For this edition of #ThrowbackThursday, I'm only jumping back about a year to a topic that has come up several times over the last 12 months: Website Over-Optimization.
In January 2015 I wrote a piece about getting ranked as number 1 in Google. In it, I bashed all those companies that send random solicitations claiming they can jump your website ranking to first place in Google. Coincidentally, this morning I awoke to find this solicitation in my email:
Subject: First page rankings on Google
Message: We can put your website on 1st page of Google to drive relevant traffic to your site. Let us know if you would be interested in getting detailed proposal. We can also schedule a call and will be pleased to explain our services in detail. We look forward to hearing from you soon. Thanks!
A quick Google search for increaseonlinebusiness.com reveals that this is nothing more than a spam bot.
This was a solicitation to my jwag.biz website, and I'm wondering what they think they can rank my website for. My own Google Search Console shows that it's already ranked first for 27 different queries and found on the first page for 244 queries over the last 30 days.
When someone offers to get you ranked on the first page of Google, you should always check the Search Analytics report in your own Google Search Console account to see if you even need help.
Beware of Black Hat
Even though Google and Bing have made major headway to zap black hat methods, companies still use these services. A typical Black Hat SEO technique is to load your website with many keywords that the search engines will see, but users don't. There are also methods of feeding one page to a search engine but showing a different page to website visitors.
Every black hat technique used over the years was the result of a discovery of a search engine loophole through which you could quickly increase your ranking. Google took long enough to close those loopholes, and then they began penalizing websites that were intentionally trying to use them.
Hiring an SEO company that employs black hat techniques can lead to disastrous results. I recently came across the company ResultsFirst that also offered great SEO results without explaining how they would do it. Sadly, many have fallen prey to this company and one such victim even wrote a Rip-off Report about their experience with ResultsFirst.
Simply put: Stay away from any SEO company that offers guaranteed top ranking results. This SEO page on Google's website clearly states "No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google," and provides some guidelines about hiring an SEO.
Micromanaging To Disaster
I've now come to the part of the Nugget where I need to change hats. Other than analyzing websites and planning marketing campaigns, I'm also a business coach. In fact, I'm a U.S. Government certified business coach through the SCORE organization (a division of the SBA), as well as a certified Profit First Professional coach. I rarely throw certifications and accolades around because I find it tacky most of the time, and would rather measure someone by their actions rather than a badge on a website. However, most of my writing here is about technical website stuff rather than business guidance, so I feel it's necessary to explain why I'm qualified to give the beating I'm about to dish out to some of you.
There are business owners who focus on providing the best product and service possible while letting marketing experts handle the story telling; and then there are business owners who want to have their hands in every aspect of their business. Which type of business owner are you?
I can directly relate to the entrepreneur who began their business and had to learn and do everything. That's how small businesses initially grow. The entrepreneur will lose a lot of sleep in the early years while the business is growing, but eventually the loss of friends, family life, sleep, and increasing stress catches up to you. Hopefully things don't get too bad before the realization is made that you need to hire and train an employee to delegate jobs to. If not an employee, then find someone to outsource work to.
Payroll cost is always the biggest concern of delegating work. It will always cost more money to pay someone else for a few hours of their time when the same work can be done in a single hour. The only cost is just another hour of lost sleep, right? Not really.
No matter how much we learn, it's impossible to be the best at everything you know. Our human brains just don't work that way. Right now, you probably can't remember how to fill out a tax return, but over the next few months we'll all have to refresh our knowledge. Come the end of tax season, we'll know just enough to have the smug attitude that we don't need an accountant. Meanwhile, during the time needed to brush up on tax returns, there will be other areas of your business that you forget about, and even start to slow down.
Tax laws change all the time, but probably not as often as search engines change the rules of website ranking. If you, the business owner, are foolish enough to divert your attention from running your business to attempting to become your own expert search engine optimization specialist, you will fail.
You can't micromanage your own SEO; there's too much going on and you will only frustrate yourself wondering why you can't see immediate results.
The reputable SEO agencies have experience with many websites, and they will secretly share what they learn on one site with all the other sites they work on. They also know about the loopholes that have been plugged up by Google, and they comprehend how to avoid them.
There's a lot of contradicting SEO information on the internet. I can even point to a few techniques I wrote in early Daily Golden Nuggets that no longer work. I started writing these Throwback Thursday Nuggets as a way to go back and update them. The point is that, as time passes, my new SEO writing is contradicting my old work. Therefore, those of you who choose to micromanage your own SEO will inevitably find yourself trapped in...
Yeah, I just pulled that old expression out on purpose because of this blunt statement I'm about to make: If you're old enough to know that expression, then you're likely in the generation that might think it's a good idea to attempt to work on your own SEO. Big mistake. Huge!
Over-Optimization Alert Ahead!
While black hat efforts are usually performed quickly to see rapid results, which now backfire; over-optimization happens gradually over time using techniques that are no longer recommended, and fall into the realm of light weight black hat. In other words, you might not have paid someone to use black hat techniques on your website, but trying too hard to correctly optimize your website lead you to the same ranking result: nowhere to be found.
Diagnosing over-optimization isn't easy, and the only way to truly see it is if your website once had a lot of traffic but then traffic slowly faded away. You would need at least 50 visitors per day at the start in order for you to then see the traffic slowly fade away. Diagnosing a website without that traffic can only be done by process of elimination of other potential issues.
For example, let's say your website once ranked well for "brown slippers" but now you are nowhere to be found in search results. The phrase "brown slippers" doesn't appear anywhere in your Google Search Console report either. On the other hand, you rank very well for the three-word phrase "fuzzy brown slippers" and have lots of traffic for that. Meanwhile all you've tried over the last few years to increase your website ranking for "brown slippers" has only lead to further decline. While there can be a variety of other issues causing your no-ranking status, it's also possible that all your efforts lead you to an over-optimized status.
Other than a loss of traffic, there are no other symptoms of over-optimization. Google won't tell you about your situation, and anyone analyzing your website will spend a lot of time ruling out everything else that can be measured before suggesting over-optimization.
I hesitate to even suggest methods of fixing this problem, especially since you won't be able to see results overnight. You could start with an evaluation of all the words on your website. Even though Google doesn't want you to count word density, their algorithm still uses some type of word count evaluation to determine if your phrase "brown slippers" is statistically higher than other words on the website.
When it comes to over-optimization, I suggest removing a few of the overused phrases and adding more friendly, customer service oriented details and descriptions to your website.
Sadly, when it comes down to it, there's no easy cure for over-optimization. You could delete it all and start over, but that's only going to eventually lead to the same mistakes without any opportunity to learn from what you did wrong in the first place.