Over the last couple of weeks I’ve written quite a lot about the forthcoming penalty which Google will be rolling out in a bid to quash the over optimisation which many Webmasters have been guilty of for some considerable time.

Whilst you may very well have never dabbled in black hat SEO, it is vital to appreciate that many techniques which may have been considered white hat are now distinctly grey, and when the penalty launches you could find your website heavily punished.

Make sure Google's penalty doesn't stop your website in its tracks

As well as being aware of what could potentially be construed as over optimisation, and the techniques which you should be avoiding from now on, it is also essential at this stage to have a look back at your own website and determine whether techniques you’ve never really considered potentially damaging might at this very moment be sharpening their teeth ready to bite you on the backside.

So today I’m going to be looking through some of the techniques and strategies which, whilst I have never recommended them, have not been considered dangerous techniques. Until now that it is, because it is perfectly possible that any one of the following optimisation techniques could result in your website disappearing from the search results at any time now.

Be under no illusion that Google is merely looking to eradicate overtly spam sites. Google’s over optimisation penalty could very well target websites which may largely be perfectly legitimate, but which have been integrating techniques which today are very unwise.

It’s also important to appreciate that today, in 2012, many of our websites have been around for years. Many perfectly legitimate websites today will have been founded either before the launch of Google, or within its first few years, when optimisation techniques were in their infancy. Such habits and practices can be hard to break, but what is harder still is to sit down and critically re-evaluate your existing content in the light of new understanding, and in the shadow of an oncoming threat.

Don’t leave it to chance, read through these tips, and if any of them apply to you, or you suspect that you may be guilty of one or more of these techniques, take action now. It isn’t known exactly when Google will launch its SEO penalty, but when it does you can be certain that by that time it will be too late to prevent your site from being very heavily punished.

Right then, here we go, my list of SEO techniques you should not only be avoiding, but completely removing from your website. You should also watch the video below by the mighty SEOMoz.

1. Unnatural Page Titles

The most significant factor which Google’s over optimisation penalty is likely to focus on is how content and the structure of that content compares to that which the average person is likely to produce. It is important therefore to think about optimising in a more natural way, rather than optimising for the sake of optimisation. Page titles are a good case in point.

For example, consider the following two page titles, and decide which one is more likely to be penalised by Google in the near future.

• Macclesfield Clock Repairs | Clock Repairs In Macclesfield | Clock Repair Services In Macclesfield
• J Turner & Son – Clock And Watch Repair Specialists In Macclesfield | Home

It isn’t hard to see how the first example has massively over optimised a variety of combinations of possible key phrase searches. If it is easy for you to tell at a glance which page title has been over optimised, you can be quite certain that Google will spot the difference just as quickly. So if you have incorporated multiple key phrases and combinations of those key phrases in your page titles then now is probably the ideal time to start making them more natural.

But in fact the problem goes further than this. Remember that when somebody searches in Google, it will be the page title that is the most prominent element of your page as it is listed in the search results. Whilst your current optimisation may well have resulted in your website being listed right at the top of the search results, a massively over optimised title could well harm your click-through rates.

The reason is that many people these days view overly optimised sites as being less reputable and valuable than those websites which appear more natural. The psychology is easy to understand, with more and more people starting to feel that if a website needs to over optimise in order to gain attention, there must be something wrong with it. Conversely, a website which appears to be more natural, and aimed at real people rather than algorithms is more likely to be clicked on in the search results, thus indirectly helping your rankings.

2. Duplicate Or Confusing Internal Links

It is by now well known that having duplicate anchor text links within your webpages offers no SEO value at all. If you have more than one identical anchor link on the page, only the first instance of this will be counted. Of course the subsequent examples will no longer merely be ignored, but may actually count against you.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple links to the same page or resource if it is relevant to do so, but it is important to make sure that not only is the anchor text you use different in each case, but that such links are created in a natural way, and not in a way which could be confusing.

Again, it is important to be aware of how real people are likely to react when they see a navigation menu or list of links which appear to be nearly identical. In our clock repair specialists example above it is easy to appreciate that the visitor to their sites may be somewhat confused and bamboozled if they are confronted with a list of links which look more like an entry from a thesaurus.

3. Link Filled Page Footers

Don’t ever believe that because your footer is hidden at the bottom of the page and infrequently viewed by visitors that it is a cunning location for sneaky links and optimisation. A footer which is stuffed full of semantically similar links using a variety of very similar key phrases is not only likely to put off your visitors should they do you the courtesy of scrolling down that far, but they are likely to be a real killer in the eyes of Google’s over optimisation penalty.

I have come across footers which are formatted in such a way that they veritably scream “Ignore me, I’m not here for you, I’m here for the search engines.” Masses of virtually identical links written in light grey text on a dark grey background are not going to do you any favours. Smarten up your footers, remove anything which is cluttering them or which is there purely to allow you to stuff an extra link or keyword in there, and don’t forget that these days it is important to make sure that in your footer you include clear links to things such as your privacy policy, terms of business and contact page, as well as the address of your business if you are aiming for localisation.

4. Pointless Text On Web Pages

Sometimes it can feel as though one of your web pages, though well structured and containing useful information, is missing something. Perhaps the page is dominated by images of products, product details, diagrams or maps. Perhaps you feel that this page is not going to grab the attention of the search engines unless there is a healthy chunk of text on it. You don’t really have anything particularly to say in addition to the information already displayed, but you plough ahead regardless creating a good chunk of text which more or less says nothing at all, has very little value, and is only there for the sake of the search engines.

If this sounds familiar then it’s probably a good idea to remove these pointless chunks of text. If they have been written solely for the purposes of the search engines then it is highly probable that the search engines will be able to tell this. Not only that, but your real visitors will also notice that there is something odd about it. If they start reading the text they may give up quite quickly deciding that it is pretty pointless, and they may even leave the page altogether as a result, in spite of the fact that actually the other content on the page was useful.

5. Semantically Similar Pages

One of the SEO tactics that a great many people have done, and which until very recently was not considered to be a particularly risky practice, is creating multiple semantically similar web pages. So for example, our clock repair specialists might have a few pages listed in their navigation menu as follows:

• Clock Repairs
• Watch Repairs
• Grandfather Clock Repairs
• Men’s Watch Repairs
• Ladies Watch Repairs
• Alarm Clock Repairs
• Macclesfield Clock Repairs
• Macclesfield Watch Repairs

You can see that at first glance it appears as though the website has a great deal of content, but exactly which link would you click on if your watch needed repairing, or your clock needed repairing? In either case you have several different choices, and this can be extremely confusing for your visitor. Confused visitors usually end up being customers for your rival. Not only will you put off real visitors, but with Google’s over optimisation penalty about to be launched anytime now, this is a practice which should be completely struck out.

Once again I should point out that at this stage Google has released no information whatsoever giving an indication of specific details relating to their over optimisation penalty. These suggestions are just that, my suggestions to you based on my understanding of the direction in which Google has been moving for quite some time now. This may well not be a definitive list, but it is a very sound place to start.

If you have any thoughts yourself about tactics which may well no longer be advisable, or you have any questions about over optimisation risks please leave your comments in the box below and we will aim to reply to all of them. If you found this post useful please consider sharing it via Twitter, Facebook or Google+ by using the share buttons above.