In this video interview, SEO expert Todd Friesen explains how over-optimizing keywords can get you in trouble, so that Google will downgrade you for what it perceives as unnatural linking patterns. Then he describes how to fix such a problem to regain your rankings.
Friesen explains that for years, Google has sought ways to analyze the links in order to give credit (higher rankings) where credit is due. This is all to get the most relevant webpages to the top of the search results.
Google can now surgically analyze links to either credit or discredit an individual link, and filter you out of the search results for an individual search term. Friesen says this should be thought of as a filter rather than a penalty because you can undo it. One problem can be too many links in 'bad neighborhoods,' that is, from disreputable websites. Linking is very viral, so authority or lack of authority spreads through the linking that you do.
But we're now seeing that you can get in trouble if you over-optimize for a particular keyword in the anchor text of links to you. (The anchor text is the words in the blue, underlined hyperlink.) If you get too many very specific anchor text in links, Google sees it as unnatural.
In the old days you would request a specific anchor text for your links. These days it's safer to let the Internet decide what is the appropriate anchor text for a link. You want what Google perceives to be natural linking patterns.
To fix a problem, first look at all your links with a tool like MajesticSEO.com or data out of Google Webmaster Tools. Now sort your links by anchor text and find your problem. Then ask for some links to be taken down or the anchor text changed, get your link portfolio back in balance, and you'll do better on the rankings for those terms.
Dr. Wilson observes that this is sophisticated enough that you may need some professional help to spot and correct this type of linking problem.
Todd Friesen is the Director of SEO for Performics, a Chicago-based full-service digital marketing agency, offering SEO, PPC, and media buying for enterprise-level companies. This video interview was recorded on August 17, 2011 at the SES Conference in San Francisco.