How Do I Know If My Website is Over Optimized?

As if Google didn’t have you driving in enough different SEO directions, the search engine recently announced that it will be penalizing websites for being over optimized. Although these penalties have been around for quite some time, Google is now creating a new algorithm and that will begin putting a heavier focus on over-optimization. Matt Cutts, Google’s SEO guy, explained that the penalty is part of an effort to level the playing field between sites creating content for SEO and smaller Mom & Pop-type websites “who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site.”

This algorithm change will certainly help level the playing field, but for anyone who really understands SEO and has been working hard to optimize a website, this isn’t the greatest of news. This new change could cause loss of jobs for SEO professionals or help those who never cared about SEO outrank a website that really took the time to understand the importance of search engine visibility. Nonetheless, this over-optimization penalty isn’t going anywhere and SEO professionals need to be ready.

How to Tell If Your Website Is Over Optimized

The very first thing an SEO department or expert needs to do is check to see if the website in question is over optimized. This of course depends upon Google’s definition of over optimized, which is of course extremely unclear. However, although we may not know exactly the right amount of optimization Google is looking to see, there are a few things that most agree might constitute as over-optimization:

  • Keyword Density – You will want to check the keyword density of your contend. Many SEO tools such as SEO Yoast will be able to tell you your keyword density in any given article, which makes this quite easy. You want your keyword density to be between 3 and 5 percent. If your keyword density is something like 10 percent, you’re sure to get flagged with this new penalty.
  • Domain Name – A generic keyword domain name is no longer going to top the SERPs. Google is likely close to determining a way to figure out if a domain name is a brand or was created for nothing but a great keyword. If your domain name is generic with no valuable content, you’re likely at risk of getting hit with the over-optimization penalty.
  • Keyword Stuffing – Although this penalty was in place before, this new announcement will likely only increase the severity of the punishment for keyword stuffing. If your title tag is exactly like your URL and you have anchor text that seems to match these keywords, you’re probably over optimizing.
  • Networks – Many companies or blog owners own more than one website. Naturally, people interlink all of these different websites to one another. This is likely going to be considered over-optimization. SEOMoz described this tactic as “linked networks.”

There is no guarantee that these are the particular aspects of optimization Google will focus on penalizing, but these tips are some of the best guesses SEO experts have. The best thing you can do for your website is read over your content. If certain words sound out of place, they are probably there for SEO reasons only. This is something Google wants to avoid, so it’s a good idea to change your content to sound more natural. Create new content every day and focus on the quality of the content. In the end, this new emphasis on over-optimization might actually turn out to be a good thing!

What do you think Google means when they use the term over-optimization? What steps have you taken to make sure your site is not over-optimized?

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