Solid SEO Through De-Optimization

That’s right, today we aren’t going to so much discuss optimization as it’s antithesis. Some may wonder what sense this makes. How can one say that the road to higher rankings is built on trying not to rank? In fact, the effort is always to rank highly, it’s just the tactics that are a bit different.

What Is De-Optimization?

De-Optimization is the reduction of those tell-tale signs of SEO that once-upon-a-time worked very well and only recently have come to be viewed as blatant attempts at, well, ranking highly. To properly de-optimize a website the following areas need to be addressed:

  • Keyword density
  • Backlink anchor text
  • The use of special text
  • Site relevancy

With these areas addressed properly a site stands a much higher chance of ranking for the phrases being targeted and perhaps more importantly, holding those rankings over time.

Keyword Density

For those not aware of the concept of keyword density it is the overall percentage of your page content that is made up of the targeted keywords. A simple example would be a 200 word page on which you are targeting a single keyword such as “google”. If you use the word “google” 20 times on the page you would have a keyword density of 10% (keywords / words * 100 = keyword density).

First, let’s note that a 10% keyword density is WAY too high to begin with. I can’t specifically give an optimal keyword density in an article as there’s a good chance it will be read months from now when the densities are different. The ideal way to calculate optimal densities is to figure out what the densities of the current top 10 are and target appropriately. But how do you de-optimize your keyword densities?

Let’s say you’ve found that in your industry the optimal keyword density is 3.5% on Google but you don’t necessarily want to target the high end of the spectrum. Using variations of the keyword is the easiest and most effective route to go. Rather than using the word “google” 7 times in that 200 words it will be more effective to use the word “google” four times, “googled” a couple times and perhaps, “googling” once. Plural, past tense, etc. are used by the major search engines as similar but not identical keywords. Thus, you will get much of the benefit of using them in your keyword densities without running the same risk of hitting densities that are too high. As an added bonus, you may just rank for these other keywords as well.

Backlink Anchor Text

The same principle applies to backlink anchor text as applies to keyword densities. Having 10,000 links to your site all with the same keyword phrase in them is going to look suspicious to say the least. Altering your text is obviously useful to help you attain rankings for multiple phrases but when you have only a couple of key phrases it helps to use plurals or otherwise altered forms of your main keywords. For example, in a link to the Beanstalk site we may use “seo services” much of the time but if all our links appeared this way it would be far less effective and thus, we also use anchor text like “seo service”, “search engine positioning services”, “seo firm”, etc. to insure that we don’t have too many identical backlinks but at the same time promoting our core phrases throughout.

As with keyword density, done correctly there’s the added perk of ranking well for a variety of phrases.

The Use Of Special Text

As discussed back in the article on Content Optimization, special text (as we are using it here) is any text that is set out as unique from the majority of text on your page using such things as bold, italics, anchor text, colors, etc. The use of this type of text implies to the search engines that the text in this format is more important than the standard text on your page and also that you want this text to stand out from the rest (i.e. you want to insure your visitors see it).

For this reason special text is highly powerful from and SEO-perspective (and for all the right reasons as it’s highly effective from a human visitor perspective). Based on the article noted above we have noticed people bolding every instance of their targeted phrase on their site. This might have worked back when the engines were first calculating this in as a factor however as with any trick that’s used, it quickly got detected and filtered. The key here is to use these formats when appropriate. It should be noted that if you are targeting a phrase like “google” there will be spots in your text where you will naturally want to bold the text to draw the visitor’s eye to the phrase they have searched. For example, you would likely use special text in a sentence at the top of your page that reads, “Google: The Way The World Searches.” Whereas if further down your page you had a sentence the read, “Then one day I was sitting at my computer and Googled …” you would be much less likely to need to use any formatting outside the usual used for your general content.

As a rule of thumb, try to never exceed 30 – 40% of your keywords formatted outside of your general content style.

Site Relevancy

This is the one area where de-optimization does not apply and can be viewed as the balancing factor. While you are working to de-optimize your individual web pages you will want to simultaneously build the overall relevancy of your site to your targeted phrases. Insuring that there is a solid use of your main keywords across as many of your pages as possible while keeping the visitor experience enjoyable and informative will create a stronger overall site and further increase your ability to rank that site for multiple related phrases as well as your primary phrase.


De-optimization is not so much the reduction of the ranking factors insomuch as it is a return to the original intent of a website which is to cater to the visitor. As the end goal of the search engines is to provide the best possible set of search results for a specific query it logically follows that websites should strive to attain an excellent visitor experience in order to attain and maintain high rankings. The search engines themselves are getting much better at determining characteristics of a website that will provide a solid visitor experience and this ability is increasing every day (or at least, every update).

Insuring that your content reads well, is organized properly with indicators in place to tell the engines (and the visitors) where the important content is and with easy navigation will help the engines know your site is built for the visitor and highly relevant to the search query. And what more do you want the engines to know than that?


Google Guidelines – These are the guidelines that Google has set out for webmasters. Read them and add them to your Favorites (or Bookmarks for those of us using Firefox). Visit this page and review it at least once a month.

High Rankings Newsletter – This is a newsletter put out by veteran SEO Jill Whalen. While I may disagree with some of her advice, overall she is one of the best SEO’s in the industry and her newsletter (to which I am subscribed) is a great resource for anyone learning to optimize their own websites.

Total Optimizer Pro – (previously linked to “”) –

This is the primary SEO tool we use to determine optimal keyword densities and to analyze backlinks.

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