Transparent SEO: So Clear You Can't See It

by Gabriella Sannino April 25th, 2012 

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Personally, I love the strength and boost a well-optimized site can give you, whether you're focusing on traffic, preferred landing pages or a content-centric campaign. However, optimization and search marketing, in their many forms and varieties, should be experienced much like waiters in a restaurant. You never want your readers (or the search engines, for that matter) to know it's there.

SEO Served Restaurant Style

As someone who worked in the restaurant industry, I can tell you this. From the diner and Flo throwing hash down on the counter in your direction (while chewing bubble gum, of course), to the penguin waiter you would rather not notice, the class of service varies widely. Me, I'm seldom happy when it comes to service or food

The penguin waiter, generally, is only seen when your cup or plate runs empty. You meet them at the beginning, you talk to them if you have questions, but that's usually the end of the interaction. By the end of the night, as you pay your bill, all you should really remember is that the meal was delicious.

SEO is kind of like that. Neither seen nor heard except when and where it's necessary.

SEO Reality: Google Doesn't Care

Recently, it seems the SEO industry has taken a hit with every move Google makes. Link bait articles have cropped up with a vengeance, along with their companion articles about how SEO is dead/finished/done for/kicked the bucket, pick your metaphor for caput. Some mornings my RSS feed is filled with cheap shots, link bait, and huge, bloated discussions about how wonderful it is to live in a world protected by Google.

What's The Reality?

The reality is that Google is a corporation " a mega corporation, at that. Not only that, but they're a good corporation, like any corporation, in that the only things they really care about is how well their business is going.

Look. Google doesn't care about how their changes affect marketers. People care, but Google is a business and a business has no empathy. It can't afford to. It's not going to feel bad about marketers not being able to do their jobs as well with "not provided" data instead of "key term" data.

Some will cheer and yell "long live Google" chants. Others will moan and groan about Google playing unfairly. In the meantime, Matt Cutts offers an upcoming "over optimization" penalty, and the crowd goes wild.

What Is The Sign Of A Great SEO Page?

Since the time of its inception, Google has been working to provide the best results for a search. The rolling out of the over optimization penalty, when it comes, will just be one more step towards this goal. There are bound to be some sites hit that aren't actually guilty of over optimization, much like happened with the Panda updates, but the overwhelming majority will be those suffering from too much SEO.

I can't tell you how many times we've done an SEO audit, only for our team members to look at each other and say, "What were they thinking?"

So What Is A Great SEO Page? What Are The Signs?

Simply put, it's a page that has no after taste. It's a page that, when visited, doesn't even bring "has this been optimized" to mind. The page just does its job. Of course, you're at the page because of one factor of optimization or another, but you don't know it. You're there to enjoy the post, learn, look at the picture or watch the video you found in search.

5 Signs Your Page Has Been Optimized Buffer

When it comes to what Google may or may not consider "over optimization", the answer is, "Who knows?" We'll have to take a "wait and see" sort of stance. They're talking about a few months to a few years before its ready for roll out, so you have some time to double check your site.

However, here are a few of the most common signs of over optimization, from a user's standpoint. If your site is guilty of these signs, grab an eraser and start fixing!

#5. Links in the footer covering every targeted key term. You can't hide this, and you aren't fooling anyone. It isn't natural, and screams "optimization".

#4. Keyword, keyword, keyword titles. Again, this isn't natural. Look at book covers, magazine titles and pretty much anything that isn't online. Sure, include proper terminology, but natural is key.

#3. Stuffing words that don't go together in content. For example, we once had a client who wanted us to use a term like "new jersey homes for sale" or some such. Now, if it was just a headline, fine. If it was just a title, fine. "But to force that mouthful of words together fifteen times in an article was just too much.

#2. Irrelevant links. Feel like snagging a few links on a high profile, high PR porn site, do you? How about posting comments on IT blogs, when you sell life insurance, simply because they're high PR? When what you do has nothing to do with what they do (phew, say that fast three times), you're wasting your time.

#1. Repetition. In short, SEO isn't about repetition. Optimization is about creating a tightly focused website, all about [pick your topic]. When every other word is a keyword, you're over optimizing. When all your links look the same, you post the same lame comments, and everything screams [key word], you're over optimizing.

Optimization, whether for conversions or search engines, is about making the best site you can make.

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Gabriella Sannino

For the past twenty years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided it was time to open Level 343, an SEO and copywriting company. She fancies herself an Italian rocker, rebel and SEO geek. She loves singing in the shower and keeps a notepad next to her bed.

Level343 Blog

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3 Responses to “Transparent SEO: So Clear You Can't See It”

  1. jeff loquist says:

    Excellent point and something I personally try to push to current and potential clients is that Google really could care less about you. With that, if a site owner or an SEO is worried about whether their site is over-optimized, it may very well be.

    But what constitutes an over-optimization?

    You are dead on with the answer of "who knows?".

    And until the dust settles – and IF the dust settles – nobody will know. not even the SEO "big guns" who seem to be doing a lot of yelling and screaming without really knowing. You'd swear another apocalypse scare was coming.

    Anyway, good stuff here.

    • Thanks Jeff, I appreciate the kudos. I'm happy to see you liked the "who knows" lol I can't tell you how many clients want answers. I don't have a crystal ball, not would I want to guesstimate what Google is doing. A fine example is the buzz created around negative SEO. That's a can of worms I don't even want to open.

  2. Leo says:

    Google's latest "Panda" update (April 2012) is targeted and aimed at people specifically involved in over-optimization and keyword stuffing. Many blogs and websites involved in such practices will most likely see the rankings of their blogs fall drastically, or worst, deindexed. The 5 signs at the end of the post is what you would categorize under over-optimization, and should be avoided.