The Epitome of Over-Optimization and How Google Encourages It
Casey Meraz recently told me an optimization tale. This tale made my skin crawl; my “content is king”, “optimize for the user”, “inbound marketing”, [insert white hat euphemism] skin crawl! The story epitomizes over-optimization and is a perfect example of how Google encourages it. Even still, what I am about to discuss is an on-page ranking factor, and is something you should probably look into after reading this.
*Please keep in mind that this is a second hand account of a second hand account. The details aren’t all there, but the idea is the same.
Bruce Clay was doing some consulting for a prominent news site (it rhymes “PNN”…). They were having trouble ranking for a certain keyword (here is where the lack of details begins), which I assume was something like “News”, and could not figure out why. After some research the SEO guru noticed that the site was utilizing breadcrumbs and that the home page was anchored in the text “Home” in those breadcrumb links. So essentially, there were hundreds of thousands, if not millions of internal links anchored in the text “Home” and linking to the site’s home page. As a result, the site was actually ranking for the keyword “Home” before they were ranking for their target keywords!
So, what did Bruce recommend? He told them to change the anchor text of those bread crumb links to reflect a keyword or phrase that they wanted to target, rather than the intuitive, user friendly, “Home”.
Real Life Example
On Bruce Clay’s site, his home page breadcrumb is anchored in the keyword phrase “Internet Marketing Optimization”:
Hey, look! Bruce is ranking quite well for that particular keyword:
I am not trying to claim that this is not a relevant descriptor of the home page of his site, but it is only useful for search engines. It is an intentional manipulation of the site which appeals only to search engines. It adds no value to the user. The user understands what kind of site they are on by reading the content, and, uh, remembering what they were looking for when they found the site!
What’s My Beef?
Simple. Google wants SEOs to consider the user before they consider Google’s crawlers when optimizing a site. They want to us to make the web a better place, which means making each individual website the best it can be for the user. This is also what Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, Dr. Pete, and every other white hat evangelist out there want. But guess what? They aren’t going to get it when optimizing for the search engines, not the user, is still what works.
The Take Away(s)
- I am mad about this, but ranting made me feel better.
- Google needs to continue to de-value anchor text as a ranking factor (they have started with Penguin, but it’s still not where it needs to be.)
- Regardless of the ethics of it, you may want to audit your site’s breadcrumbs…