Writing by Nick Stamoulis in SEO
There has been plenty of buzz in the last few weeks about Google’s over optimization penalty (the Penguin update), leaving many site owners scrambling to figure out if their site was penalized (or might be in the future) for doing “too much SEO*.” Let me point out, there is a pretty clear line between white hat onsite SEO and over optimizing a site. Over optimization includes things like keyword stuffing, aggressive exact-match anchor text, cloaking, content spam and spun articles. A white hat onsite SEO strategy would never include any of those things.
*It’s important to mention that Google’s Matt Cutts told SearchEngineLand writer Danny Sullivan ““I think ‘over-optimization’ wasn’t the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO…”
But all this talk about over optimization got me thinking—would some site owners be so afraid of getting penalized by Google for doing SEO that they would actually under optimize their site in order to protect themselves? Although Google is doing what they can to make SEO a more level playing field, giving smaller website with little SEO budget (but still have great websites and produce great content) the chance to effectively compete with the big brands that just throw money at SEO and do well by default, site owners still need to help themselves! It is not Google’s job to make sure your site does well. Of course Google wants quality, relevant and user-friendly sites to go a good job with their SEO since it helps clean up the search results (and therefore giving Google a better product); that’s why Google offers so many free tools to help site owners with their SEO. Even if you are only doing the most basic of onsite SEO, it’s important that you are taking full advantage of it.
In what ways could a site be under optimized?
1. Doesn’t have unique Meta descriptions, title tags and H1 tags for each page of the site.
Why you should do it: Although Meta data isn’t as important for SEO as it used to be, it still helps from a user perspective. Your Meta descriptions are what is going to convince a searcher that your website has the information they are looking for.
2. Failing to link between relevant pages to both pass internal link juice AND help visitors find more information and stay on your site longer.
Why you should do it: Each page of your site has the potential to be a landing page for visitors. You never want to leave your visitors “trapped” on a page of your site with no clear indication of where they should go next. Plus, internal linking gives a little more SEO power to some deeper pages that don’t get as many external links.
3. Not targeting specific keyword on each page based on the content.
Why you should do it: Each page should target 2-5 keywords based on the content. This will helps those pages rank for related searches and drive a more targeted visitor. If your content is all over the place, the search spiders don’t know what to do with it or what kind of search it would be a good fit for.
4. Content is too thin to provide real value to the reader and doesn’t give the search spiders anything to work with.
Why you should do it: Content is the single most important characteristic of your website. Even if you don’t do any other onsite SEO, make sure your content is well-written (for a human reader!), well-organized and has clear goals.