A little SEO knowledge can be dangerous. In fact, it can be disastrous for publishers who learn their first few tidbits of information, and then begin to apply it to their sites. The problem it can lead to is known as "over optimization."
Search engines look at a variety of signals for ranking purposes, as well as spam detection purposes. This includes a site review to determine if it's over optimized, and can result in the rankings for a site being dropped to a lower position than they may otherwise occupy.
Unnatural behavior of any kind can lead to a site being flagged for over optimization. Here are some examples:
- Pages that have identical page titles and H1 headings. This is more likely to be viewed as over optimization if subheadings on the page also repeat the key phrase, or if all the internal links to the page use anchor text that exactly matches the page title.
This bears a strong resemblance to the keyword stuffing practices from the early days of optimization, though at a lesser scale. In general, people don't write that way naturally, and it looks bad to a user, a human reviewer at a search engine, and to the search engine's algorithms.
- Too many non-contextual internal links on your site. For example, many publishers know the value of linking to their most important pages from other pages on their site. Certainly, you can take your 10 most important pages and link to them from nearly every page of your site. But when the list of cross links grows too large (even 25 is getting there), you're beginning to push your luck).
- Having pages with great visual experiences above the fold, and not finding text until well below the fold. Publishers who first learn about the value of keywords, and also about the long tail, are prone to doing this. They generate large blocks of text which users likely won't even see, and if they do, they will quickly ignore.
This text, because it isn't intended for users, is often poorly written and crammed with keywords and internal links with rich anchor text. Sometimes it appears as if publishers go out of their way to make the text user unfriendly. For example, a huge block of 25 lines of text in one paragraph isn't intended for users!
Take care when you optimize a page. There's little reward, and possibly even a negative penalty, for doing too much to try and support ranking for a particular key phrase, or set of phrases. Let the content from those pages be a bit more focused on the user and optimizing conversion. You might just find that this is the best SEO tactic.
Also, be careful when providing SEO training to your writers. Many writers with good intentions have turned in articles to me that were crammed with keywords (and those writers were promptly instructed to re-write the articles).
The problem is that the result didn't look right to the average reader. Let your writers write good stuff, without burdening them with lots of SEO instructions. You just don't know where they'll go with it.
Give them the desired title of the article, tell them the topics and sub-topics you would like covered, and let them write. You'll be better off for it.
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