DIY SEO: Over optimisation – debunking some top SEO myths

Here, Simon Schnieders, founder of Blue Array, tells us the dangers of over-optimisation and debunks some SEO myths.

As a small business, it’s important to make sure your website is ranked as highly as possible in search engine results pages (SERPs) in order to drive traffic and potential customers to your site. However, too many businesses are often tempted to over do their SEO efforts by cramming irrelevant keywords, redirecting URL’s and stuffing internal links into web pages, thinking this will boost their search engine rankings. When in reality, this actually may hinder them.

Although over-optimised pages have been known to boost rankings in the past, since 2012, Google have been cracking down and releasing series of updates that penalise sites considered to be of poor quality, in order to ensure user’s are being served web pages with relevant and engaging content. As a result, businesses need to avoid producing over-optimised pages and start producing better SEO strategies.

The dangers of keyword stuffing

In days gone by, keyword stuffing was a common SEO tactic used among businesses to manipulate search engine rankings. Purposely cluttering as many words onto a webpage as possible, whether related to the page’s content or not, used to be an effective way for businesses to get ranked as quickly and as highly as possible in search engines. Even if it meant their pages were misleading and therefore hindering the user experience.

Whilst this might have been a successful strategy short term, many businesses will find that this tactic will have a detrimental impact on their website in the long run. Keyword stuffing is now considered by search engines to be ‘black-hat SEO’ and search engines have become wiser to SEO tricks, and are continually filtering and penalising keyword stuffed pages that feature no useful content to the users. As a result, businesses who are still implementing the strategy, will find their website ranked much lower, or removed altogether, in search engine results.

Instead of stuffing keywords into web pages, a simple alternative that will help your business avoid any incurring penalties from Google, is to use synonyms or long tailed keywords within high quality content on your website.

Google values websites that use a wide variety of related words within well crafted content, and prioritises these pages, giving them higher positioning in the SERPs for relevant queries. A good bit of recent advice from a Google user was ‘if you read out loud the text on your page and it doesn’t sound natural, that piece of text may weigh much less during ranking’.

Keywords in the URL

Many SEO’s prescribed the importance of keywords in a URL to help with rankings. Often they’d suggest it was worth redirecting URL’s without target keywords to one’s that did have them. However, Google themselves have been telling us since as far back as 2009 that it wasn’t worth doing for the marginal ranking benefits. However, if you’ve got a new website at including keywords in your URL as they may help your click through rate because the user sees your resource as being more relevant in SERPs.

The dangers of linking: not all links are good

It’s common knowledge that Google rewards websites that have external backlinks pointing to the site, and internal links within the site help to carry that benefit though the site, particularly to important pages. These links impact the overall ranking of a website, helping it gain a higher position in the SERPs.

As a result, businesses are often tempted to overload webpages with internal links and take shortcuts in trying to earn backlinks by buying them, even if these are located on sites that are of lower quality and not relevant to their own.

Businesses need to be aware that while the number of backlinks and internal links they have are important, the quality of these is even more important. Companies who manipulate how many links point to their site by various means, need to be aware that search engines are now classing websites that have excessive page navigation and poor quality or paid backlinks to be over-optimised; causing many websites to lose their positioning in SERPs without even realising.

You’re now less likely today to be warned about penalisation from Google and instead to simply have those paid or low quality links discounted.

Instead of buying backlinks to make your website stand out, businesses should be spending time improving existing content, producing well-written unique content and contributing to publications with high editorial standards in order to earn links organically.

Influencer engagement tactics are also a great way to drive traffic to a website, engage with audiences and create brand awareness. Working with experts in your field opens up channels to which your business can extend it’s reach and adds credibility to the content you are producing.

Internal linking is a great way to influence which pages a search engine should prioritise when crawling through your website. However, businesses should avoid doing this too much as overusing internal links on a site could be detrimental to the user experience.

When planning which pages should include internal links, companies should think about which pages of their websites they want users to visit the most and utilise internal links to direct their audience to these particular sections.

Avoid quick fixes

Many businesses still have a habit of leaning towards so-called SEO tricks that can give their sites an immediate advantage within the SERPs. However, as search engines continue to focus more on the user experience, businesses will find that these tricks will affect the rankings of their website’s in the long run. Resulting, in a loss of traffic and potential customers.

When deciding to focus on your website’s SEO you need to plan a long-term strategy and avoid any so-called ‘silver bullet’ solutions. Building credibility and increasing your search engine rankings takes time.

The focus Google have asked for on high quality content, laid out in an easily readable and accessible way combined with the well known impact of high quality links will serve business owners in good stead. Focus on doing something really well within your industry, carve out a real niche within a specific area and you’ll be rewarded in time.

Simon Schnieders is founder of Blue Array.

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