You want your content to rank. We understand! But you have to be careful that you don’t go overboard in your optimization strategies. So what is the difference between SEO and over-optimization? And how do you recognize an over-optimized website? In this post, we will answer both questions!

What is over-optimization?

We believe that a website is over-optimized if the techniques aimed at ranking high harm the quality of the site. In such a case, visitors of the website will have a different and worse experience.

For example: if your texts become hard or annoying to read, then you’re probably stuffing them with keywords you want to be found on. Perhaps there are uncountable numbers of links on your website, and you’re probably trying to over-optimize your anchor texts.

Ways you can over-optimize your site

Let’s look at all the ways you can over-optimize your site, so you know what not to do.

Keyword stuffing

Keyword stuffing is the most obvious way to over-optimize your website. Of course, using your keyword a number of times will help with your ranking. Google will understand what your post is about and rank it accordingly. Over-optimized text, however, is unreadable. If you put your keyword in every (other) sentence, your text will become terrible to read. Nobody wants to read a blog post about pink ballet shoes if every sentence contains the keyword [pink ballet shoes]. Even people who are genuinely interested in pink ballet shoes will get annoyed.

You might not immediately think about site structure when you think about over-optimizing your website. But if you point all your internal and external links to your homepage or contact page, because you want them to rank high, you’re definitely not doing it right.

If you want to have a good site structure, your internal and external links should go to your in-depth content and your homepage. A good rule of thumb is 50% to your homepage and other main navigation pages, and 50% to your in-depth pages or content.

Ranking for non-relevant keywords

It might be tempting to try to rank for popular search terms. After all, more people will see your site! But that’s not necessarily true. If this ‘extra’ keyword or keyphrase has nothing to do with your content, people will realize your content isn’t helpful and leave your site. This won’t look good to Google. In fact, having too much content optimized for unrelated keywords could even make your site rank lower in the search result pages.

Another way to over-optimize your site is by stuffing your footer with keywords and links. They don’t really add any value to your SEO, since they aren’t crawled often and Google devalues footer links. But you are risking over-optimization.

Besides, having a cluttered footer also makes for a poor user experience. People mostly use a footer to get referred to your socials or easily access your contact details. And as we always say: you should design and optimize your website for your users, not Google.

Consequences of an over-optimizated website

If you’re taking the optimization of your content a little too far, you are risking a Panda penalty. If Panda hits you, you’ll notice a sudden drop in your rankings. Over-optimizing your content could, therefore, backfire.

And that’s just Google. An over-optimized site also has consequences for your UX, and therefore for your users. A post stuffed with keywords isn’t easy or fun to read, and a text full of links isn’t attractive either. Would you want to share that type of content on social media? Probably not. So, an over-optimized website can also cause you to receive less social media attention. The bottom line: if your visitors get annoyed, they’ll be less inclined to buy something or return to your website.

Our adviceĀ for over-optimization

Though you may have good intentions, an over-optimized website means there’s too much of a good thing. It implies that the UX or readability of your website has suffered from your SEO strategy. At Yoast, we practice holistic SEO. This is backed up by Google, who states they want to give the user the best result. With our SEO strategy, we always aim to the best result.

So, write the best content, make sure the UX of your site is flawless, cover all technical aspects, and take care of the security of your site. Without making any concessions to the quality of your site, you can do numerous things to optimize your site for the search engines.

Read more: How to write a high quality and SEO-friendly blog post »

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