Overly Optimized Websites Hurt SEO

In a great article by Barry Densa on his blog MarketingWitandWisdom.com, Barry identifies the concept of Google penalizing, a.k.a. “slapping”, your website for being overly optimized. He also goes into detail about what that means and would be worthwhile to read the entire post.

My (still true) philosophy is creating great content and value on a website that people naturally want to link (vote for) to your website. You can increase site rankings in the search engine if you do this. You can’t trick your way to top anymore and buying links or paying someone to make a bunch of irrelevant posts on other websites is the fastest way to get “slapped” by Google.

Many people don’t understand SEO or are knowledgeable enough to be dangerous. They think they can write a bunch of Title Tags, Meta Descriptions, and add the keyword 5.7% of time on their website. The artistic side to the equation is balancing those tactics with a strategy of adding value to the website visitor. If you’re #1 in the search engine, are driving 100,000 visitors a day, and every single visitor leaves the first page they hit because the content is not helpful. You’re going to eventually get penalized.

The Google “Slap”

Matt Cutts, head of the Google Webspam team said this at SXSW in Austin.

…We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there’s something we’ve been working on over the last few months and hope to release it in the next few months or few weeks. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or over SEO – versus those creating great content and a fantastic website – we’re going to level the playing field. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance more adaptive, and, we are also looking for those who abuse it, like using too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links, or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

Website Search Engine Optimization

Before you begin with the cultural and strategic “buy-in” of Search Engine Optimization, it’s important to start at the beginning and understand how you got here and why you need it.

It’s likely that your website was created by designers. Either an individual designer on staff, a free-lancer, or a company. Designers (I’m generalizing here) know how to make a great looking website but don’t always know the most efficient way to code the website. It’s important to note that my definition of “most efficient” includes the best user experience for your human visitor and the search engine spider.

Your website designer probably did some very cool things. They give you flashy navigation, eye catching call-to-actions, and a well rounded Web 2.0 looking website. What they are typically lacking is a deep understanding of how search engines work, how they get indexed, and how to give you the best chance of ranking on the first page for most popular queries.

Do you really need the most visually appealing site ever created if people can’t find it?

Advantages of a well optimized website:

  • Competitive advantages – having your website show up before your competitors allow you to capture their market share and defend your own.
  • More traffic – higher ranking in the search engines correlate to receiving more clicks and visits to your website.
  • Brand awareness and retention – searchers look first to the websites listed toward the top left of the page and then scroll down. Being in that prime spot ensures that your website and brand get noticed.
  • Better reputation – organic search engine results can’t be faked. Customers view high rankings as a key to determine how credible and reputable your brand is.

SEO isn’t about misleading or tricking the search engine to give your website a more prominent placement. They’ll know if you try. Google has an entire department, led by Matt Cutts, that is dedicated to finding the websites that are trying to manipulate the system and then removing them.

SEO is about making the right decisions for your customer first and then the search engines second. If you have a great site, great product, and great service and believe that your website isn’t getting it’s fair share of search engine visibility or traffic, click here to see how to get your website ranked.