The Negative Effects of Too Much SEO

Most (white hat) SEO firms will tell you that the first major step of SEO is on-site optimization. This, in conjunction with link building (activities like blog commenting, content marketing, social networking, directory submission, etc) makes up the bulk of any SEO campaign. I believe that a site should be well optimized before it attempts any other form of SEO, but whether on-site optimization or link building should be done first is a debate for another day. In order to successfully optimize a website, keyword research has to be done on a page-by-page basis. Then, the carefully chosen keywords are strategically included in the Meta tags and descriptions, URL structure (if possible), H1 and H2 tags, page content and so forth.

I’ve had clients truly believe that they only way they were ever going to rank for their top keyword was to buy a keyword heavy domain and stuff as many variations of it as they could throughout the website. But over-optimization of a website is going to negatively affect the site in the long run. Here’s why:

It Looks Spammy
Think about all the times you’ve been searching for something online. Let’s say you’re looking to book a cruise to the Bahamas. (This is an example with a NOT REAL website; I did not want to hurt anyone’s feelings!) So you plug in “Bahamas cruises” into your search engine of choice and are given hundreds of sites to comb through. Have you ever (be honest now) clicked on the website that looked like this?

Bahamas Cruises, Book Bahamas Cruises, Cheap Bahamas Cruises, All Incl…

Bahamas cruises, all-inclusive Bahamas Cruises, buy cheap Bahamas cruises, book Bahamas cruises, Bahamas cruise reviews, Bahamas cruise vacations, cru…

Probably going to skip over that one, right? It’s obviously a spam site and isn’t exactly someone you trust with your money. You’re not going to waste your time with a site like that.

Now a site doesn’t have to go that overboard to come across as spammy. Stuffing keywords into body content can be just as bad, especially when there isn’t a lot of content to begin with. Visitors are smart and a quick glance at your website is all they need to decide if you have what they are looking for. Over-optimization may actually drive visitors away from the site, because it takes away from the user-experience. The number one rule of content: content should always be written for the user! I like to write the page content first, and then go back in and see where the keywords make sense to fit in. That way you aren’t writing for the search engines.  

It Devalues Your Site and Brand
When a site is over-optimized, it’s obvious that someone was just trying to get it to rank well. It also says that the site didn’t have the time or desire to go about it the right, white hat way. Getting caught using black hat SEO techniques can severely undermine any quality SEO that has been done before. It does nothing to help build up the brand or encourage consumer and search engine trust. If it seems bad enough, search engines have removed sites from their indexes that looked to be engaging in black hat techniques.

An over-optimized site looks and reads like a vain attempt to scam the search engines at their own game. Obviously it’s important to include relevant keywords; that’s the only way users are going to find your site. But going after an unrealistic number of keywords or pushing the same one in your content over and over is just bad practice. It takes away from the goal of your site, and looks bad to consumers and the search engines.

So in the End
It’s entirely possible that a site has been over-optimized, not because of malicious intent, just because a DIY site owner went a little SEO happy. Take a good look at your site and ask yourself, “Is this something that I would click on?” It’s hard to be honest, but don’t let a good site go to waste because you were a little over-enthusiastic when it came to on-site optimization.