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.