SEO Tips: 6 Signs You’re Overdoing Your SEO—and Hurting Your Ranking

We all know how easy it is to overdo something, whether it’s over-eating during a family celebration, over-spending while on a vacation, or oversleeping when you’re supposed to be somewhere bright and early in the morning. Did you know it’s also easy to overdo your search engine optimization (SEO)?

If you’ve been implementing SEO tips with the attitude that more is always better, you might be setting up your website for an over-optimization penalty because that might make you look like an SEO spammer. An SEO spammer is someone who is trying to cheat the system to get higher search rankings.

In the early days of SEO, many marketers and webmasters cheated the system with practices such as over-using keywords and building links with shady link directories. Their goal was simply to rank high in the search listings and get clicks as a result, without any consideration of the searcher’s intent. Yet Google’s goal has always been to serve the searcher with relevant, high-quality content, and hence, it had to take action.

In order to stop rewarding these types of underhanded practices (and low-quality websites) with high search rankings, Google started adjusting its algorithms. Major updates include Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird, but Google tweaks its algorithm on a daily basis. Over time, the search engine giant has grown incredibly savvy in recognizing when someone is moving beyond SEO best practices and into the over-optimization camp—a place you don’t want to go.

You might not intentionally set out to over-optimize, but it’s your responsibility to know if you are or are not crossing that line. And it’s not a fuzzy line. Google flat out says over-optimizing is both possible and bad. Google’s reasoning is that if you’re spending all this time and effort on SEO, then you’re spending less time and effort on quality content—and quality content is what Google tries to reward.

To avoid overdoing your SEO and thereby damaging your search results ranking by acting like a spammer, follow these six tips.

1) Keep Keywords in Check

Keyword stuffing has been a bad idea since the beginning, yet people still do it, sometimes unintentionally. Keyword stuffing means using your target keyword too many times on a webpage. For example, if we were optimizing this page for a keyword phrase such as “SEO tips”, we would say “SEO tips” as many times as we thought we could reasonably get away with, or more. The problem with this is that we’re cheating the system and this leads to poor quality content, which then leads to a poor user experience—something Google is very much against.

Keyword stuffing in the footer is another old over-optimizing trick that people still use. Typically they will simply insert a bunch of keywords there. Don’t. Google is on top of that trick too.

2) Watch Your Anchor Links

Anchor links (also known as anchor text) are the text used in a hyperlink on your webpage. For example, we could link to Google’s main page by using anchor text like this—calling it what it is—or we could link to an SEO training program with words that describe where the link goes. To avoid over-optimizing your SEO, you need to keep the keywords you use in your anchor text to a minimum. For example, if we go back to “SEO tips” as a sample keyword, and all of the anchor links on this page were worded as SEO tips, that might not be true. We would probably have links to other pages and websites as well, and using only keywords for our anchor text is like keyword stuffing. You can use keywords as anchor text sometimes, but keep it to a minimum and remember: Do what improves the user experience, not what you think improves your SEO.

3) Avoid Irrelevant Keywords

Using irrelevant keywords is another old SEO cheat. You might think that using keywords you can rank well as it will help drive traffic to your site, even though the keywords don’t really have anything to do with the content you offer. But that’s not going to happen. Let’s say we decided to optimize this article with a keyword phrase like “how to rank number one on Google”. That keyword phrase is probably used a lot, but it makes no sense for us to use because this article is not about that topic.

4) Focus on Quality Over Quantity When It Comes to Content

Focusing on SEO instead of content or creating lots of poor quality content are ways to over-optimize and get yourself an over optimization penalty. What does Google care about? A good user experience, and that includes finding quality content that fits the user’s need. If the user needs to figure out how to fix a bicycle tire, Google wants to help them do so. If the user wants a recipe for Thai salmon soup, Google wants to help them find it. So Google cares about content—a lot. You can easily over optimize your website if you take the wrong angle when it comes to content. If you create 60 webpages of pithy, shallow content that’s really of no use to anyone in an attempt to increase your search rankings, you would be overdoing your SEO and it could come back to hurt your rankings.

5) Be Wary of Backlinks

As part of the link-building process, many marketers and webmasters accept bad backlinks thinking that the SEO benefit will outweigh the risk. But that’s not necessarily true because a link to a known spammer site can reflect poorly on your website too. It’s guilt by association. You could find your website penalized by being associated with spammer websites, thereby decreasing your own search rankings—even if you’re not intentionally spamming.

6) Minimize Your Outgoing Links

You’ve probably heard of link building as one of the common SEO tips, and this is one of the techniques that can get you in trouble if you over-optimize to the point that you’re connected with spammer sites, as described above. This kind of over optimization can also get you in trouble when you have too many outgoing links and you don’t keep track of them. Over time, links get broken, but the URLs are still on your webpage, making it obvious to the search engine that you’re not keeping your page up-to-date—and Google likes fresh content, not broken-down, stale content.

SEO Tools

It’s easy to avoid over-optimizing if you simply use common sense when doing SEO, putting the searcher and user experience first with your use of keywords, links and content. Following the six tips mentioned above should help.

If you’re new to SEO and you could use some help via SEO tools, you’ll find plenty of options. For example, Hubspot offers a comprehensive list of 12 SEO tools, many of which are free, and several of which can help you avoid over-optimizing.

For more in-depth knowledge of SEO, consider investing your time into an advanced program as an SEO specialist. Simplilearn offers advanced SEO Training Program that includes certification in SEO foundations, advanced SEO, content marketing and web analytics. Designed with guidance from digital marketing industry experts, the program offers access to more than 35 live instructor-led online classes conducted by multiple trainers. In addition to the high-quality content of the program, students have access to simulation exams, a community moderated by experts, monthly mentoring sessions, and other SEO-related resources. With a learning program like this one, you can be confident that your SEO will be spot on—not overdone.

Overdoing anything usually leads to negative consequences, from the indigestion from over-eating to the debt from over-spending. Over optimizing always comes with a price, a drop in rankings. Don’t risk getting on Google’s bad side. Keep your SEO in check instead.

About the Author

Rahul VenugopalRahul Venugopal

Rahul Venugopal is a Senior Product Manager with over six years of experience in Digital Marketing, Growth Hacking, and Mobile-App based marketing. He specializes in Online User Behaviour Analysis and Creative and Campaign Optimization.

View More
  • Disclaimer
  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.