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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.

 

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.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:30 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

Thanks for that explanation.

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.

Do you think that a title tag such as Widget Building Tips to Accelerate Widget Building is an example of Number 1? Does the mention of a couple of keyword phrases make it a little hard to read and, therefore, affect the flow of the content?

Maybe mentioning only one phrase would make the title tag easier to read and help the content to flow better.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:28 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

@gouri
Ask yourself:
"If I was writing an offline document would I ever give such a title tag to this document?"
No you don't.

Don't play silly games with the title tag. This type of title is an old/wrongful SEO tactic since I don't know when.
Have you ever seen any serious brand website using these types of titles?

This is only the title tag. I was talking about the body content but if you've started that bad ..

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:53 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Zivush,

"If I was writing an offline document would I ever give such a title tag to this document?"
No you don't.

That is a good way to think about it, and I agree with you.

This is only the title tag. I was talking about the body content but if you've started that bad ..

I am thinking that if I started this way, it is already over optimization at the beginning, and if I have several keyword phrase mentions in the early paragraphs of the page as well, the page is probably being seen as very over optimized.

As you go through the page, the keyword phrases are not mentioned too many times. I would say that the phrases fit in well with the content, but with the title tag the way that it is and the frequent keyword phrase mentions early on, the page is probably being seen as over optimized?

I know that this may be a hard question to answer, but if the title tag is changed to something that is not over optimized and reads well, how much of an impact do you think that it can have?

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:54 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Again, I don't know if title tags are your main problem. It doesn't make sense that this could be a major ranking factor.

I rarely change titles.
It happened only when I made a grammar mistake or decided to change the targeted keyword. Very rarely.

In your case, think that way - You have nothing to lose, you've already in the deep sh.. so you better make some changes.
I guess that an over-optimized title is not a major ranking trigger but the content itself.

Anyway, let me give you some ideas for a good title:
1. [Fascinating/Interesting/Ultimate/Useful/Amazing/Must-have etc.] Widget Building Tips.
2. [Ten/Six/Five] Tips to Accelerate Widget Building.
3. Widget Building Tips you never knew about.
4. Widget Building Tips of the future.

I can continue.
See the difference. You wrote a title for SE, I wrote for people.
People who see attractive titles will click to see if there's something valuable behind these words.
Now, it is your time (your content ) to fulfill their curiosity. If you fail and they click out, you are screwed.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 2:53 am on Feb 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

Do you create internal links in the same way that you create title tags: for the people and not for the search engines?

If I have an exact-match phrase internal link, would it be better to include more words in it because that would make the phrase more conversational and not appear as if it is something written only for search engines?

tedster

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 4:23 am on Feb 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

gouri, what I try to do for internal, in-content links is make sure they let the reader know what kind of information the link will lead them to. Nothing more and nothing less. And synonyms can be a useful part of natural, internal anchor text.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:23 am on Feb 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

@gouri
No. I don't create site-wide internal links in the same way that I create title tags. On the opposite direction.

Follow what tedser wrote. That's exactly how I work.
Instead of repeating "widget xxx" "widget yyy", I just write anchor text xxx or yyy, as readers already know that the topic is widget.

(I make the bold just for you to understand that this is so called over-optimization")

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:32 pm on Feb 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

That's good advice guys. Thanks.

I think that I will add words to the internal link I am writing about, because, at the moment, it is an exact-match phrase and I think that it does tell the reader what the linked to page is about, but by adding words to it, it will be even clearer.

This will also create some variety between the words in the link and the title tag of the linked to page, and I think that this might help to address a potential over-optimization problem.

@Zivush,

I am referring to an internal link in the body text of a page, not a site-wide internal link.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:29 pm on Feb 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Follow what tedser wrote. That's exactly how I work.
Instead of repeating "widget xxx" "widget yyy", I just write anchor text xxx or yyy, as readers already know that the topic is widget.

@Zivush,

What you wrote here made me think about some anchor links (links toward the top of a page linking to a particular section of the page, uses # as part of url) that I have on a page.

As an example, I have written: These are some of the top ways to build widgets. I have the anchor text as top ways to build widgets and the phrase(s) that I want the page to rank for are ways to build widgets and top ways to build widgets. Should I make the anchor text top ways, because if someone is on the page, they would know what top ways refers to?

Could having the anchor text as top ways to build widgets or ways to build widgets be over optimization?

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:30 pm on Feb 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

If the page is targeting "stress reasons", you don't have to use this more than once (in the title tag) unless you have a strong reason.
I would make the link that way:
Root causes of stress, implications of stress, what can make stress, stress and its reasons, reasons why people get stressed, interesting facts about stress, why stress is bad for you, your mental ABC and stress, before and after stress, all about stress and how to avoid it, stress and its complications, stress facts and statistics, why stress, the dangers of stress, what can cause stress.

See the difference? I can continue.
In my experience an internal link should give a good reason for the reader to click on it. It has to be an integral part of the context. Motivate the reader -
* you may be interested in reading: [link]
* further readings: [link]
* more about that: [link]

These above are just simple ideas and on my sites I have many more.
As long as the internal link (and the content behind it) make sense for more readings so its good to be placed.

Most importantly: Try to speak to the reader.
It is not machine who reads your content but a human being.
People easily (in few seconds) can figure out that the content is generic, mechanically-made and if it doesn't "speak" to them they leave out.

Not so many can write that way. I admit that I don't know but 99% of webmasters who think they know, don't know.

P.S. - I use professional writers to write for me. They make the content live, interactive and readable.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 7:01 pm on Feb 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

The link would be in the body text, some of the words of a sentence in a several sentence paragraph.

So I think that you are saying I should try to have a sentence in the paragraph where I can include one of the phrases that you mention (which all sound great by the way)?

In your example, it looks like you would include the word "stress" in the link, and it would be okay to do that? I am currently doing the same, but since the link is on the same page as the page that I want to rank for the phrase (not coming from another page on the site), I am wondering if it might be over optimization.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 7:14 pm on Feb 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Yes it is OK.
Sorry to tell you but you are digging on this subject too much (without even buying me a beer :-).)
I suggest you read this Google blog post - [googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.co.il...]

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 8:16 pm on Feb 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

I agree that I asked a lot of questions about this.

I appreciate your help.

Also, thanks for the link.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:42 pm on Feb 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Instead of repeating "widget xxx" "widget yyy", I just write anchor text xxx or yyy, as readers already know that the topic is widget.

@Zivush,

I think that I understand your example, but I just wanted to ask: Suppose in the body text of your home page, you have "widget xxx" written in a sentence. That could stand for camera lenses, and instead of using "camera lenses" as the anchor text to link to the page about camera lenses, you would make the anchor text "lenses" only, because the readers would know what type of lenses you are talking about.

And if you have "widget yyy" in another sentence on the home page, that could stand for camera cases, and instead of using "camera cases" as the anchor text to link to the page about camera cases, you would make the anchor text "cases" only, because the readers know what type of cases you are talking about.

Thanks.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:41 pm on Feb 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

First, links from the home page are not site wide links.
Site-wide links are links that appears in each and every page of the site.
You can see in most blogs such links in the sidebars.

So as for the homepage links, they are just like any other links of an internal page. No big difference.

What I meant is that when you create an area with site-wide links in the sidebar, make sure not to repeat your main keywords too often.
How would you do that? It's simple (I am taking your example):
Camera Accessories
Lenses>
Cases>
Batteries>
Chargers>

Does it make sense?
In this case, the reader isn't overwhelmed with camera a, camera b, camera

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:25 pm on Feb 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

Yes, it does make sense. That way, there isn't too much repetition of camera in the links.

For the example that I gave, which involve links from the body text of the home page going to internal pages (these aren't site wides), would you use "camera cases" as the anchor text or just "cases"?

The sentences in the paragraph could be, for example: The accessories of a camera are important. Many people prefer camera cases that are hand made.

The reason I ask is because if someone is on the site, they would probably know what the site is about so would using "camera cases" as the anchor text be over optimization? With only "cases" as the anchor text, they probably know that the linked to page is going to talk about camera cases.

MikeNoLastName

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 2:03 am on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

So... we have this same problem with some great pages, that really apply to over half our other pages and thus really needs to be linked from them all. There is really only one thing that every one calls the item on these pages. I am talking ONLY about ONSITE links herein.

One question is, is this over-optimization-via-duplication-of-anchor-text-penalty a page-based penalty across ALL terms or a single anchor keyword based penalty on that page? I think it is the latter. For instance I have a page which may have this penalty, which won't even get in the top 1000 for "green widgets" or "widgets" (my primary two anchor texts for it on my site. It used to be #8), but it does great for "green widgets for babies" (where the term "babies" only occurs on the landing page once). And I know it is not likely a sitewide penalty since I have other pages which are #1 for good terms. So if it is strictly keyword based, one could, perhaps, PURPOSELY "OVER-OPTIMIZE" all the links using a term for the anchor text which you don't care about ever ranking for but which people (and hopefully G - or not, probably doesn't really matter) recognize means close enough to the actual meaning, and which most people would not normally search for on a search engine, just to get link juice from related pages which DO contain "widget"? Say for instance use "horseless carriages" as your anchor text instead of cars, autos or automobiles.

One final thing, I think I have noticed a correlation between penalties and the number of internal links to a page as a ratio of external linking pages. If you have a lot of external links to a page, you can have a lot of internal links without penalty as well. Whereas if you have more internal links to a page than external links, that seems to be where penalties start to incur. I have one superfluous text page which is only linked internally from 1 or 2 PR3 pages and externally by 3 or 4 PR0-1 pages and it is accidentally ranked in the top 3 for a somewhat popular product only behind the affiliate who makes the product.

P.S. I don't know that I agree with the redundant keywords in the title being bad. The top 3 sites in our niche all do it on their home pages, almost exactly as you exampled. In fact, believe me, the top one's title is:
"Example | example.com - Example widgets, Example doodads &amp; More"

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:35 am on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@goury
would you use "camera cases" as the anchor text or just "cases"?

If you think you must link to this page from the homepage, I would use "camera cases" because it is a single page and there's no much importance for this particular link AND because you (hopefully) don't link to it massively from many pages with the same anchor text.
On the other side, 'camera cases' as a subject matter of a camera website is not so important to link to it from the homepage.
Think of your site like a big book collection of short stories where some are great, some are OK and some are so and so.
As an author, would you link to the "not so good" short stories from the great ones? No you don't.
Take every page of your site and think closely of it's links structure. Does it worth linking to many sectors and sections or should it be stand by itself and links to only close-related stories?
That's what I think how Google works these days.
Likewise, the homepage is the introduction of your peach. How does your site look when it links from its homepage to "camera cases"? What about camera types and other top advices you want to share with your readers?

MikeNoLastName's observation of the G algo behavior supports what I have just wrote above.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:36 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Zivush,

Thanks for the response.

If you think you must link to this page from the homepage, I would use "camera cases" because it is a single page and there's no much importance for this particular link AND because you (hopefully) don't link to it massively from many pages with the same anchor text.

When you say there's no much importance, do you mean there's so much importance?

I think that you are saying when the internal link is from another page on the site, use "camera cases." If the link is an anchor link (link on a page linking to a specific section of the same page), would you use "camera cases" or "cases" only as the anchor text? The reason I ask is I am wondering if the link is to a particular section of a page, would using "camera cases" as the link perhaps be seen as yelling at the search engines since you are already on the page.

I have several anchor links such as this on some pages, so if it is over optimization, it could be affecting me.

On the other side, 'camera cases' as a subject matter of a camera website is not so important to link to it from the homepage.

I agree with what you are saying about having links from the home page that are important. The links that I do have from the home page, I would say, are pretty important. I should have used your example of camera types instead.

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 5:31 pm on Feb 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

When you say there's no much importance, do you mean there's so much importance?

I meant no much importance as a single link.

However, when linking to this page from several other pages (in related context - not site-wide!) it would be wise to diverse the anchor text - cases for a camera, cases, cases of cameras, etc.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:45 pm on Feb 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

On a page, I have something such as the following (the main phrase that I am targeting is reasons for widget erosion):

Title: Widget Erosion Reasons in the Summer
H1: Reasons for Widget Erosion and Widget Erosion Explained
H2: How Widgets Are Eroded
Meta Description: Some of the main causes of metal widget erosion. (This is one of the sentences in the meta description, and it includes a long-tail phrase using widget erosion)

I am wondering if with the way the title tag and h1 tag currently are, am I over optimizing?

Would this be better:

Title: Widget Erosion Reasons in the Summer
H1: Reasons for Widget Erosion and an Explanation of How Widgets Are Eroded
H2: Widget Erosion Explained
Meta Description: Same as above. I think that it is good the way that it is.

I like how the first H1 is more succinct but am not sure if this would be too many keyword mentions in key areas of the page? Should I go with the second set? If you think that I should go with the second set, any suggestions on how I could make the H1 more succinct? And is the H2 okay?

Zivush



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 6:56 am on Mar 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's dull and boring.
You better go for:
Title: "Top 10 reasons for widget erosion in the summer"
H1: Why widget erosion occurs after all?
H2: Professor Moishe tells us how widgets are eroded.
Meta: Erosion of widget bla bla bla. Reasons it happens bla bla bla explained by Professor Moishe.

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 2:32 pm on Apr 25, 2013 (gmt 0)

Let's say you have a website about widget building.

If for your contact page's title tag, you say: Contact Me With Your Widget Building Questions, could this be considered over optimization because people know what the site is about so you don't need to mention what type of questions. Could this be seen as trying to include an important phrase in the title tag, and not as something that helps visitors?

Would having the title tag as Contact Me be better?

gouri

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 2:54 pm on Jun 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

(1) I recently changed what I feel was an over-optimized h1 tag on a page, and I noticed after the change was picked up that some of the phrases that the page ranks for are ranking lower than they used to.

I have read that a change to the title tag can cause lower rankings for phrases that a page is targeting as Google assesses the change, but I have not really heard this about the h1 tag.

Is this something that can also happen with a change to the h1 tag?

(2) On another page, I have maybe two sentences toward the end of the body text that I think might be considered over optimization. There are a couple of related keyword phrases in the sentences and when I think about it, I am not sure that these sentences help the reader.

I am thinking of not including these sentences on the page. Can you tell me what type of impact this change could have on page and on site?

netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4442234 posted 3:09 pm on Jun 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

Umm, no. Too many variables. It's not formulaic like that anymore.

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