June was a busy travel month for me. I spoke at the SMX conference in Seattle and SES in Toronto, as well as at our own High Rankings Search Marketing Seminar. The common thing throughout my travels (besides discussing search marketing) was the abundance of food! On the road, you can’t help but eat, and eat, and eat, and eat. I can’t count the number of times I felt stuffed, especially at the last event. I’m far from being a health-nut, but after awhile, when you eat so much you just start to feel stuffed and gross.
So what’s this got to do with SEO? In my last column, “Keep the Faith When the Algo Changes,” I wrote:
“Never forget that the search engines are hoping to show their users (the searchers) the best, most relevant pages for the search query at hand. They’re not trying to show their users the sites that have the most keyword density, or the most H1 tags. Always optimize for people, while keeping search engines and searchers in mind.”
Let’s explore this concept further, because it is commonly misunderstood. After all, if using a keyword phrase 3 times in your copy is useful, wouldn’t using it 22 times be even more helpful? Wouldn’t bolding every instance of the phrase give you just the boost you need in the SERPs? Heck, why not just H1 your entire page! (I did that back in ’95 or so when I was young and naïve; it didn’t work then and it sure doesn’t work now.) In today’s highly spammed search engine world, those tactics can actually hurt you big-time.
Just like eating too much while traveling makes you feel bloated and gross, too many keywords stuffed all over your pages makes your website gross and disgusting! People don’t like it and neither do search engine algorithms. In fact, I’ve seen previously keyword-stuffed pages move way up in the rankings after being cleaned up. (Kinda like the out-of-shape woman who gets a divorce and then goes on an exercise regimen and gets all the guys!) And yet time and time again, I still see sites that have been taken to a new (low) level because someone has gone totally overboard with their SEO. Some people call this “over-optimization.” I just call it dumb.
Have your rankings and/or traffic started to slip lately? Perhaps you need to revisit your SEO strategy and put your website on a diet! Did you nudge some extra keywords into alt attributes where they really didn’t belong? Did you force all your link partners to use the same exact anchor text in their link to your site? Are you pasting tons of keyword-rich text links in the footer of your pages and basically painting a big, red “I’VE BEEN SEO’D” sign on your website?
If you’re not sure if you’ve gone overboard, then you most likely have. You can feel it in your gut—just like that brownie I had between sessions at the last seminar…
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.