Several years back, Google put a stop to what I call "The Old SEO." This included any form of SEO that did not actually provide VALUE to your website and to the Internet at large. Above all else, Google only cares about one thing -- a fantastic Google Search experience for its users. When "Old School SEO" methods started degrading the search experience, Google put the smack down. So what do you do if you're already caught in the Over Optimization trap? And how can you ensure you avoid the trap in the future? Here are my recommendations...
What Is Over Optimization?
First, before we begin, you need to understand what Over Optimization is so you can avoid it. The best definition I can offer you is this -- SEO Over Optimization is any form of SEO that does not actually provide value and benefit to your website visitors first.
Essentially, this includes anything you might do to your website that does not directly benefit your visitors.
Now, that's a broad definition, so we need to address a few things that might be somewhere in the "grey area." It's definitely ok (and very good) to optimize your website for SEO. Using a strong platform like WordPress is a great example of a good form of optimization. WordPress (most of the time) makes use of a very "Google friendly" coding structure that has a positive impact on your long-term SEO performance.
The key to understanding and recognizing Over Optimization is knowing the difference between "optimizing" (good) and "over optimizing" (bad). Granted, there's a fine line between the two. But most of the time you can easily recognize Over Optimization by simply asking yourself if what you're doing is actually valuable to your website visitors.
Let's explore some specific steps to take (and not to take)...
Setup Google Webmaster Tools
The very first thing you should do is setup Google Webmaster Tools if you haven't already. If you participated in bad SEO strategies in years past, you absolutely must do this to find out if Google has penalized your website. These days, Google is very good about offering website owners very clear information about why they've "slapped" your website, but you need to use Google Webmaster Tools to get that information.
Stop Building Links (And Start Taking Them Down)
Did you build any "manual links" or pay someone else to do that for you? If so, Google Webmaster Tools will help you identify any problematic (illegal) links so you can have them removed. But this one rule applies to absolutely everyone -- never, never, never pay for links! This is the very first form of Over Optimization that Google went after with their Google Panda and Google Penguin algorithm updates.
The Blogging Cure
I always recommend small business websites include a blog on their website and post frequently. There are very few exceptions to this rule (niche sites, sales specific sites, etc) but your primary website should definitely have a blog.
Blogging is a great way to add lots of value to your site without over optimizing. You can still optimize your blog posts (and you should) but you should avoid over optimizing like the plague. This means every post should provide value and relevant content that's reader-centered. You should never create blog posts stuffed with keywords or lacking valuable information.
It can take several months of consistent blogging to create a positive impact on your website. The time can be even longer if you're guilty of a lot of Over Optimization in the past.
The Social Cure
Social Media Marketing is another way to add value to your website and your overall Web Marketing strategy. I always say, "Social media is the new link building." But don't take that the wrong way. I definitely do NOT mean that you should abuse social media by buying fans and fake followers and building a flurry of fake activity.
The goal of your Social Marketing should be to create genuine fans & followers who can help you promote your content. This can also take many months to build up but can have a very very positive impact on your SEO performance as well as your overall Web Marketing footprint.
What else would you add to this list? And what questions do you have about Over Optimization? Please type your comments & questions in the box below.