How to Avoid the Over-Optimization Penalty

Keyword over-optimization occurs when keywords are overused on a page in the hopes of making the page seem more relevant for a search term through a higher keyword frequency or density. Google’s Panda update in particular was aimed at websites that use keyword targeting to manipulate search engine results.

For example, assume you’re optimizing the home page of your designer glasses website. If you’re using the keyword “designer glasses” in an exact match domain name, meta tags, the URL structure, HTML header tags, page copy and in over 30% of the anchor text of most inbound links, the web page is likely to be flagged for spam.

Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)

Google uses LSI to identify webpages that are really relevant to the keyword searched for, even if that keyword doesn’t appear anywhere on the webpage. LSI can have a significant impact on your search ranking for a particular keyword.

The way it works, LSI looks for words that are semantically similar to the keyword being searched for. It does not require an exact match to the keyword to find relevant webpages.

The implication of this is that every word you use on your webpage is important. If a web page does not have the niche vocabulary that semantic search engines expect to be present when a particular keyword is searched for, there will be no relationships between that webpage and the keywords, and it will not show up in the search results.

With LSI, a particular web page doesn’t have to be optimized for a specific keyword for it to be deemed relevant in a search for that keyword.

Over-Optimization Practices to Avoid

Avoid unrelated keywords in images or videos.

Optimizing webpages for irrelevant keywords is a form of manipulative spam. One of the most egregious acts of keyword over-optimization involves taking advantage of the inability of search engine crawlers to read the content of images or videos.

Inserting keywords that are not related to the image or video in the hope of increasing relevancy for the target keywords is keyword stuffing, an could get your site flagged for spam. Examples include adding keywords that are unrelated to alt tag of an image or in the Meta data of a video.

Use <H1> tags wisely.

The <H1> header tag is the most important heading tag on the page. Its role is to help the search engines understand the theme of the webpage so they can establish the page’s relevance to specific search queries. The concept is similar to the major headline of a newspaper article.

It is recommended that you deploy the page’s target keyword in the <H1> tag to help increase the relevance of the page to targeted search queries.

Furthermore, make sure that the content of the H1 tag is consistent with what is contained in the page title tag. In a Google News Publisher hangout on Google+, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller suggested that the content of your <H1> tag should match exactly what is contained in the page title tag.

There is no need for more than one <H1> tag, and doing so could lead to over optimization of the webpage. In the following video, Google’s Matt Cutts warns using <H1>tags multiple times on a webpage and indicated that abuse of the tag could lead to a penalty.

With the advent of HTML5, some web designers argue that it is now possible to have multiple <H1> tags on a single webpage in a way that will make sense to the search engines. However, while you may not get a penalty for using more than one <H1> tag, you are risking an over-optimization penalty if it appears to Google that you’re trying to increase the relevancy of the page for the target keyword.

Vary your anchor text.

The most effective anchor text optimization strategy is to add diversity to your anchor text distribution in order to make it look as natural as possible. Post-Penguin, it’s now a must to maintain a natural anchor text profile.

In general, you will find that most top sites have a good mix of anchor text across the board. A good portion of the anchor text will be Brand Name, URL, or Brand Keyword. Specifically, a natural looking anchor text profile will have the following:

  • Branded Anchor Text: Includes the company’s brand name. This can form the majority of your anchor text.
  • Naked URLs: Here, the anchor text is the URL itself. Examples include: http://microsoft.com, http:// microsoft.com, and www.microsoft.com. You can have as much of this type of anchor text as possible.
  • LSI Keywords Anchor Text: These are semantically related keywords. This type of anchor text is a strong sign of natural link profile because it mirrors the way most people link today.
  • Zero Match Anchor Text: This type of anchor text contains none of your keywords. Examples include terms such as “click here”, “check out”, “get more info”, “read more”, “this website”, etc. An abundance of this type of anchor text is a strong sign of a natural link profile.
  • Exact Match Based Anchor Text: With this type of anchor text, the text used exactly matches the keyword a particular webpage is trying to rank for. Exact match anchor text should form no more than 5 to 10% of your link profile, depending on the age of your site.
  • Title Tag Anchor Text: Title tag anchor text references the title tag of the page it is linking to.
  • Named Anchor Text: The name of the author of the webpage’s content is used as the anchor text.

Keep internal links clean.

The link text must match the target page subject in order to be considered relevant. For example, if the page receiving the link is optimized for red tennis shoes, the link anchor text should reflect that keyword. Don’t dilute the anchor link text of “red tennis shoes” by making it a clickable link to any pages other than the red tennis shoes page. Keep the anchor text relevant, clean and focused to the targeted page only.

Use more diversity in your anchor text links.

Before Penguin was released, in order to enhance a webpage’s relevance, it would have made sense to replace the phrase, “click here” on your site to something more meaningful because using meaningful text would provide more context for search engine robots, and help your rankings.

However, Penguin changed the game as far as anchor text optimization is concerned. Now, the best anchor text optimization strategy is to add diversity to your anchor text distribution in order to make it look as natural as possible.

Use meaningful text in your site’s global navigation.

For example, when the anchor text contains text like “Our Products” or “Our Services,” this does not provide much information. Avoid vague language in your navigation. Use specific keywords such as “Backlinking Tool” and “Time Saving Services” instead.

Optimize your footer links.

Footer links are the text links at the bottom of each web page, and are usually identical on all web pages in your site. They can act as a macro sitemap to the key pages on your site and make it easier for visitors to navigate the site without having to scroll back to the top of the page.

Google pays attention to the content of footer links,especially when they provide a useful clue as to what the page being linked to is about.

Following are best practices for optimizing Footer links:

  • Footers should be designed first with usability and the user experience in mind rather than the search engines.
  • Include links to your about, contact, privacy policy, terms of use, sitemap and key products and services. Include your copyright information as well.
  • Don’t force irrelevant keywords into the anchor text of your footer links. That would be a recipe for disaster.
  • Organize the links intelligently.
  • Do not create more than a dozen footer links.
  • Avoid doing any cross linking with footer links.
  • There is generally no need to use the nofollow attribute on your footer links.
4 weeks ago

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