At SXSW, Google’s main search spam guy, Matt Cutts, announced that Google is releasing an algorithm update to target sites overdoing SEO – “overoptimized”. Google will attempt to “level the playing field” between websites with quality content versus those that are ridiculously optimized.
A surprising thing about this announcement is that there is reason to believe that some penalties like this already exist. While there is no official word from G on existing over-optimization penalties (except maybe this 2009 video where Cutts says there is no penalty), there have been many instances where a site will suddenly see its position for certain keywords drop from the top of page one to somewhere in the 30′s or 50′s. Websites which use too many of the same keywords as anchor texts on incoming links to the site, or overuse particular keywords in their on page SEO will see their ranking limited to a SERP position no higher than page 4, or in worse cases page 6. Some call this the +30 or +50 penalty, since it seems to take a site’s current ranking for a given keyword and add either 30 or 50 to it. Even if those 30 and 50 barriers are myths or no longer in use, we have recently seen a few sites that have fit the profile – spammed their way to the top, then quickly dropped off the radar for certain keywords. In many cases, we have been able to help undo the damage of a Google penalty.
It remains to be seen whether or not the new Google penalty for overly optimized sites is an extension of this, is something completely new, or is simply a PR maneuver. And of course there is much discussion of the meaning of this algorithm change.
There will undoubtedly be people claiming that “SEO is dead” (again). It seems that many people still don’t know the difference between modern SEO or inbound marketing, and low-grade link spamming and the other crap that people try to pass off as optimization. Do it right – with a focus on improving your site, your content and your presence online and legitimate SEO should be just fine.
What can you do to avoid an overoptimization penalty?
Here are some common problems that can be prevented with common sense:
Stop keyword stuffing!
Have you used your favorite keywords on the page more times than would make sense if you were handing it in as a homework assignment? You might want to re-think that. Many people go a little keyword crazy and seem to think that more is always better. If your copy reads as if you never heard of a pronoun or synonym, grab a thesaurus and come up with some other words for whatever it is you are selling. Google is pretty smart and will recognize words with similar meanings, so you don’t need to be very repetitious. If you use a variety of words instead of the same ones over and over, you will also get some traffic from people searching for those, too. It can’t be said enough – build your site and create content for people, not search engines.
Mix Up The Anchor Text
Anchor text, the words that actually appear in a link, have historically been a big part of off page SEO or link building. If you want to rank for a keyword, it is generally a good idea to have at least a few links to your site that use that keyword or phrase. Like most things in search engine optimization, people often take a little knowledge, run wild with it and get hundreds of backlinks (either legitimately or paid for) – all with the same anchor text! The site will often rank well for a little while, then virtually disappear from the search results for that particular phrase.
Be Good, Be Real
If you are keyword stuffing or overdoing it with text links, stop now. Focus more on making your site the best it can be, both technically and in its content. Any future link building should be spam-free and user friendly. If you are going to put your business in a directory, use the name of your company or website rather than your favorite keywords.
Behave the same as you would offline.
Let’s say you are opening a pizza shop. Is it better to make really good food and do what you can to spread the word – or just buy a bunch of generic frozen pizzas and print up thousands of flyers claiming you have the best fresh pizza in town, hoping nobody notices? Filling your site or blog with purchased or stolen filler articles and relying on spammy SEO is like the frozen pizza option – you may do well for that opening weekend, but nobody is coming back and they are not going to recommend you to anyone. Instead, publish useful content and use SEO and other inbound promotion to make sure the search engines – and people – are able to do the publicity for you.
It is a bit of a nightmare if you rely on search traffic – your website has virtually disappeared from Google.
Get real SEO help from a legitimate, proven professional.
That doesn’t mean reply to one of those spam emails you get promising top ranking for very low prices. That just may be how you got in trouble in the first place. Removing a penalty and doing damage control will take time and expertise, so now is not the time to cut corners. Treat it as if you were arrested for a crime, and it really looked like you were involved (whether you really were or not doesn’t matter). You would want to hire the best attorney you could find to keep you out of prison. If you have been hit with a Google penalty, who you choose to help get your website out of search engine jail can be just as critical.
Get help now
We can help undo whatever got you in trouble and get you back on track.