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The idea of “too much SEO” was a discussion a few years ago that had many scratching their heads. However, with the new Penguin update, disavow links tool, and the many Matt Cutts videos taking this spotlight over the years, the idea of “too much SEO” has fallen by the wayside. Unfortunately, this has caused many companies to work feverishly on SEO efforts and forget to stop and think about whether or not they are actually over-optimizing. It’s possible, and it’s more common than many may think.

Google Issues an Over-Optimization Penalty in 2012

As a reminder (a big reminder), Google did issue an over optimization penalty back in April 2012. This brought light to the issue that websites are starting to try too hard when it comes to SEO. While Google may not have been keen on websites working hard to rank on Google (they want it to be more about the reader and less about the bots), it was 2012 when this penalty arose and created a new algorithm to focus on this very issue.

The biggest reasons that Matt Cutts, head of Google Webspam team, advocated this new change was so that things would be even amongst all companies online. Some websites might have more money for SEO than others, so the idea is that those smaller websites with smaller budgets aren’t suffering. If they are creating great content, they deserve to be at the top.

Hints: Ways to Determine if Your Site Is Over Optimized and How to Fix It

Although the over optimization algorithm might be in full swing, companies have slowly started to forget what it means to over-do it with the SEO. Below are a few common things that companies over-do and how they can be fixed:

  • Unnecessary pages. Many companies have unneeded pages on their website, which typically only exist as a way to optimize and rank for particular keyword terms. Unneeded pages typically consist of a few pages very similar to each other, and they are typically landing pages for certain ads or, as discussed above, keyword terms.

How to Fix It: The most obvious way to fix this is by putting new, unique content on all of your similar pages and giving them meaning. If this would just create too much work (which is very, very likely), use a 301 redirect to one of the similar pages.

  • Too many ads. It is possible to have what is called ad over optimization, which is essentially exactly how it sounds. A site full of ads is going to be a red flag and show Google that you’re trying too hard.

How to Fix It: Naturally, you need to remove some ads. However, what’s important to remember is that you might lose a little bit of revenue when you make this switch, and it can be tough to know what to do with all of the extra ads. Nonetheless, organic traffic is almost always going to be a better use of your time than a lot of ads, which probably annoy users anyway!

  • Domain Name. Part of the over optimization penalty is looking at domain name. If there is a website with nothing but a great keyword, that site will be looked at to see the type of value it really holds. If it’s full of ads and duplicate content, the domain name isn’t going to save you.

How to Fix It: Either try and sell that domain name or make something of the website. Put some great content on there and start turning it into a website with some real value for users.

  • Black hat tactics. All black hat tactics—cloaking, keyword stuffing, doorway pages, etc.—exist because companies want to improve their SEO. This is over optimization, and Google hates these sorts of tactics more than anything.

How to Fix It: Learn what some of the most popular black hat tactics actually mean here, and then go through your site and eliminate anything that might be remotely similar. If you have doorway pages, delete them; hidden keywords, delete them; republishing content from other websites; you know what to do.

So when should you ramp up your SEO efforts? The most important thing to remember is that your readers come first. Once you know you have great content regularly being published, you can look at your rankings and see if you show up on certain SERPs. If not, and you do very little SEO work, it’s definitely time to get the ball rolling. You shouldn’t be scared of over optimization because under-optimization is even more detrimental to your business!

Do you have any experience with an over optimization penalty? What do you do to make sure you don’t fall into the over optimization trap? Let us know your story and tell us your thoughts in the comments below.

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