Despite the fact that Google once announced (back in 2009) that it would never create an over optimization policy as long as sites weren’t spamming the internet with low quality content, times change and the search company did what should have been obvious to anyone who really pays attention to what Google’s bottom line is; they took advantage of their increasingly advanced algorithm technology and decided to clean up the web as seen from a Google search.
The first of these cleanups occurred in February of 2011 through what was soon dubbed as the “Panda” algorithm change to Google’s search system. Several (now 9 or 10) subsequent modifications of Panda followed in the wake of the original and then in April of 2012, a whole new slam to the SEO industry came along in the form of the so called “Penguin” update, which nailed several more aspects of SEO in content, link sharing and link structure.
All of these changes were focused on the general strategy of what Google dubs “over optimization”, which some people might really take as black hat SEO and others as site owners just trying to compete in a fierce position marketplace. Whichever way you take it, the bottom line is that SEO has changed, Google’s bots have become smarter and optimizing a website now depends far more on rich site and content development than it does on all the technical strategies that can be defined as over optimization if they’re pursued too far according to Google and its AIs.
Speaking of these over optimization tactics, let’s focus on link over optimization and see how it can be avoided by knowing what the do’s and Don’ts are.
Avoiding Link Over Optimization (Don’ts)
Whew! There are a lot of things that you shouldn’t be doing if you want to avoid over optimizing your links. Essentially, they can be boiled down into two broad categories: creating low confidence links and keyword stuffing your links.
1. Low Quality Link Building
What you absolutely don’t want to do as a link building site owner is create reams of poorly made external backlinks that came from bad sources or were done in a spammy way. Penguin itself is very likely to go after you if the links you created came from link farms, were bought from a series of websites that are known for doing this, or were spammed onto website comment threads. Another likely punishment will come for you if your backlink strategy includes placing lots of thinly written articles on the various content farms or “bad neighborhood” sites such as porn pages, piracy domains and malware sites that litter the internet.
All of these link building tactics used to work quite well but they really no longer do as much or at all.
Another bad idea when it comes to link building is the creation of numerous backlinks, all anchored to the same keyword and all pointing to the same main URL on your site. This looks bad, it’s definitely considered over optimization and it’s likely to get you penalized.
2. Keyword Stuffing your Links
This form of over optimization is directly entwined with bad link practices and involves using, repeatedly the exact same keywords in both external backlinks and internal links that connect your pages.
If you’ve been building large amounts of backlinks from other sites, especially the above mentioned low quality sites and consistently use the same main keyword or possibly even the word that your domain is named after in all of your links, you’re likely to be penalized by Google Penguin. This is even more likely to apply if the links whose anchor text just consists of one or two keywords all go to pages with no relevance to the word or simply all dump on your main page URL.
Even building internal links that all contain the same anchor word can be dangerous, especially if the words are used inorganically without regard for the relevance of the content around them or to which they link.
High Quality, White Hat Link Building (Do’s)
So, we’ve covered most of the big link building evils that Penguin is going after and now we’re stuck with the question of what exactly you should be doing.
For starters, forget about quantity in links and focus on quality. Instead of flooding the web with backlinks on whatever crappy pages will accept them or allow you to spam them, get busy building a reputation for quality content that other people whose sites are relevant to your own will willingly let you share on their pages. Even better, by building your reputation through delivered value in site content, work towards encouraging people to share your content on their own because it nicely complements what they’re writing.
Another useful tactic is to develop a friendly relationship with a small list of highly popular sites within your area of expertise and offer to guest post for them, either periodically or here and there. As a condition of each posted article, you should be allowed to place a link back to complementary content on your own site.
As for the link based keyword stuffing problem of over optimization, the solution is simple; don’t do it! When you create either your backlinks or the internal links that connect your URL’s pages together, forget about repeatedly using the same one or two keywords and simply keep it natural. A large amount of backlinks that go from various bodies of external content to complementary content on your site are great as long as the anchor words naturally or organically fit what’s being written without consideration for sticking to keywords.
The same applies to your internal links; don’t bother anchoring them with a single word, keep the link anchor text relevant to the different pages these links are leading to.
Some Final Words on the Future of Over Optimization
The bottom line for you as a website owner is that you need to tread very carefully when it comes to following all the usual SEO strategies that you’ve always read about or even learned, whether we’re talking about link building or content optimization.
Your best bet is to stay away from heavy use of SEO tactics and completely avoid anything that’s commonly considered to be black hat strategy. Instead, just focus on creating great content, delivering value, getting your name known to a loyal fan base and augmenting all of this with minor but strategic touches of common white hat optimization techniques like the ones we’ve just gone over.
About the author: Michelle Lim has written for Chicago Luxury Beds for years. When she’s not consumed with her writing, you can find her reviewing marquis mattress and keeping up with SEO trends.