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A close look at what over optimization really is
brinked

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 1:51 am on Apr 18, 2012 (gmt 0)

I will not share my entire story about how I came into the SEO world, but lets just say that in order to have any type of success in this industry, I needed to overcome what turned out to be over optimization penalties.

Since then I have pretty much made a living at buying established sites that suffer from obvious on site over optimization, fixing them up and profiting big time. One site I paid $12,000 for and within 2 weeks it was recovered, making a good $400-$600/day. Thats what type of money people can be missing out on with a simple over optimization penalty.

But what exactly is over optimization? More importantly, what is Google's latest update all about? While I do not have the answer to everyone's questions, I have a lot of experience with over optimization and I think I might just be the most qualified person in the world when dealing with this type of penalty.

I know a lot of people feel vulnerable right now and that is why I am making this post. Looking over on the google help forums, many of the issues I am seeing have blatant over optimization problems on site. One lady had a site that offered free widgets for kids. How do I know this? When I went to her site, "free widgets for kids" was in the domain name, the page title, and every other sentence on the home page. I did not dig any deeper in her site and I am not saying this is the exact cause for her punishment, but I am pretty sure it is. If you read her content, it sounds spammy and unprofessional and I have no idea how this site managed to elude over optimization penalties earlier.

In any case, here is a list of over optimization factors. Some are tried and proven, others are semi proven and some others are just strong theories.


1. Keyword/phrase over usage. Known by seo experts as keyword stuffing. This is also the most commong form of over optimization and also the easiest to recover from. When you are trying to rank for a specific phrase, you want google to find that term. Many webmasters will do this by placing the same term in the page title, url's, meta tags, body text, anchor text, header tags etc etc. It is important NOT to do this. Google will know what the subject of your site is without having to repeat the same phrase over and over. That just gives a poor user experience. Not only that, google will know you're trying to game the system. You could possibly overcome this by strong content and a good backlink profile, but it will likely still hold you back in some way or another.

2. Redirects. I seen a major competitor just lose its number 1 position after holding it steady for 3 years. This site was not only number 1 for this industry, but its also one of the top 500 most popular websites in the USA. It is a huge huge brand and it has just dropped to position #7 after being #1 for 3 years. One thing I noticed about them is they redirect several domains to their main site and they have bought out competitors over the years and just redirected them to their main site. Be careful not to redirect too many sites to your main business, and if you do, make sure to follow recommended procedure as offered by google.

3. Same/similar anchor in back links. This is an oldy but a goody. The best backlink profile is a well rounded, diverse and natural looking profile that has links coming from many types of venues. If all of your links come from blogs, that looks pretty artificial, what are the odds that all of the sites linking to you all happen to be blogs? Top that off with if these blogs link to lots of other unrelated sites, it wont take google's algo too long to detect that. Aggressive reciprocal links can hurt you as well.

4. Same Niche same server - This one I truly believe in, or it could be me just being paranoid. I always believed that having 2 websites on the same server in the same or similar industries will cause 1 or both of them to be punished. For this reason, I leave no trail for google to connect any 2 of my sites together unless they are completely unrelated. I make sure to have different whois info, I never use GA, adsense or any other means for google to connect two similar sites. I have no concrete proof of this one, but its something I feel strongly about.

5. Doorway/thin affiliate - Is the main goal of your site to get people to another site? Then google may just decide to drop your site and favor the source site since that would provide a better user experience. Counter this by offering something truly unique.

6. Link schemes/cheap backlink packages - Quite simply, dont waste your time. This does more harm than good and even if you do get a good ranking fast, it will fade soon enough. Any back link package is truly ridiculous and you are playing with fire. If you see any package that is offering you more than 100 links for less than $10, you should stay far far away. it also goes unmentioned you should stay away from ANY back link building schemes that include gaining mass amounts of backlinks in a short period of time. Links are votes and should be earned.

This list was rushed and not proof read so take it as it is. I hope this insight can help some people. These are just the 6 most common factors that I see webmasters suffering from. Best of luck.

 

Tonearm

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 9:49 pm on Dec 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

snowbunny, I recommend starting a new thread for your topic as it's not related to overoptimization.

taberstruths, very interesting results so far. How long has the experiment been running?

Martin Ice Web, I agree that 4 months is enough time.

taberstruths



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 1:14 am on Dec 8, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Tonearm, Started 5 or 6 days ago. Took a few days to make all the changes.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:47 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have a page on a site that I feel is over optimized for a keyword phrase. I am ranking well for that phrase, but I think that this over optimization is having some type of overall effect on the page.

I feel that the first paragraph of this page is over optimized for this keyword phrase. The phrase is mentioned a couple of times and when I read it, it seems that I could maybe use other words instead.

There are also a couple of other areas on the page where the keyword phrase is over optimized.

For me to work on the whole page, it is going to take some time. It would probably not take me too long to work on the first paragraph and make it sound better.

Do you think that making the changes to the first paragraph can help with the over optimization that this page may contain? And then I can continue to work on the rest of the page.

taberstruths



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:00 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@gouri, I think it might help. I had an italicized and a bolded keyword phrase in most of my first paragraphs. I eliminated them and I saw an increase. It seems like every "optimization" technique used on a page is counted and if it goes over a certain score, you get penalized. If you have too many pages that go over that score, then the whole site gets penalized. I am seeing increases across the board and not just on over optimized pages.

To give an update on the test, everything was working great until this latest batch of updates the last week or so. I am still hanging on to see how it all filters out.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:10 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@taberstruths,

Thanks for the response.

I am seeing increases across the board and not just on over optimized pages.

By working on pages that were over optimized, you are seeing improvements to keyword phrases that the over optimized pages are targeting and other pages?

I am asking because I think that I might be seeing some sort of overall effect on a site that I am working on.

taberstruths



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:38 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes I am seeing improvements on all pages across the board. Even ones that I did not really optimize at all other than the standard keyword in the Title (H1) and a few mentions in the article.

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:41 pm on Dec 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@taberstruths,

It seems like every "optimization" technique used on a page is counted and if it goes over a certain score


i can show u a page that is using the title with keywords in
-title
-h1
-for filename
-image alt
-url title
-META Title content

From every page he links to 32 other widgets without rel=nofollow. All the widget ads are dynamic, means every time you reload the page there will be new widgets and therefore new links. All the links have the title as filename, link title, img alt.
If that is not over optimization, i don´t know,

It is ranking very well for many terms.
Only thing the guy did, is put all the less importend html code like navigation, own widget ads ..., to the end of the file.

Tonearm

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:21 pm on Dec 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the update taberstruths, please keep 'em coming. :)

taberstruths



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:41 pm on Dec 15, 2012 (gmt 0)

@martin
How many pages are like this compared to the total site pages? I find over optimization is not as much about a single page as about the total site score.

nehasoft



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 10:20 am on Dec 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for sharing such a nice information its really helpful for all seo persons.

Martin Ice Web

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 11:08 am on Dec 17, 2012 (gmt 0)

@taberstruths,

he has about 18.600 pages most of them are product deatil pages with the seo technique i described four entries before.

The best is, this domain is an IT ( Italia ) domain and ranks very well in germany.
I must do something very, very false, or , or i am to good for google and poeple would find immediately what they want to find and thats for sure not good for google.


ecom, germany

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 4:20 am on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Generally, when we talk about over optimization, I think that we talk about content and product pages.

I am wondering if a contact page can be over optimized. I have a contact page on a site whose keyword density for a keyword phrase, blue widgets, is pretty high.

I actually want another page on the site to rank for this phrase but when I wrote the contact page, I included the phrase several times, and since there isn't a lot of text on the page, the keyword density is pretty high.

All pages on the site link to each other so the contact page is linking to the other pages of the site.

Is it possible that the contact page is over optimized and this is having some sort of overall effect on the site?

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:15 am on Dec 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is it possible that the contact page is over optimized and this is having some sort of overall effect on the site?

Yes of course.
A site-wide link to a page which is ranked very low (contact page) might effect the overall ranking.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:07 am on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

Yes of course.
A site-wide link to a page which is ranked very low (contact page) might effect the overall ranking.

@Zivush,

I think that you mean over optimization, but I just wanted to ask: When you say ranked very low, do you mean that the page is over optimized and not looked upon too favorably by the search engines, or the page is not receiving a lot of traffic?

If you meant something else, I would appreciate if you could tell me.

Thanks.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 7:19 am on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

Low ranked page is a page which is either over-optimized, under-optimized, not-optimized or low value (poorly written).
Select the option.
Such a page gets low traffic and if you linked to it massively, it may impact the overall ranking.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:43 pm on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

Thanks for the explanation.

One thing that I wanted to add that I think might be important and would appreciate your opinion on is that in the body text of the contact page, I have a link to the home page and the anchor text is the url (e.g. www.coolbluewidgetshere.tld) of the home page. The url contains blue widgets in it.

I also have this same link in the footer of the page, so on this page, the link to the home page appears twice and the keyword phrase is a part of it.

Does this along with the mentions of the phrase blue widgets in other areas of the page make it seem like this page is over optimized?

Lorel

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 10:09 pm on Dec 24, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was hit by panda #9 or 3.1 November 2011 and lost a major portion of my traffic at that time. I didn't figure out it was overoptimization until April when I started deoptimizing my pages (i deleted several that were not important and added text to several more that didn't have enough). I added new pages to several sections of my website and also set up a Wordpress blog on my site and started adding pages about 2-3 per month. I continued with the above every month until now, which means about 15% of my pages were updated and deoptimized since April.

The lowest traffic was in July (usual summer slump) then it started slowly increasing every week. I had a large increase in traffic with Panda 21 Nov 2012, with the highest peak in early December (then the usual seasonal slump for the holidays -- ranking is rising but traffic is down).

I believe there is a threshold of a certain percent of pages that get updated or deoptimized. In my case it is around 15% but may be different for others. I'm still not back to 2011 traffic but still intend to keep working on my site.

BTW, I also have a couple pages where I need to repeat the same keyword over and over for visitors benefit so I used images on those pages instead of h2 tags.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:58 pm on Dec 25, 2012 (gmt 0)

@Gouri
You are getting into semantics.
You can make some here and there "errors" and get under the radar. It's not a math science.
Some errors (like the one you've mentioned) may be considered minor or even super-minor.
On the other hand, I think that even if you clean your site from over-optimization errors and other internal linking mistakes, it might not help.
Some other factors may get your site into panda or penguin which aren't SEO related.
for example, focus on giving the best user experience to users.

Adi78



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:36 pm on Jan 20, 2013 (gmt 0)

I had over a dozen pages ranked in the top 3 positions for very competitive key phrases. I knew I had great content because people loved it, they read it a lot and gave lots of positive feedback. I also never attempted to game the system or stuff keywords.

Then, one by one, every single page went from positions 1,2 or 3 to position 200 or lower. Sometimes even a quotation search would only show a link to the page from another page. My keyword density wasn't too bad I thought since I never consciously (!) tried to push it. I worked and researched for months and finally gave up in resignation to a deep and passionate hatred for Google.

I read your post and you might have saved me. Not that you say anything totally new, just the way you express it gave me new awareness. Going back to some of my pages, I realize that, while I wasn't deliberately putting in keywords, I also didn't hesitate to use them when I could. So in a page titled "frozen widgets", I would write a sentence like "Frozen widgets are part of a healthy lifestyle" instead of writing "They're part of a healthy lifestyle".

Sure that's not a big deal. It's still perfectly good and natural English. But it turns out that that accumulates quite a lot - certainly enough to trigger the Algorithm.

Thanks so much for the insight. I've revised all my pages and reduced the keyword density by about 80% for now. I'll wait a month or two and see how that goes then perhaps take it further.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:31 pm on Feb 5, 2013 (gmt 0)

I have a page on a website that I am working on that was affected by Google Panda and Penguin. The page used to receive a lot of search engine traffic, but now it is not receiving as much traffic. I have a feeling that over optimization might be the reason for the decrease in traffic, so I wanted to mention some of the things that I think might be causing the over optimization, as well as some possible changes that I could make, and would appreciate your opinions.

The title tag of the page is similar to: Widget Building Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.

I think that the above might be over optimized. Do you think that it is?

I am thinking that I could change the title tag to (1) Tips to Accelerate Widget Building or (2) Construction and Design Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.

Would these be better title tags? One thing that I should mention is that in the meta description, I have the words constructions and design; in the h1 tag, I have the words construction and design; in one h2 tag, I have the word constructions; and in another h2 tag, I have the word design. These words are parts of phrases that I want this page to rank for. As a result, I am thinking that Tips to Accelerate Widget Building might be the better option because if I make the title tag Construction and Design Tips to Accelerate Widget Building, it might be over optimization?

From another page on this site, I have a link in the body text going to this page and accelerate widget building is the anchor text. This is an exact-match phrase that I want the linked to page to rank for. I am thinking that maybe I should make the anchor text accelerate widget building during the holiday season. A phrase similar to that one is in a sentence on the page, so I would be incorporating more of the words in the sentence as the anchor text. Would this link seem more natural?

The navigation link to the page that has been affected is Tips, and it is sitewide. If I choose Tips to Accelerate Widget Building as the title tag for the affected page, do you think that the anchor text (Tips) would be seen as too similar to the title tag?

The keyword density for Widget Building for the page that has seen the traffic decrease is also a little high. I am thinking that this might be contributing to the traffic decrease as well and I am going to work on the content of the page, but think that if I am over optimizing in the areas mentioned above, making changes there might provide some help.

I would appreciate your opinions to my questions, as I would really like to have some feedback before making any changes.

Thaparian

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 7:11 am on Feb 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

@gouri
Do you think your site is best in the niche? Does your website has content that no other site has?

In my niche there is a big site (more than 40 million pages indexed in Google), they have over optimization of anchor texts, high keyword density, keywords in url, but they have great content, regularly updated and they continue to rank better and better...the site was hit by Penguin 1.0, but they recovered a few months later, I guess if you have great content, and your visitors love your site, nothing else really matters.

I see big sites dominating the search results. Probably because big sites have much more information, so better user experience.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 2:15 pm on Feb 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

I feel that my content is good and people find it helpful.

The site is not very big, and I think that could be a reason why even some over optimization could be affecting it.

Do you think what I mentioned in my post above yours is over optimization?

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 11:52 pm on Feb 6, 2013 (gmt 0)

The title tag of the page is similar to: Widget Building Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.

I think that the above might be over optimized. Do you think that it is?

Yes, I think it is over optimized, and it sounds like you're becoming aware of that too.

Back in the 90s we used to have discussions about how many times you could use a word (ie, a single word) in a title... and consensus among cautious SEOs, even then, was to try to avoid using the single word more than once, but, if you couldn't avoid that, you perhaps could use it twice. But there was an awareness that repetition for ranking had already been overdone, and that it could hurt more than it could help.

A few years back (guessing around 2010), there was a period of speculation where it seemed that repeating a word in a title might help... all the major widget vendors in BigTown were doing it. ;) I'm seeing now (at least in the titles that Google is displaying) that the BigTown widget crowd seems to have scaled back... that "widget" or "BigTown", eg, are used more than once only if one or the other of the repeated words is also part of a brand name.

I don't know that one word repeated in a title matters all that much... and there are a huge number of other factors. I try not to do it because it sounds bad.

When you get into repeating exact phrases, though, as you have in your example, I feel that you are really getting into spammy territory, because it's not very likely that two-word repetitions occur often in nature. Three-word repetitions less natural yet. When in doubt, read your copy out loud and notice where it sounds awkward, perhaps even feels awkward to say. If you have a whole site like that, you might have problems.

I am thinking that I could change the title tag to (1) Tips to Accelerate Widget Building or (2) Construction and Design Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.

Would these be better title tags?

I'd probably go with (1). This too, though, depends on other factors.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:00 pm on Feb 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

Robert,

Thank you for that informative post. It is really helpful.

Gouri wrote:
I am thinking that I could change the title tag to (1) Tips to Accelerate Widget Building or (2) Construction and Design Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.

Would these be better title tags?

@Robert_Charlton wrote:
I'd probably go with (1). This too, though, depends on other factors.

I was first thinking of going with (1) as well, but after I posted, I began to think about some of the other factors (when I read “depends on other factors” in your post, I thought that you were reading my mind), and after thinking about them, I think that (2) might be the better title tag.

I wanted to mention what some of these factors are and see what you think.

(1)Many of the phrases that this page is trying to rank for have the word construction in them. I think that to rank for these phrases, it may be good to include construction in the title tag? Having it in the h1, and the plural version in the meta description and an h2 tag may not be enough to rank for these phrases. I also have the word a number of times in my body text (sometimes alone, sometimes as part of a phrase), but without it being in the title tag, I think that it may be hard to rank for these phrases.

(2) There are also phrases that contain a synonym of construction as part of the phrase that the page is trying to rank for. I am thinking that to rank for these phrases as well, having construction in the title tag may help?

(3) I was thinking that if I add construction to the title tag, I could use a word related to it in the h1 instead of the word itself. That way there is less chance of over optimization. Do you think that this is a good strategy?

(4) If I include construction in the title tag, I also have to include design because the page talks about both. I wouldn’t be able to use a related word or synonym where it appears in the meta description, h1, and h2 tag because it wouldn’t fit in that well. This would mean one more mention of the word design in one of the more important parts of a webpage.

(5) If I look at the synonyms of design, one of the words that is considered a synonym is construction. I am thinking that having these two words in the title tag when they fit in well might be good. They may help to strengthen the theme of the title tag and the page?

(6) The page is also trying to rank for phrases that include word(s) related to design in them. I am thinking that this might be another good reason to have the word design in my title tag?

I know that I asked a lot of questions in my factors above, but I would appreciate your thoughts. This page used to receive very good traffic, but now I think that it may be over optimized and then it’s a question of which title tag would be the better one to go with.

The link that I have from another page on the site with accelerate widget building as the anchor text is an exact match phrase. I have read in a couple of places that this is being looked at by Penguin. I could add words to the anchor text to make it a related phrase. This would also create more variety between the anchor text and the title tag of the page being linked to. Do you think that this is a good idea?

If I go with number (2) as my title tag, then there is also more variation between the title tag of the page and the anchor text (Tips) of the navigation link to the page. Do you think that this would be another good reason to go with number (2) or even if I used number (1), there is enough variation between this page’s title tag and the navigation link’s anchor text?

I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Thanks.

1script

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 7:31 pm on Feb 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

gouri, not to deflect the thread into aimless rhetoric but I can't help wondering after looking at your beautifully detailed 3.647 kBytes, 703 words (I counted) analysis of one 7-word sentence: when does bad style end and SEO begin? I mean, I could be cranking out sentences like "Widget Building Tips to Accelerate Widget Building" all day without realizing it's just bad style, it does not have to be about SEO necessarily. There are so many examples of poorly constructed sentences on the Web for reasons other than SEO that Google would drown in the ocean of weak signals like this if they did not skip most of them. This is probably as close to the definition of "splitting hairs" as it ever gets. Are you sure fine-tuning a title like this is worth your effort?

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:39 pm on Feb 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think that the title tag is an important ranking factor, and if it is over optimized, it can have an effect on rankings. I think that it would be good to improve it.

I agree with you that my post is long, but I just wanted to provide some information to determine which one would be the better one to change it to.

I also mentioned the exact match internal link because I have read that this is being looked at by Penguin. I did not use an exact match phrase for SEO reasons; I used it because I think that it tells the visitor what is on the linked to page, but if this is seen as over optimization, I would like to change it.

backdraft7

WebmasterWorld Senior Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:50 am on Feb 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

@brinked - so what do you do if you held many #1 spots for nearly 10 years, then as of Panda and Penguin you get over 50% of your longtail cut, so you file a re-inclusion and Google comes back and tells you "no penalties found for your site"? So, I'm not being penalized yet it appears I am. Where do you turn then?

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:13 am on Feb 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

Over optimization is a tiny signal of badly written content.
From my experience, if you write good content and provide real value which can be recognized easily, over-optimization doesn't really matter.
If you provide bad content with no value, over-optimization is just added to the pile.
Working on de-optimizing wouldn't give you any good.
That's it.

bluntforce

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:59 am on Feb 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

@backdraft7
You look at your inbound links.
If there's not a date defined Panda or Penguin correlation, but you have a long slow decline? Perhaps it's not your site, but issues with the sites who link to you.
How many new quality inbound links have you generated in the last month? 3 months? How many low quality inbound links have you generated?

No new links? Think about it.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:37 am on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Over optimization is a tiny signal of badly written content.
From my experience, if you write good content and provide real value which can be recognized easily, over-optimization doesn't really matter.
If you provide bad content with no value, over-optimization is just added to the pile.
Working on de-optimizing wouldn't give you any good.
That's it.

@Zivush,

I am thinking that content can be informative, helpful, but if it is over-optimized, rankings are going to be affected.

Over optimization is something that can have a big impact on a page or site.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 1:20 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

@ gouri
I think you might misunderstand the over-optimization issue.

Over optimization can be recognized when a certain phrase is repeated in a way that -
1. Harms the flow of the content.
2. May not harm the content flow but might create a red light for search engines.
The first one will certainly impact ranking, the second one won't impact if the content is good enough.

Content flow and over optimization:
Say, you repeat a phrase too often, something that SE recognized as your targeted keyword, and (YOU KNOW THAT) there are other ways to construct sentences without using this specific phrase, making the content rich and reachable.
Whereas, your competitors provide almost the same information without over-optimizing while yielding better user experience.
This is easy for SE to identify.

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