New SEO No-No’s: How to Get Your Site Penalized by Google

Written by: Jason Bayless | December 19, 2012

Is it possible for your site to be too optimized for search engines? Apparently Google thinks so. SEO tactics that once earned you higher rankings can now instead get you a slap on the wrist from Google.

Oddly enough, the frowned-upon tactics aren’t even all Black Hat SEO in nature – in fact, some of the new “red flags” are surprising: Careless errors like dead links, and even comment spam left by other people (or robots), can get your site in trouble. And tactics that were once considered legit (though on the mildly shady side) are now a definite faux pas.

You might need to rethink your website’s SEO strategy if you check your site and find any of the following:

Internal links that are entirely made up of keywords: Linking within your website or between your related websites using nothing but keywords for anchor text (the hyperlinked text) is spammy, and Google doesn’t think it looks professional enough. Having too many internal links is also a potential problem.

Overdoing the keyword density: Any keyword usage above 2 or 3% of the page content is too much of a good thing. So don’t overstuff meta tags and content with keywords that seem forced or overdone.

Duplicate content on several pages: If you have virtually the same content on numerous pages but changed the keywords here and there, Google will notice – and it’s not the kind of attention you want.

Comment spam: It’s a cruel irony, but it’s true – those annoying, meaningless, hyperlink-packed and robot-generated spam comments on your blog or forum can get your site penalized.

Excessive ads above the fold: Since readers generally want to see good content right away without scrolling down past a bunch of ads, having too many ads “above the fold” (in the top half of the page) can trigger problems with Google’s Page Layout algorithm.

Too many blog tags: When you add tags to a blog, article or other post, you probably create tags on the fly based on which keywords you think will help people find that content, right? That can be the wrong thing to do, because having an unlimited number of tags can lead to the dynamic creation of several pages that have overly similar content. And that is – you guessed it – another Google red flag. Consider having a set number of predetermined tags, and make sure they are unique enough that your website doesn’t generate page after page of nearly-duplicate content.

Too many H1 tags on the same page: There should only be one H1 tag per page, with H2 and H3 used for subheadings.

And beyond all those technical “red flags,” there’s one more that proves that quality content really matters. If your content is not only stuffed to the gills with keywords but also rehashes content from other sites – or if it doesn’t offer anything of value to the reader, such as a free quote or a white paper – your site looks suspicious to the search engines. To remedy this, just think about what you want your site to accomplish and what value proposition your readers are looking for.

SEO is like a landscape made up of ever-shifting sand, and tactics that were perfectly okay last year (or last week) may get your website penalized or banned now. Make sure someone on your SEO team is keeping up with industry updates and changes in Google’s policies.