The tricky think about website optimization is that you can easily over optimize your website without realizing it. SEO is a top priority for companies looking to find success online, and there are no doubt quite a few things to keep in mind if you want to be successful. This can lead to Webmasters feeling like they need to follow every SEO method, all the time, and as much as possible in order to get results. While this may be true for some SEO tactics, for others this can actually hurt your website, so it’s a fine line to walk. In other words, making sure you’re not over-optimizing should be just a much a priority this year as the optimization itself.

Ways Companies are Over Optimizing and How to Fix It

When it comes down to it, Google does not want to see too much optimization because they want websites to be natural. The idea in their eyes is that if you’re putting out great content, you will be rewarded. Webmasters know, however, that this isn’t always the case and a little bit of optimization will go a long way—you just have to strike the right balance.

To make sure you’re not optimizing so much that Google penalizes you or sees your site as unnatural, consider some of the following common pitfalls to avoid:

  1. Keyword density is too high all around.

One of the first things anyone tells you about SEO is that you have to have your keywords in your title, description, tags, and content. While this is true and will definitely help, you have to make sure of two things. First, it has to appear natural, and second, you cannot overdo it. This is probably the over optimization technique that gets websites into the most trouble.

This means that your keyword shouldn’t appear four times in your 160 character description, and anything higher than 2% of your content will raise a red flag to Google (in fact 2% may even be a little bit high). When it comes to your content specifically, the idea is never to try and use your keyword or stuff in keywords, but just write your piece and see how they appear naturally. When it comes to your title, you have to make sure that the keyword makes sense and isn’t compromising the click-ability.

  1. Keyword-rich anchor text.

This is an outdated practice that many are still using today, and it can be seen as a form of over optimization. If you’re linking back to a website using your keyword as the anchor text, Google is immediately going to think that the link is there for SEO purposes and not for readers. It simply isn’t as natural to say “Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer about business phone systems” as it does to say “You can learn more about business phone systems from Amanda DiSilvestro here.” The anchor text really does matter.

  1. Titles are not engaging because they’re too optimized.

As discussed above, one of the things that many Webmasters seem to forget is that writing a headline is one of the most important things you can do for your website. Headlines should be tested and then test some more to make sure they are bringing in the most traffic possible. Keywords, especially keywords at the start of a title, won’t always work. You have to put readers first, and titles are one of the places we don’t see this because of over optimization.

  1. Targeting more than one keyword for optimization.

Sometimes companies will target more than one keyword and then expect to optimize their website for all of these terms. As you might imagine, this causes content to be on keyword overload, and it’s obvious. Always stick to one or two keyword phrases maximum when it comes to SEO.

  1. Linking back to too many external sources.

More specifically, linking back to external sources that are not quality. Many Webmasters understand the value in linking out to different sources to improve a piece of content, but it’s important that those sources are authoritative. If you link to articles written 10 years ago or link to a site that has a lot of spam, Google is going to get you. If you can’t find a good article to back up your point, it’s better to reconsider your point or leave a mention out as opposed to linking back to the first article you found on the same subject.

So what will Google do if you’re caught over optimizing? Back in 2012 there was actually an over optimization penalty rolled out by Google to make sure Webmasters were on the right track. Unless we see another algorithm update, you could be manually penalized.

Have you ever been hit with an over optimization penalty or run into any other areas where you’ve had problems? Let us know your story in the comment section below.