April 17, 2014

Over-Optimization Penalty? Yes, Google Aims to Level the Playing Field

Posted on 20. Mar, 2012 by in SEMPO

Matt Cutts of Google announced at SXSW that for the last few months Google has been working on an update to their search algorithm that will attempt to “level the playing field” by penalizing web pages that exhibit “black hat” tactics, or in Google’s opinion are “over-optimized” and performing too well in the SERPs, outranking high quality sites with great content that users love, though they may not be as optimized as other sites.

Key things to know about the Change:

  • Google is looking to level the playing field between over-optimized sites and sites that are non-optimized, but offer great content and a great user experience
  • Sites with over optimization may be greatly impacted
  • Pages with too many keywords on a page are at risk
  • Sites with too many link exchanges are risk
  • It is likely there will be more penalties in place than the past (In the past Google has traditionally opted to not count negative SEO practices against a site)
  • The sky is not falling – but if you have not been working on above-board, white hat tactics, you are at risk.
  • If you have been buying links – you have some cleanup work to do
  • If you have content that is overly keyword rich (as in it made people in the company cringe when it went live, take a close look at the copy to ensure it’s not over-optimized)
  • If you are doing SEO in line with best practices of 2012, you are fine
  • Google has not specified a date for the changes to take place yet except to say that it will take place in the coming weeks
  • This is contrary to past information that Google has given on over-optimization, as seen in the video below from 2009:

From the Horse’s Mouth – Matt Speaking on This Change:

Session Audio Recording – Matt Cutts talks about this new change about 1/3 the way into the audio:

Our Theory on Things that Might Be Penalized in this Upcoming Change

  • Link profiles that are too keyword rich
  • Links that look like they were bought – example: sitewide links in the footer for a site that is clearly not owned by your company or no real business need for the link
  • Reciprocal Links
  • Domain-wide links all or completely
  • Content shoved below the fold that is clearly not there for users
  • Content below the footer, in particular below the copyright information
  • Page title tags that contain: “Keyword 1, Keyword 2, Keyword 3 – Company Name”
  • Web pages that are link heavy and page copy thin
  • Content duplicated over many pages but offering little user value
  • Webpages that don’t necessarily have too many links, but are ad heavy, have little targeted copy and little social media popularity indicators

Actions you need to take

1. Anyone who has done SEO Link building: Analyze your link profile to ensure it looks natural, and not over-optimized
2. Revise any content below the footer and especially the copyright info – anything shoved below the fold and below the footer. Today it probably helps you rank, but make sure it adds value to the user experience, and add it into the main user experience instead of below the fold
3. Make sure page copy is not keyword stuffed – we do not see this often anymore, but we still occasionally see over-optimized copy
4. Consider a plan for making title tag improvements if you keyword stuff– this is a tough one, because often a company finds that “KW 1, KW 2, KW 3” in the title tag makes the page rank, so a strategic, defined plan for building out new pages may be important

Final Thoughts: The Sky is NOT Falling (for most of you)

If your website is carefully optimized and includes relevant, user-friendly content, you’re probably good to go. However, if you think you might have too many keywords piled on, or a large amount of erroneous links, you might want to think about cleaning up and streamlining your web pages.

Where to read more about this:

Article source: http://www.seminhouse.com/2012/03/google-over-optimazation-penalty.html

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