It's on the tip of everyone's tongue these days; and with good reason. Over Optimization is a scary topic - many people were worried it was the death of SEO. In actuality it just means we as SEO providers need to be a little smarter in the way we approach things. Dealing with Over Optimization is really about balancing your approach to SEO. This guide is going to explain some of the aspects that may catch you off guard and how to deal with them. Throughout this guide I'll be providing examples as if we were doing SEO for "McDonalds" as it's a brand that most people are familiar with (and it's near lunch time). Backlink Anchor One of the main issues that many users face is the diversity of the backlinks they use. Natural SEO happens when a huge number of people are actively talking about something across the internet. They don't all have the same mindset, so the way they talk about it and the links they create to reference a site are all very different. Yours needs to be too! Let's say you are "McDonalds" and the primary keyword you are targeting is "Tasty Burgers". Creating 100% of your links as "Tasty Burgers" may seem like the logical thing to do when in fact it is damaging. After reviewing the backlink break down of some high ranking sites that I knew did hardly any (if any at all) SEO the link break down pretty much resembled: 10% Primary Keyword 35% Various other Keywords 25% Click Here/Here/(variation) 30% Raw link When creating backlinks it is important to remember that the over optimization update means that Google is actively looking for the SEO you preform, so you are not only trying to improve your SEO but now more than ever you are trying to make it seem natural. Use your primary keyword (in our sample case "Tasty Burgers") no more than 10% of the time. You would want to use at least 5 - 10 variations of your keyword 35%. These variations should relate in some way to your primary keyword but still be different. For our sample they make look like this: Delicious Burgers Yummy Burgers Best Burgers Burger Combos Cheap Burgers 25% of the time you should using what I call the "click here" variations. These are article trimmers commonly used by blogs and websites that write a short snippet about you and are encouraging their readers to check out their website or an expand article. Of the 25% most of them should be on web2.0 profiles, news blogs, or article websites. Here is a small word list to get you started: Click Here Read More More Here Their Site Visit them Visit Website Site Homepage Company Page Profile The last 30% of your link building should be focused on using raw links as the anchor. Once again it is important to remember that everyone types differently so even your raw links shouldn't always be the same. For our example: Code: mcdonalds.com mcdonalds.com/ www.mcdonalds.com www.mcdonalds.com/tastyburgers.html http://mcdonalds.com http://mcdonalds.com/ http://www.mcdonalds.com/ http://www.mcdonalds.com/tastyburgers.html As you can see we've managed to link to the same site in a lot of different ways, and since this is the anchor text it really doesn't make a difference as to where it goes. There is another category of link type to be aware of, that makes up <0.4% of most backlink profiles and that is any of the above anchor types with a spelling mistake. This is of course a rare case but I would say if you have anywhere over 5000 backlinks you may want to drop 1 in. Backlink Placement Now that we have looked at how to deal with backlinks, let's talk about where to put them. When looking at backlinks I commonly divide them into four categories: 5% Primary (Authority) Backlinks 5% High End Contextual Backlinks 10% Mixed backlinking 80% Web2.0 Primary Backlinks: First we are going to look at "Primary Backlinks" these are your main backlinks that come from authority sites etc. It's important first to think of your business/or clients business and identify their consumer. Example A: My client is a technology based business consultant, his target demographic is therefore other businesses. If someone on the internet was to talk about him it would likely be: A Business Blog LinkedIn/Quora Posts Various Directories Online Journals Professional Websites Primary links often make are what make or break your website, they should always be contextual, authoritative and built in a whitehat manner. These are your holy grail, so don't take any short cuts, this 5% often makes up 75%+ of my budget. Example A is a real client of mine so we can follow exactly some of the steps I took to build up their Primary Links. 1. Located Business Archives both in and outside of the tech niche and manually created profiles on all of them. Each profile is different text. Nothing spun, nothing repeated, all whitehat. Here are a few samples to give you an idea: Code: crunchbase.com killerstartups.com go2web20.net tradevibes.com startupping.com venturebeatprofiles.com yellowpages.ca (Canada) canadianbusinessdirectory.ca (canada) directorylocal.com (USA) Superpages.com dir.yahoo.com clickstate.com allpages.com http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companies_of_the_United_States http://ylm.ca/ylm/ylm_home.aspx?f=460 (Canada Tech Triangle) 2. We created a tutorial for the employees of the company to teach them how to make Linkedin and Quora profiles, once these were set up to include backlinks we had each of them answer a question on Quora where they felt they had a good understanding of, and their colleges would upvote them. This created a fun team activity for the employees as well as a great deal of quality backlinks for the company. Of course if you aren't a big marketing consultant or working with that type of company, these results can easily be created by one person and some time. 3. Targeting a journal or other high end article syndication is not always an easy task but it is one that can pay off in the long run. For this client it was the Harvard Business Review blog. For your client it could be something much smaller like a local news journal picking up a press release, or even contacting a blogger to sponsor a featured article. In our case we contacted a past published author and the client paid them to write a quality article on their behalf. 4. Professional websites are another great form of primary link. For our client it meant contact the people they provide a service to and getting a lot of homepage footer links. For you this could also mean renting page links monthly, buying high pr websites, or guest blogging to get a solid backlink. The reason we avoided the McDonalds example in this section is because their style of business really doesn't merit primary backlinks, other than news outlets. Their business style will mostly be involved in social backlinks. If you find that your consumer demographic is large and varied, and a heavy hitter with the youth/young adult demographic you are in the same boat and should just continue on. High End Contextual Backlinks What I am talking about with High End Contextual Backlinks? These backlinks aren't as well planted as your primary backlinks but they still take time thought and effort. These backlinks may consist of comments, forum posts/profiles, on-page content, and social bookmarks. The difference is though they should have unique, contextual content posted with them. As if they were written by different people over time, giving them more authority than bulk bookmarking you are going to do later. Mixed Backlinking Mixed backlinks are where you actually want to look for some middle of the road properties such as small web2.0 or crappy bookmarking sites, and have poor descriptions (if any) of the link. These links are designed to be your "bad links" any time a website goes big everyone is talking about it; sadly it is a combination of both the people you want talking about it and the people you don't want talking about it. In order to make your SEO look natural it is important to ensure that this demographic is represented. Web2.0 Backlinks When you think about how the web has evolved (marketing as well for that matter) it has shifted away from webmasters and editors pushing content in one direction and become a constantly evolving conversation between multiple parties. Chances are if people are talking about your business or website the conversation is happening on social media, social bookmarking and web2.0 properties. While these are mostly bulk made backlinks take the time to make top quality spinnable articles rather than farming writeups out to low-end article writing chop-shops. The most important thing is the relation to keywords but it is important to note that Google does have the ability to detect the reading level of a passage. Small List of Web2.0 Properties to get you started: Code: [b]PR9[/b] http://wordpress.com [b]PR8[/b] http://squidoo.com http://weebly.com http://livejournal.com http://bravenet.com [b]PR7[/b] http://blogger.com http://blogsome.com http://www.wetpaint.com http://www.wikispaces.com http://www.xanga.com http://www.tripod.lycos.com http://tumblr.com http://quizilla.teennick.com http://viviti.com http://webs.com http://knol.google.com http://friendster.com [b]PR 6[/b] http://bigadda.com http://blog.co.uk http://blog.com http://www.zimbio.com http://gather.com http://diaryland.com http://edublogs.org http://opendiary.com http://sosblog.com [b]PR5[/b] http://20six.co.uk http://blog.ca http://hubpages.com http://blurty.com http://upsaid.com http://tabulas.com http://tblog.com http://terapad.com http://shoutpost.com http://thoughts.com http://blogskinny.com http://free-conversant.com http://freeflux.net [b]PR4[/b] http://blogeasy.com http://blogstream.com http://blogstudio.com http://blogtext.org http://insanejournal.com http://journalfen.net http://journalhub.com http://bloxster.net http://bloghi.com http://mynewblog.com http://netcipia.com http://wikyblog.com http://blogigo.com http://freeblogit.com [b]PR3[/b] http://blogono.com http://blogr.com Small List of Social Bookmarking (Best for raw link or short descriptions) Code: [b]Major Sites[/b] Twiiter.com Digg.com Stumbleupon.com Reddit.com Pinterest.com BuzzFeed.com Del.icio.us tweetmeme.com fark.com slashdot.com friendfeed.com clipmarks.com newsvine.com diigo.com Dzone.com Chime.in ------------------- [b]Smaller Sites[/b] a1-webmarks.com agroots.com bibsonomy.org blinklist.com Bookmax.net Cloudytags.com corank.com folkd gather.com givealink.org icio.de (german) memotoo.com Mister-Wong.com (german) multiply.com Plurk.com Rambhai.com (India) SocialAdr TechCrsp.com Thoof.com Totalpad.com If you are looking for more social bookmarking websites you can check out: http://www.social-bookmarking-sites-list.com/ This website lists over 700 social bookmarking sites, and can rank them by pagerank, do-follow and alexa rank. Timing More than ever SEO needs to slow down, blasting out hundreds of thousands of links, or even 1000 of links a day is something that will for sure get you a red flag in Google's eyes. When analyzing small sites as they grow you will notice that they have a constant amount of small link growth, coupled with small bursts of additional coverage. From the results I've looked at it roughly seems that these bursts represent a 275% - 350% growth in links for 2 - 4 days, and then a 15% - 20% higher link value the following days until the next burst. Outside of this I try to limit growth to no more than 10% per week. For example: If your website gains 100 backlinks a day (obviously a very popular site) your burst days would be 375 - 450 backlinks. Then once it has settled down you will be gaining 115 - 120 backlinks per day again. The next week even if there is no burst I would move up to While every site is different growth patterns are usually based on the news posting or sharing of a site, and thanks to the short attention span of the internet it usually quickly returns. The only time there are exceptions to this rule is when a startup company, social media site or internet phenomenon takes off, their links skyrocket and are more than likely subject to some form of secondary algorithm. To some of you the numbers in the example may seem high, to others it may seem low. It all depends on what type of site you are building, but remember far more often than not the quality of the link FAR outweighs the quantity. If your site is creating 1000 spammy links a day you are doing it wrong. Reading Level This one may come as a surprise to many of you but Google is actively aware of the quality of your sites content by application of the Flesch?Kincaid reading level analysis. After Google's acquisition of MetaWeb on July 16th 2010, they began pushing further and further into the idea of "semantic search" to understand both user needs and webpage quality. By integrating MetaWeb's early adaptation of page reading level analysis (and now having it as an option advanced search) Google showed that article quality was something key above all else. Perhaps why technical giants like Wikipedia were able to swoop up a number of high SERP rankings over the years. Basically the way the Flesch?Kincaid system is scored is: 90.0?100.0 easily understood by an average 11-year-old student 60.0?70.0 easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students 0.0?30.0 best understood by university graduates The lower the score the more difficult the read. In general it's best to aim for something between 25 - 40, and there are many online tools that will help you figure out the Flesch-Kincaid score of your page. If you are a hardknock and want to figure out yourself the formula is as follows: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/math/4/e/0/4e00010b3dbb079fb3c8ab74482b9bef.png Common Questions Is drip feeding important? I think it is certainly something of value, but in general I only use drip feeding when it is built into indexing tools. Otherwise if you are using a drip creation tool you are probably getting low quality articles, very little context, and more links than you actually need. What do I do if I am hit with penalty If you are hit with penalty you will want to remove Google Webmaster Tools, and analytics from your website first. You will then want to evaluate where your penalty may have come from and take steps to re-balance this. If you find your percent of one type of anchor are too high then continue to build others till it is at a more acceptable level. Once you have resolved the penalty cause wait about a week then re-add Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to your website. At that time ping out updates regarding your website and you should be re-crawled in no time. So it's not about bulk backlinks or just building on my keyword? Nope, it used to be, but SEO is rapidly changing. Now more than ever you want quality on-site and variety off-site. Remember if your SEO was a result of natural web discussion there would be a ton of differences in every link, in fact very few of them would be the same. They would look different, go different places, and be on varying properties of varying value built over time. It is now the goal of an SEO specialist to work closely with clients to meld marketing and SEO together, to guide them in whitehat practices that give clear long lasting results. Sure there are methods that are blackhat that have some impact, but in a world of increasing penalties it's always better to make good strong quality manual links (which is actually good for us - it means we can charge more as we can't be beat out by bots). Are there any services on BHW that offer this type of SEO? They are starting to pop-up here and there, look for people who take a unique and long-term approach to a client site. Don't expect results over night. When I make up SEO plans for a client rather than set my goals for one month, I break the year down by quarters. Do spinnable articles still work? The content on your site needs to be more carefully tended to than it has been in the past, spin articles are great for your backlinking and bookmarking; but for on-page content I would recommend hiring a professional or doing it yourself. Making sure to take care with keyword density and reading levels. I don't agree with what you've said!/Link Spamming still works! I am sure there are people who will argue, and I am sure there are people that will swear by link spamming. That is your opinion feel free to have and express it. I am not trying to tell you how to do SEO, I am giving you my findings and my approach to dealing with changes that Google is pushing out more and more - if you don't like them, don't use them. It's as simple as that.