SEO changes to immediately make to your site

Google is cracking down on sites that over-optimize for SEO. Make these changes so your site won’t get penalized.

Now that Google’s over-optimization penalty is in effect, too much search engine optimization (SEO) can actually be a bad thing.

The penalty is part of Google’s larger, ongoing effort to reward high-quality sites, especially those that regularly produce relevant and informative content. Google lumps these sites under the term “white hat” SEO. Google’s nemesis is “black hat Web spam,” in which sites use SEO techniques like keyword stuffing and link schemes to rank pages higher than they should.

As part of the over-optimization penalty, sites that engage in black hat tactics will receive decreased rankings. Who wants to get on Google’s bad side?

If you use solid SEO principles, regularly create great content, and avoid spam-like SEO tactics, you’re likely in the clear. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check your site and incorporate these six SEO-related changes to keep your website visible and in Google’s good graces.

1. Use real titles. It can be tempting to include several keywords in your site’s title, but don’t do it! This is the place to showcase your brand name and, if applicable, your location. In fact, it’s likely that your brand name already includes keywords like “digital marketing,” “Web design” or “copywriting,” to name a few.

2. Use fewer internal links. It is just as important to build internal links as it is outbound links, but don’t go overboard and link to the same internal pages with slightly modified anchor text. Instead, link to internal pages that are useful and relevant. If you really need to link to the same page, make sure you modify the anchor text and make it sound natural. Don’t use a blatant string of keywords.

3. Give footers the boot. Your site’s footer isn’t meant to house a ton of links. Instead, use your footer as it makes sense for your site. If you have links you want to include, put them in your site’s menu or in another visible place so they not only help drive traffic to your site, but help visitors, too.

4. Ditch filler text. Watch out for text blocks that are only meant for search engines. You’ve probably seen them. They’re typically near the bottom of a page that includes great, relevant and readable content, then bam! You see a paragraph that’s blatantly stuffed with keywords.

If you have these on your site, delete them. Or better yet, rewrite the content so you can still get a keyword boost without clearly telling search engines you’re trying to manipulate them.

5. Steer clear of sources likely to cause penalties. If your site includes backlinks from penalty-likely sources like link networks, reciprocal lists, and article marketing lists, do what you can to ditch your connection to them. Link-building is a vital part of SEO, but when you build your links with disreputable sites and services, you might as well not have links at all. You work hard to create great content for your site, so why waste that effort on spam-like link sources?

Instead, share your content through your social channels to encourage readership and external links. Comment regularly on blogs and include links to related posts on your site. It takes some work to build links, but surely that’s more appealing than Google burying your site because of penalties.

6. Delete unnecessary pages. If your site includes a large number of pages that target only slightly modified variations of keywords, clean them up! Create one well-written page that targets a number of keywords. You’ll get great visibility in search results without the risk of a penalty.

Plus, you’ll keep your readers happy. People are smart. If they come to your site and see keyword-laden content that’s unhelpful and hard to understand, they’ll hightail it out of there-and that’s the last thing you want.

You can’t deny SEO is an art and science. Because it’s difficult to master, there’s a chance you’ve outsourced your SEO work. If you have, be sure to keep an eye on your site and content to make sure nothing wonky happens. If it does, ditch your SEO firm as soon as possible and hire someone who knows what he’s doing.

Are you glad Google is taking a stronger stance against SEO manipulators? Have you made any changes to your sites as a result?

Shelly Kramer is the CEO of V3 Integrated Marketing. A version of this article originally appeared on the V3 Integrated Marketing blog.

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