We’ve talked about keyword stuffing… in text, in meta tags, and elsewhere; buying paid links, engaging in black hattery such as white on white text and deceptive redirects. SEO is a game to some, but the penalties for ‘over optimizing’ are clear – break the rules fo the search engines, and they may exact punishment!
It’s not only deliberate subterfuge that can harm you – at times, simply overenthusiastic SEO efforts can hurt your website rather than helping it. Many webmasters in their over enthusiasm to get good rankings for their website engage in efforts that set off the search engine flags. The problem is that SEO is a time consuming process and all of us want to get instant results as a consequence we try speed up things by overcompensating. This can bring down problems and ‘retribution’ on your head, making all your work counter productive.
Before setting out to optimize your website, you must clearly understand the requirements from each search engine. It has to be balanced to meet the requirements of all the major search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing. Many webmasters tend to limit optimization efforts to Google as it is one of the search engines with the most competition. However, each search engine has its own algorithms, and there can enough difference to cause a search engine penalty in one for actions that do not disturb another.
In most situations as a website owner, you do not over-optimize your website intentionally, so this is different from black hat SEO. In black hat SEO, you do things to manipulate the search engines on purpose, with intent to mislead and cheat. However, over optimization can still elicit penalty even if you do not do it knowingly. Over optimization probably will not get your site banned completely from the search results, but it can affect your website’s ranking negatively. Whatever you have been working on for months could be undone by a single mistake. For example, you may stuff your web pages with the keywords and this will pull you down in the search results page for that particular keyword. This will affect your traffic that matters most to your website, and completely defeat the purpose.
Another area of over optimization occurs with text formatting. It is known that using appropriate formatting styles you can enhance the effectiveness of the keywords. For example if your keyword density is high and at the same time each time your keyword appears in bold, underlined, font in italics and marked as h1, h2, or h3, it can set off the search engine flags indicating that there is a little too much drama on your site about that particular keyword. Search engines want to see natural optimization, and are suspicious when webmasters seem to be stacking the deck for a certain keyword.
Link building can also affect your website. While building links, try to use several variations of keywords for anchor text to link your website. If too many sources point to your website with the same set of keywords, then you might be ranking low for that keyword. Using a mild variation in the keywords can keep you from being penalized for over optimization.
Some disbelieve that there even is an over optimization penalty. It does occur, however, and the penalty is triggered automatically by the search engine algorithm – meaning you will not be in a position to explain yourself or request a reevaluation – you’ll have to claw your way back up after fixing anything that might have caused the penalty. Be careful with your optimization efforts, and consult an SEO firm if you fear you are over-optimizing your way to a penalty!