doing wrong is using the keywords in the same manner without any variation. Change the phrasing of long-tailed keywords.
Analyze the bounce rates of each page on your site. Higher bounce rates mean that visitors find something wrong with your content. The problem may be spam-y links, irrelevant content or even an unpleasant page theme.
The content tone and style should match that of the overall website. A change in tone will persuade users to believe that it’s low-quality content.
Another mistake people make is using focus keywords in the image alt text even if they’re not relevant. Search engines identify the irrelevance and decrease the site’s ranking.
After completing your de-optimization process use Google’s URL Inspection Tool to speed up Google’s indexing.
Partnering Up With The Right Agency
We need to understand that getting quality SEO results takes time; it’s a good practice to look for an agency providing SEO services with an appropriate track record and expertise that might benefit your development.
This will provide you with the assurance of success with a little more investment.
Furthermore, only set realistic goals for your project, which is really important while working with search engines. If your goal is to attract more online traffic and capture sales, start small and try to get an SEO agency that helps cater to your needs.
The right SEO agency will help you build strategies and tactics that might have a better impact overall. A key aspect while hunting for a good SEO agency is avoiding the ones that promise ‘too good to be true’ prices and time spans. This is because this might adversely affect the newly born site.
Having a decent understanding of the target audience’s use of social media also plays a great role. Once you’ve done that, you must concentrate on building a platform that is directly related to the user’s interest.
Provide meaningful associations only, and a limited number of social media channels will provide better optimization of your network.
The SEO agency must also have a communication method that you’re personally comfortable with and is able to convey to you any of the strategies they use successfully.
Avoid firms that are unclear about their methods and want to go about their working in a non-transparent manner.
Even if you already have an SEO agency affiliation, you must still actively take part in onsite optimization yourself and constantly stay in the hunt and look for opportunities to update, upgrade and obviously optimize your sites activities and interfaces.
Over-optimization can kill your content and ultimately your website. Something that might be considered as an easy way out or a ‘shortcut’ as one might call it, can have devastating effects on your revenue.
If, for instance, your site is one that provides some sort of service or sells products, a crackdown on your website by Google will definitely lead to a loss of users.
Good SEO techniques are not just about becoming visible on the internet. They are also a guideline to becoming more ethical toward your users.
The goal of your website should be to create content for the people, not for the search engine. Even if you rank high in the search results, it will not make much difference to your company or website if your content is not worth a read.
Yes, optimization is good and necessary, but it will not retain your readers. Your content will. So make sure that your content is worth someone’s time and you’ll ultimately get those precious clicks.
To summarize, there are a few things to keep in mind when using SEO practices, to avoid ending up like Webopedia or IBStales.
Conducting a site audit is the first step toward de-optimization. You won’t know what you’re doing wrong until you analyze the different bounce rates for each page.
Leave behind all the outdated SEO techniques. It’s not that they don’t work anymore but thanks to Google’s Panda Update, they actually harm your website ranking.
That means you need to absolutely avoid keyword stuffing, paid links and using non-branded URLs. Use outgoing links very carefully.
Shift your focus from building high backlink velocity to building high backlink quality instead.
Another key aspect of developing a responsible SEO strategy is to research your options before hiring an agency to do your work. Researching the agency’s clients and conducting an analysis of their site performance will help you gauge the agency’s competence.
SEO optimization is a never-ending process. Partnering with an agency that knows how to to use Google Analytics and WebMaster will allow you to keep on top of any changes in search engine algorithms and adapt accordingly.
Autho Bio: Joesph Dyson is a digital marketing expert at Search Berg, an award-winning digital marketing firm. He specializes in on-page website SEO Services and small business SEO solutions.