Having a properly optimized website can be the difference between getting no traffic, and getting tons of it. But, did you know that you can actually over-optimize your website and that this can be worse than it being not optimized at all? Well, you can, and it is!
What is SEO?
SEO is short for Search Engine Optimization, in case you were wondering, and it’s basically the process of knowing what both your readers, and the search engines want to see. This includes using your keywords/LSI keywords properly, having the proper meta-information filled out, having optimized images, and writing in a clear, concise manner.
Knowing how to properly implement SEO is important, but knowing when you might be overdoing it is even more important – this is why SEO shouldn’t be your primary focus. Wait.. What?
If you over-optimize your pages, Google is going to catch on to this, and in short, they’re going to penalize your site because of it. Over-optimizing isn’t even that difficult to do either; if you use your keyword a few too many times, or you don’t use it naturally enough, this could get you penalized. If you are writing a whole bunch of posts targetting one single keyword, this could get you penalized. If you’re spamming a single keyword throughout all of your image’s alt-tags, this could also get you penalized. Over-using anchor text? Penalty.
Link building is another really easy way for your site to get penalized for over-optimization, and if you’re currently buying links, you should probably stop immediately. Google cracked down hard on unnatural link building attempts and made it pretty much impossible for people to just spam their links on other blogs or forums, without some kind of penalty – sometimes to both sites. But people still peddle this service as something “legit”, and somehow people still buy it. Building natural backlinks by leaving valuable comments on other related blogs is okay, but it shouldn’t be something that you focus on.
It’s honestly a lot easier to get penalized than it is to stay out of the penalty box, and focusing on SEO has caused more than a few websites to end up back in the Google sandbox. What I listed above is really only the tip of the tip of the iceberg, and there is a fairly extensive list of things you shouldn’t do – but you shouldn’t be focusing on that list either.
What Do I Do?
If SEO shouldn’t be your primary focus, then what should be? Content. Lots and lots of high-value content! You still want to have a specific keyword for each post, and you still want to focus on using it in the first paragraph, once or twice in the middle, and in the last paragraph, but you don’t want to focus on “where should I use this?” – if that makes sense. You want it to occur naturally as opposed to seeming forced in. But, most importantly, you want lots of relevant, and high-value content!
Not only is lots of content going to help you cast a bigger net(to reel in more fish), but it’s also going to help Google see that your site is constantly updated, which is going to help with getting those organic rankings. You don’t want to write a whole bunch of random posts about different topics though, you want everything to be relevant to the rest of the content on your site. For instance, if your website is about baseball, you probably shouldn’t be writing posts about knitting socks, because your readers might not find that too interesting, nor is it relevant to baseball.
With all of that said, having lots of content is only half the battle. The other half (or so) is making sure your content is engaging and offers some kind of visual aspect – you need images, and your writing has to incite comments. Having semi-relevant images isn’t going to do a heck of a lot when it comes to SEO (aside from alt tags) but it is going to do a lot for your readers, and readers are what we should be focusing on. People love pictures! So it makes sense to use them throughout your posts. Finding the best ones to use, that’s the hard part.
You want to keep the basic principals of SEO in the forefront of your mind, but you don’t want it to rule how you’re writing content. You always want to write for your target audience, as opposed to the search engines; because, if you focus on writing awesome high-value content, the rankings will come, and with them, the readers will also come (and then the money, if that’s what you’re after). I’m not saying that every single post should be something groundbreaking or mindblowing, but there should usually be some kind of message or moral – something valuable and engaging.
By not focusing on SEO, you’re free to put more attention towards writing great content that your readers are going to really enjoy, or at least answer whatever questions they came to your site with. Whether you’re in Internet Marketing, or you’re typing out business blogs, writing for your readers is not only going to help you retain them but gain new ones as well – and that’s ultimately what we’re all after, growing a website.
One last thing, taking the title into consideration, if you can’t name your primary focus, it might be time to reevaluate your priorities.