3 Ways Attorneys Can Get an Over Optimization Penalty

An Image signifying being buried as in over-optimizationOver-optimization like keyword stuffing has been around since the days of Alta Vista and was one of the first ways savvy web marketers manipulated the search system. Well-meaning users were bombarded with irrelevant gambling and pornography websites after entering in innocent queries.

Fortunately those days are long gone and most search engines (and especially Google) have gotten very good at both guessing searcher intent and delivering highly relevant results. The Penguin update especially went after webmasters manipulating search rankings using various dirty keyword strategies. Here is a list of things that you shouldn’t be doing with your content.

Excessive Keyword Use

At one point it may have been true that you should have a certain density for your target keyword throughout a page. While you should still have enough of your target keyword and its variants on the page, there is no set density (as Matt Cutts points out in this video).

Having a target keyword on a page tons of times isn’t going to make the page rank any better in search and will often get you demoted if not de-indexed all together. A good rule of thumb is write for users and not for search engines. Add in keywords where appropriate but don’t overdo it.

Dots symbolizing Internal Linking of a websiteAbuse of Keyword Specific Internal Linking

Internal linking is important and contextual internal linking is great. When you can point visitors to other pages that might add value to a concept or topic, you should do it. What you should not do is take every opportunity to link a relevant keyword to its corresponding page throughout a website.

After the first few times, this starts to look like manipulation and will quickly earn you a penalty in search. Users can spot these sorts of tactics too. No one likes a site that appears to be intentionally manipulative and spammy.

Abusing the Alt Attribute

You will most likely hear this called a keyword tag and it seems that term has gained acceptance among many SEOs and marketers however it’s actually an attribute of the image tag in HTML. Why do we have alt attributes? As it relates to search, the alt attribute serves as an opportunity to describe image content because search engines do not have the ability to crawl images.

Example of an alt attribute

You can easily misuse this attribute (and many people do) by stuffing it with keywords that are not relevant to the image that it is meant to describe. For example say you are optimizing a post on your legal blog for the keyword phrase “car accident attorney Austin”. You might plug in an image of a car accident and in your haste to optimize the page, you put the exact same phrase as the text in the alt attribute for the image.

While this may seem relevant, it is actually an inappropriate use of the alt attribute. A more appropriate description of the image might be “an image of a car accident” or “a wrecked car”. A clever SEO might include the text “an image of a car accident in which you might need an attorney”. Note that there is no official character restriction of alt attributes however if your content will be consumed by screen readers you may want to keep it under 125 characters.

Other Misuses of the Alt Attribute
• Putting in a bunch of keyword phrases that are not relevant to the image
• Leaving them out of an image tag entirely
• Leaving them empty (technically not a misuse but lost opportunity)
• Making all attributes the same on images on the same page

Alt attribute can be very powerful if used correctly. They can help not only your pages rank well but also the images for your pages. As always you should be thinking of users first and search engines second.

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