Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Over Optimized!

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

From title and description HTML meta tags that use the right number of characters, to a good blend of social media channels, to the ideal mix of internal links with the right anchor text, your website may be waving a red flag that says, "Look at me. I am over optimized!"

Are over-optimized sites subject to algorithmic penalties? I have no idea, but you never really know what Google may be thinking, or which signals they may be using to make such determinations, so I would not discard this possibility.


MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO

It is truly amazing how we humans behave. You get enough people doing something in a certain way, and eventually the rest of us will follow suit. It reminds me of the Hundredth Monkey effect, as proposed by Lyall Watson back in the 1970s.


And so, for a couple of years now, most SEO "experts"—along with the great majority of webmasters out there—have been dutifully re-writing their web content so it conforms to the parameters specified by Google.

I am all for unique content and all that, but the truth is that—for the most part, and as far as I know—Google has never provided any specific SEO rules to follow. They may suggest a lot of things. But that's about it.

And so what I usually hear, are SEO "experts" talking about their interpretation of what Google suggests, as far as optimization is concerned, with Google clarifying the topic months—or in some cases—years later, if ever.

Having said that, Google had made it clear that things such as link farms, guest blogging, and doorway pages—to name a few—are frowned upon and not recommended.

But the fact is that your site can still rank on Google, in spite of questionable optimization techniques. Yes, your listing may be relegated to page 1,837 of the organic SERPs, but it will be there.


VIDEO KILLED THE SEO STAR

When Google's spam-cop Matt Cutts releases a video, the SEO world holds its collective breath hoping to hear either a confirmation of their suspicions, or a golden nugget of sorts that will give them the edge over the competition.


I've watched some of the videos by Mr. Cutts, and if he were a regular cop instead of a "spam cop," the playout could go like this:
Hello everybody. 
Today's email comes from Mike in Atlanta... or Seattle... or Quebec, we are not sure, and he asks... 
Well, Mike, robbing a bank is a lousy way to make money, so Google discourages such behavior. Instead, a better way to make money, is to work hard and save part of your earnings in order to build a nest egg for the future. 
Furthermore, laws in this country are clear when it comes to crimes and violence, and the penalties can  be severe, so I would not recommend that approach.

But all kidding aside.

What I usually hear in Mr. Cutts' videos, are common sense approaches to making web sites better, and more often than not, the suggestions are pretty basic as far as doing the right thing and not worrying so much about technicalities or the small stuff.

However, SEO "experts" and "gurus" dissect every single word, and then come up with their own interpretations of what was said. Sure, some of the stuff may be obvious, or technical, or new... or a combination of all three. But at the end of the day, there are no big optimization secrets revealed.

As the link above shows, the videos are available on the Google Webmasters YouTube site. It is not called "Google SEOs YouTube site," and that's very telling. In other words, this information is available to everyone who owns or manages a website, so you can use your own reasoning to help you reach your own conclusions.

So, if you've heard or have been told that by using the exact number of characters for your title and description tags Google will be impressed and push your page all the way to the top of the list, you may end up being disappointed.


THE UN-OPTIMIZED APPROACH 

Why not throw these "rules" out the window and generate your own content based on what you think works best for your site?

I would ignore these "ideal" SEO formulas and write titles and descriptions, for example, based on what I feel works best for my site and readers.

If the title meta tag exceeds the 50- or 60-character limit, so what? If the description meta tag text is long enough to resemble a blog post or magazine article, who cares?

At the end of the day, Google and other search engines will truncate your prose any way they please, so you might as well do your own thing. 

And who knows if having an over-optimized website actually hurts your rankings instead of helping them. 

I would not bother asking the "experts" about it. Their mission is to make money at your expense, even if you aren't making any yourself. 

Not too long ago, these same "experts" were recommending having clickable, optimized anchor text, both on- and off-site. And the ideal back links would include valuable keywords.
Fast-forward to the present day and those theories have been debunked and it appears we're back to the "click here" links of the 1990s.

So which approach is best?

No one knows.

Use common sense. Do what works for you, your site and your readers.
And do it well.