If you've been reading SEO articles lately, you've probably heard some mention the phrase "over-optimization." It's usually used to say that people have gone overboard with the things that they think SEO involve. I even used it in the headline of a recent Talent Zoo article. But, honestly, over-optimization is a silly word.
To "optimize" something means to make it as perfect or effective as possible. This means that there's no way to overdo it because it's perfect. When it applies to website marketing, my definition of optimization is to make your website the best it can be for your users and the search engines.
It's as simple and as difficult as that! Optimizing anything is going to be difficult because it's nearly impossible to make things absolutely perfect. And being the best you can be at anything is rarely easy. For the most part, we can never truly optimize our websites, as there will always be something else that can be done to perfect it even more. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't always keep trying to perfect it.
Think about real life and how optimization in any job can pay off. Workers who optimize their performance will often make more money and get more promotions, because they're doing a great job at whatever they do. And those who work for tips have even more incentive to optimize the way they work. Think about a waitress, for instance; the more she meets the exact needs of each patron, the more tips she's likely to bring in. In other words, it pays for the waitress to be optimized. Surely, most waitresses or waiters try to do the best job that they can, but I'm sure you've noticed that some are better at it than others.
With that in mind, let's look at some real--life attempts at optimization by those in the service industry and see how they may apply to website optimization as well:
Optimization shouldn’t turn people off.
We've all seen waitresses who can be overly sarcastic with people in the name of trying to be funny. While some people may not mind this (and many may even enjoy the humor), the more sensitive patrons might feel like they're being teased or even harassed. They didn't come out to eat to be made fun of, which in turn makes this waitress not truly optimized, as she's only catering to some people and turning others off. Or what about the waiter who takes forever to come by after you receive your food to see if you need anything else? That can be a huge turn-off and deterrent for frequenting a restaurant.
Let's compare this to the optimization of your website. Is your website stuffed full of keywords? Does it load slowly or incompletely? Is it all Flash and not even seen on some mobile devices? Is it optimized for search engines but not people?
If you answered yes to any of the above, your website is likely turning some people off and therefore it isn't optimized.
You can’t fake optimization.
You've probably experienced the waiter who's extremely nice to everyone; so nice that it may not come off as genuine. While this may seem optimal, it's not if it seems phony to a lot of people. Sure, it might fool those who just come to the restaurant once in a while, but the regulars will see right through the act, and therefore it’s not optimal for them, nor a long term strategy for getting tips.
Related to your website: Are you creating doorway pages or a bunch of extra domains? Is your content just there as filler (i.e., "the history of whatever"?). Do you use cheap software to scrape articles that other people wrote and then spin them into new ones? Do you hire people who barely speak English to write tons of low-quality articles?
If so, then you're basically "faking" being optimized. While it may appeal to the search engines for a little while, it's certainly not truly optimal. And it also won't provide you with long-term results.
Being optimal is hard work.
Great waiters and waitresses aren't necessarily perfect, but they usually are authentic. They try to be best waitperson they can be. They'll work extremely hard to please each and every customer in their own unique way, which is difficult. Every person who comes into the restaurant is different, so what's optimal for them isn't necessarily what's optimal for someone else. For instance, some customers might enjoy a waitress flirting with them a bit, but it's not appropriate to do with a guy who was on a romantic dinner with his wife!
An optimal waitress treats both genders equally and quickly learns the preference of their regulars, e.g., where they like to sit, stuff about their family, etc. She may also talk about herself, but not so much as to be annoying or bothersome. She is often amusing or even self-deprecating, but in moderation. And you know that by the end of her shift, she's likely exhausted from working so hard. You can bet that this level of optimization is hard work.
As far as your website goes, they're all different. While there are basic strategies and tactics that should be applied to them all, there is no simple magic SEO bullet that will work for all of them. Do you spend time every day making your website better? Are you authentic in your social media marketing endeavors and blog posts? Do you think about the different types of customers that may use your website, products and services and make sure you have exactly what they need? And most of all, do you work your butt off when doing all this?
If so, you are most likely tired — but also on your way to being very successful with your website and business. If not, think about how you can work harder and appeal to your target audience in a genuine, authentic way. Eventually, your optimization efforts should pay off handsomely!
As an SEO Consultant, Jill Whalen has been providing her no-nonsense, practical SEO advice since 1995. If you learned from this article be sure to sign up for Jill's popular High Rankings Advisor SEO Newsletter to keep up with the latest information in the ever-changing world of SEO. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen, "Like" her at Facebook, and "Circle" her on Google+.