SEO Over-Optimization Penalty (OOP)

While many SEOs claim this is a myth, a lot of us see it happening everyday. I am discussing “white-hat” tactics that may cause over-optimization penalties. Hitting the over-optimization filters in Google is also called “-950 penalty” because site rankings get demoted 950 positions.

Matt Cutts (Google’s anti-spam engineer) mentioned over-optimization as a reason for ranking problems in one of his videos. Matt also mentioned that this algorithm has been in effect for almost 1.5 years (video published in August 23, 2006). Also in Feb, 2004 GoogleGuy (Matt Cutts) posted the following:

People post around here about filters, blocking, penalties, etc. etc. A far better explanation is “things which used to work before don’t receive the same amount of credit now.” It’s natural for people who are way out there with their linking strategies or their page-building strategies to think of a drop as an over-optimization penalty, but it’s more realistic to conclude that Google is weighting criteria differently so that over-optimized sites just aren’t doing as well now.

Here are few things that may cause Over-Optimization Penalty:

1- Some use nested tags to emphasize higher importance for on-page text (using strong and italic), which is fine. But you shouldn’t use < strong > tags with heading tags Hx


< strong>

some text here


< strong>< i>

some text here


2- very high keyword density: while there is no magical % for keyword density on page, many argue that 3 – 7% is the safest range, anything higher than 7% could contribute to over-optimization penalties. Try to increase your content on the page (number of words excluding your headers, footer, side navigation rails and wrapper text)

3- using same exact keyword phrases in all your primary text (page title, heading tags, bolded text, underlines text, etc.) and navigation links; try to use different variations of your keyword phrase in the primary text.

4- Same anchor text in all your incoming links: it is not a natural to have 10,000 incoming links with the same exact anchor text (SEO Services, Visit our SEO Services, Click Here to view our SEO Services, etc.), be creative and use different variations of your keyword phrases.

5- Acquiring a large number of low PageRank links quickly. (while I can’t clearly define “large” and “quickly”, but acquiring 10,000 links in 1-2 month from low to zero PageRank sites is suspicious to search engines.)

6- Heavily keyword rich domain names with more than 3-4 hyphens. (example: seo-optimization-tools-services-firm.com)

7- Using more than 1-H1 on page. *not confirmed yet, but I strongly believe that there should be only 1 H1 heading tag on each page.

8- Keyword stuffing in HTML comments, table summary tags, coding text, link titles, image alt tags, etc.

* Over-Optimization Penalty trigger new sites in particular (could be a part of the sandbox effect). Older sites (4 years or more) that are heavily optimized but have many incoming links from relevant authority sites and contain lots of content may not be exposed to such penalty.
* Over-optimization is Google’s way of saying “you web site is too good”.
* Google Ranking Algorithm incorporates thousands of different factors, each factor has a different weight “importance”.

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