Saturday, April 21, 2012

Google Over-Optimization Penalty: Is it Coming?

Is Google playing mind games again with the SEO community, or can webmasters really expect an over-optimization penalty in the near future? The rumors started when a Google exec announced a while back at SXSW that the search engine mogul was working on an algorithm update that would essentially penalize sites that were too heavily optimized for SEO. In other words, if you have completely over done it, you may have to start shaking in your boots. But do you really?

What Would the Over-Optimization Penalty Target?

It is important to keep in mind that at this moment, the following is in fact speculation. However, in conjunction with a few of the recent algorithm changes that have taken place, and Google's consistent attack on spam tactics over the past year, we can safely assume a few things they may specifically be looking out for:

1. Bad links or too much anchor text. If you have built spammy links back to your site and there are no other signals that would indicate to Google that you are legit, you may be in trouble. The types of links that Google despises typically come from link networks, a la Build My Rank, or SEO friendly directories that provide no value to people searching online. Additionally, the over-use of anchor text is also something that may be on their radar, as the abuse of targeting the same keyword when building links to rank for that keyword has become rampant.

2. Funky title tags. Look, we all know that for years, if you wanted to rank for a keyphrase, you needed to put it in the title tag alongside the more relevant variations of the same keyword. Well, think of it from a user's perspective that is looking at a few different options in the search results, for example:

Business Name Here - Top Marketing Company in New York | Business Name Here

Marketing - Marketing Company - Marketing Firm - Marketing Organization | Business Name Here

You can see that the first option would read the best to a user scanning the search results. The other title tag is over optimized for keywords and really does not effectively answer the query - "marketing companies in new york."

3. Multiple pages addressing the same concept. SEOs have long been taking advantage of keyword research findings to create multiple pages on the same site talking about the same thing, only slightly differently. This has allowed sites to easier rank for multiple variations of the same keyword. But in Google's eyes, do you really need 4 pages to discuss "marketing company", "marketing business", "marketing organization" and "marketing firm"? No, you don't. From a user's perspective, there is absolutely no difference. Consolidate your resources and focus on building a super page!  

Should I Make Changes to My Website?

That is completely up to you, but if you want to play it safe, it is best to make the changes now. We know this. Google is working on it. What exactly? Any tactic that is implemented to manipulate their ranking algorithm that does not benefit a user. So while the over-optimization penalty may not strike your site down in the next few weeks, you can expect more algorithm updates to follow. If you haven't been doing the right thing all along, it is more likely that at some point your visibility in the search results will suffer. In the end, Google is saying loud and clear, "Respect the user!"

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