Google Over Optimization Penalty – As The Dust Settles

When you talk about Search Engine Optimization, 15 or so years is a life time.  Literally.  We tend to forget that in the early 90’s few of us even knew what an Internet browser was, let alone seo and I was thinking about how fast this brand new world of ours has evolved the other day.

We have seen the rise and fall of countless search engines, and the launch of the “Grand Daddy” of all, Google.  Since its inception, we learned that the Phd’s behind this soon to be giant had insights into the virtual world that few of us even imagined.

Google quickly became the norm in internet searches and it wasn’t long when it even became part of day to day vocabulary!  “Google this, Google that” is something most of us hear or say on a daily basis and everybody knows what we mean!

I was thinking about this the other day, as I was revising the seo strategies of our company, what with Google de-indexing a bunch of article networks and introducing their now famous over-optimization penalty.  After all, it wasn’t even a month ago, but it might as well have been a whole lot longer, when you think about the effect it has had on some internet marketers and online home businesses.

So what’s really happening now and have we even begun to understand the true intent of the search engine giant?  Not exactly and it is open to question whether Google themselves know how their new policies are going to affect the world wide web.



Content is king, long live content?

I have always advised my customers to concentrate on writing content for “human” readers, rather than for the search engines, and if this advice was true then, it certainly is true today!

In theory, this is good news for most folks who conduct their home businesses online. Quality hand written articles which attract “organic” readers naturally, without the use of techniques that infringe upon Google rules.

Let us consider a mom and pop and their online home based business!

First they begin writing articles for their new website.  They spend a lot time writing as good a content as possible and patiently wait for the traffic to hit their site!

For the overwhelming majority of such sites, it is not uncommon to realize that even though they have an increasing number of good articles, the traffic that was expected never comes.

When mom and pop realize that in spite of their best efforts the traffic that they were hoping for never materialized one of the first thing most do is to purchase one of the  numerous online marketing courses that can be found nowadays which amongst other things tell them to:

  • Go to related blogs and leave comments
  • Use Web 2.0 linking strategies
  • Make use of Social Media
  • Maximize the spread of their articles by posting them newly spun in article and blog networks.

I will talk about the four option in my next article:





What’s Next For Google? The Overly-Optimized Sites Syndrome

It’s never a dull moment in the world of Internet Marketing.  As things stand, there are several parties involved in the ongoing battle of the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages).

  • Google
  • The Spammers
  • The rest of us which can be further sub categorized into
    • Those of us who have a fair understanding of what SEO is.
      • … and use our skills as a service to others
      • … or to promote our own sites
    • Those of us are just starting out in this endeavor

Whatever group you happen to be in, you could say that on one hand you have Google and on the other, the rest of us!  (And tough luck if we happen NOT to be spammers).

Something “interesting” happened a couple of weeks ago at a SXSW event during which Matt Cutts, (Google Spam Chief) introduced the “over-optimization” algorithm launch targeting the spammers, those who voluntarily and deliberately try to NOT play by the rule in order to ascend quickly the dizzying summits of the search engine ranking.

Here is a transcript of some of what Matt had to say:

The idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.

So that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the Google Bot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO—we handle that—and then we also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whatever they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area. So that is something where we continue to pay attention and we continue to work on it, and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now…

Absolutely there are some people who take it too far [ talking about the positives of SEO] .

What we’re mindful of is when someone says, “We’re White Hat. We continue to do the right thing, and we see the Black Hats who are over optimizing or going too far, and they seem to be doing too well.”

So we’ve been working on changes to try to make sure that if you are a White Hat or if you’ve been doing very little SEO that you are going to not be affected by this change. But if you’ve been going way far beyond the pale, then that’s the sort of thing where your site might not rank as highly as it did before.”

For a lot of us, this statement has left us scratching our head.  Does this mean that if we include search engine optimization strategies for our own online business, we risk being targeted by Google and therefore become the victim of their Over-Optimization Penalty?

The answer has to be:  QUITE POSSIBLY!  And some should worry more than others!

The problem with SEO is that its purpose is to employ techniques designed to bring more traffic to a site.  This in itself is in opposition to Google’s main purpose, or “raison d’etre” which is to crawl through millions of pages every day, index them, and decide which ones are worthy of being ranked high or not.

As such when anyone designs a campaign aimed at circumventing this fact, that person places her/him self in the grey zone between what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Is this an acceptable risk?  Not if one day you wake up to discover that those keywords you have worked so hard at promoting have all of a sudden disappeared from the SERPS taking down with them most of your income.

So what is wise SEO person supposed to do?

To continue to write as good quality content as possible, without worrying about keyword density, linking practices etc…



Google’s Over Optimization Penalty And What It Means To SEO

I don’t know if you remember but in the days of infoseek and altavista which were THE search engines before Google announced itself to the world, it was possibly to surge to the top of the serps (Search Engine Results Page) by just modifying content, adding a few keywords etc…

Soon, everyone in the then bludgeoning online world realized what that meant and thus heralded in the world of keywords stacking (stuffing) etc…

Both Infoseek and Altavista have gone now, but the spammers are still hard at work, making it more and more difficult for the more “traditional” (read honest if you must) to compete.

And the search engines have had to counter the effects of those spammers by adopting counter measures even if they went against their initial company policy. After all it was that long ago the Google cofounder Sergey Bin declared:

Google’s slightly different in that we never ban anybody, and we don’t really believe in spam in the sense that there’s no mechanism for removing people from our index. The fundamental concept we use is, you know, is this page relevant to the search? And, you know, some pages which, you know, they may almost never appear on the search results page because they’re just not that relevant.

That was in 1999, a life time away for any internet professional. Today, Google has an entire page devoted to what it considers spam and one quick glance at it will make you think of the leaking hose we all have in our garden that you are trying in vain to patch up.

The problem with these “patches” is that it has broad implications for users who had not intention of spamming at all. If you have a page that is made of images exclusively for example, you might be tempted to insert hidden text so as to give Google an indication as to the nature of your page and yet, this innocent measure might very well result in a ban by Google.

Another example of a Google patch that may penalize you? Affiliate link. Say you write a blog about online marketing, you might think it a good idea to place a link to a product you think your audience will benefit from inside an article in your blog, but once again, this could land you in trouble. We know that Google can detect and deal with affiliate links by discounting their relevancy in their famed “algorithm”. Do that consistently and you run the risk of being catalogued as a link farm, and trust me, no-one who depends on organic searches for traffic would ever want to be catalogued as such!

For a the past few years, the motto in the SEO industry has been: Content is King! And it made a lot of sense. Write a quality article that gives real information to an audience, and Google (and other search engines) will love you for it.

That was then! After last year’s Panda’s Update seemingly good quality articles which had at the top of the SERPS simply vanished overnight. The official murmur from Google was that there were at least 23 questions that needed answered by all of us before determining if our articles were good quality or not. The implications being that if we wrote our articles with these 23 considerations in mind, then for all intents and purposes our article would be considered good quality content.

Sounds fair doesn’t it? Yes but more and more internet marketers are now sounding their discontent by saying that when if comes to quality content, “Google knows poor quality when it sees it.” In other words, write it and hope for the best!

What about SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
Google uses a whole array of different factors to determine why a page should rank better than another for specific keywords. Google who never give much of anything out in the open anyway did release an “SEO” PDF guide.

And then came this gem from one Matt Cutts, Google Spam Chief:

All those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.

I hope that you “sort of” understand what Matt means by “over optimization” because not everybody does!

What’s the bottom line?  First you could read what Vanessa FOs has to say about Google’s Upcoming Algorithm Change: “Over-Optimized Sites” where she reminds us that at the end of the day, Google is on the look out for the “super” spammers, rather than those of us who specialize in SEO:

We also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area.

There…  Now we understand!