SEO Over Optimization Penalty : The Axe Hangs but over whom ?


SEO over optimization
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Since last year, Google has made some major changes in search engine algorithm, which starts with Google panda updates, search plus your world and moved to Page layout algo and many more yet to come.

If you follow SEO news, you’ll no doubt know that Google are preparing a number of changes to their algorithm which are going to “level the playing field”.

What does this mean?

Well, it means that Google are preparing to “clear the spam” out of their search results by penalizing sites who have over-optimized SEO.

This brings a number of thoughts to mind… just what are they up to, and why are they doing it?

What is over SEO over optimization?

Well, as we all know search engine optimization is just an algo which uses many signals to rank websites.

It’s actually a rocket science but not impossible to understand what all signals Google consider to rank a website better. Keyword density, backlink building, invisible text, doorway pages and many more.

Most of them lies in the line of what we call as Black hat SEO’s. Still not sure, read about how garbage ranks in search engine.

For a normal Bloggers, who just work on quality content, this SEO seems to be a tough task and Google is trying to level the playing field by penalizing Websites who are doing SEO over optimization.

This was added by Matt Cutts added in a comment at SXSW. In simple word, In coming days, Google will be rolling out major search engine algo change, where sites which are into aggressive SEO will be penalized. Bad time for Black hat SEO’s.

As added by Amit Singhal on Google+:

Let me just say that every day, we’re improving our ability to give you the best answers to your questions as quickly as possible. In doing so, we convert raw data into knowledge for millions of users around the world. But our ability to deliver this experience is a function of our understanding your question and also truly understanding all the data that’s out there. And right now, our understanding is pretty darn limited. Ask us for “the 10 deepest lakes in the U.S,” and we’ll give you decent results based on those keywords, but not necessarily because we understand what depth is or what a lake is.

In 2010, we acquired Freebase, an open-source knowledge graph, and in the time since we’ve grown it from 12 million interconnected entities and attributes to over 200 million. Our vision for this knowledge graph is as a tool to aid the creation of more knowledge — an endless cycle of creativity and insight.

Bad search results = more advertising revenue

Forgive my cynicism, but I’m only sharing what Larry Page and Sergey Brin said in a thesis paper in 1998. Advertising income often provides an incentive to provide poor quality search results. So, in many ways, the spammers have been doing Google a favour. Instead of relying on those top 10 search results, users will hit the adverts at the top, contributing to the $20bn plus the firm makes from Google Adwords.

But good search results = more users

Here in the UK, Google dominates completely, but in the US it’s a slightly different picture with Google only dominating massively. There’s still something called Yahoo (remember them?) and Bing (yes, Bing, as in Chandler!) This competitive market sees Yahoo and Bing constantly improving their own search results, and in theory, people switching search engines because the Google results are so polluted by spam. Or, as Google now calls them, over-optimised sites.

But what is over-optimised?

We don’t know. We all have opinions about what is over-optimised, and they range from keyword stuffing to spammy link building tactics (forum signatures, blog comments, social bookmarks, etc.) But Google has already been acting on this, hasn’t it? What it now appears to be targeting is sites who use keywords, sites who build too many links, sites whose content doesn’t respond to user queries.

But how does a robot know what’s good and bad?

Again, we don’t know. And here’s the problem: the axe hangs over many sites, and that’s a good thing. The axe should fall on websites who rank because they have dropped links on splogs and forums and should fall on those who have broken Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. But an algorithmic change is a swinging, indiscriminate axe: how can a robot know whether a website is good for users or not?

Well, think like a robot for a second:

  • What if the website has a low bounce rate? Surely that means that users are engaging with it.
  • What if the website has been shared many times on Google Plus or Facebook? Surely that means that users like the content.
  • What if the website has an ‘about us’ section with profiles of real people, with social profiles too. Surely that means that it’s legit.
  • What if the website has an FAQ section. Surely that means they’re providing quality content that relates to users’ queries.
  • What if the website has backlinks from ‘people in the know’ – industry experts, etc. Surely that means they’re good at what they do.

Some good websites will fall in a few weeks’ time, and some bad ones will rise. The indiscriminate swinging axe of Google will take out many of the poor quality sites that pollute its SERPs, but there will be casualties.

So what can webmasters do?

First of all, if you’re providing your users with good quality, unique content, you should be OK. If not, get writing. Prove to Google that you’re real and that you have something interesting to say. Prove to Google that you’re part of a community and that the community is interested in what you say. Who’s to say that Google isn’t looking at Twitter information such as retweets. Who’s to say that Google isn’t giving you a few extra places up the rankings if you’re using Google+?

It’s not time to stop thinking about keywords, but it is time to start thinking differently. If you have a trophy keyword, put it to one side and start concentrating on associated keywords. Remember those long-tail phrases from your Google Analytics account? They’re worth their weight in gold now.

It’s time to stop paying that link-builder who comes back with forum links and blog comments, and most definitely time to stop paying that link-builder who won’t tell you where your links are because it would “harm the integrity of the blog network”. It’s probably time to hire an SEO who can write. Preferably one who can schmooze, too.

If Google is serious about improving the quality of its search results (and we have had reason to believe it isn’t in the past), then remember, it likes.

  • Real people
  • Popular people
  • Something interesting to read

Quite simple, really.

Does this mean that the white hats SEO have won?

The white hats keep winning battles, but they never seem to win the war. After all, why is it that these content-packed websites sit at number 5 while the splogging spammer sits at number 2? Black hats will shift their focus quickly, and we need to watch what they do – because what they do will quickly become Google’s next target. Equally, they carry out some quite detailed analysis on what makes sites rank well – you can learn a lot from a black hatter.

They are already offering Google +1s and Facebook “likes” en masse, so what’s next? Some kind of advanced content scraping, perhaps, or better spam websites with fake profiles and fake communities. There are no limits to a black hat imagination, so join the forums and lurk!

One final thought: wouldn’t it be great if Google weren’t the dominant search engine? This “hanging axe” behavior is narcissistic at best, and at worst is power-crazy. Why announce that you’re going to hit people over the next few weeks when you can just go and punch them anyway? Google is acting like the school bully, seemingly gaining pleasure at the sight of the other kids cowering in fear whenever he walks in the room, promising to slap somebody – but not saying exactly who.

Related reading:

Also, check out this recent video posted by Google Webmaster team on common mistakes in SEO:

The phrase “we pray at the altar of Google” has taken on an altogether more sinister angle.

I would love to know, what do you think about SEO over optimization penalty? How Google is going to determine the difference between white hat, Grey hat, and Blackhat SEO?

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

14 thoughts on “SEO Over Optimization Penalty : The Axe Hangs but over whom ?”

  1. Gareth

    Folks – everyone’s getting hit if they’ve even touched these networks. You live and you learn, and you come back stronger. But yes, it’s time to give up on Google and try to live without it. Hopefully one day users will do the same and give up on the bullying behemoth!

  2. Imran Soudagar

    This news has created a deep fear in most of the bloggers who use excessive link building. Also link builders are in a state of confusion as their work will be snatched!

  3. jayaar

    Since the blogs are supposed to serve a double purpose by benefiting the readers with quality information and the sponsors with organic leads, it is important to maintain the quality of the blogs with standard articles rich in keywords and so the stress on SEO is inevitable.
    A very useful article, Harsh.
    Thank you.

  4. Rakesh Narang

    I have given up on Google, I like the idea of writing guest posts to build reputation for my website and thus I blog on targeted websites, not on random sites with a PR.

    I know my traffic has dropped to one-fifth but there’s nothing I can do about that. Panda rules these days.

  5. Zenil Shroff

    Well this clearly indicates Google’s policy “write content for users and not for search engines”, beside basic on-site & off-site SEO, posts should not be manipulated to get better rankings.

  6. Peter Lee

    It’s about time that those who produce high quality content but not doing much in SEO to rise. That’s what blogging should be in the first place, WRITING and UPDATING your blog. Blogger shouldn’t waste too much time on SEO. Great move by Google!

  7. Satyakam

    Some times I dont understand Google’s policy or we are reading it wrongly.
    Some people are doing all misdoings and Google awarding them high Pagerank and good SERP where as those following right ethics are suffered. What is the meaning of over optmising? If we are not optmising our post with proper keyword density then problem if doing then problem. Its like a two edge sword. Then comes bounce rate. Suppose I came to your blog by searching “google penalty” and I read it and left by not moving to other posts then what’s your fault? I think Google should not give importance to bounce Rate.

  8. Sagar

    I think this update was much needed and will be a major one. I guess Google may also opt for manual review of websites for a better quality check.

  9. Nitin

    Nice info Harsh …. Can you explain how you have done SEO of your website ( ..have u paid someone for SEO , to get traffic on your website.

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      I take care of SEO myself and learned it from my own experience and tried and testing.

  10. Sachin

    Superb article Harsh! Thanks for sharing this. I am following your blog post since last few weeks. This is one of the best. Eespecially the part where you asking us to think like a robot:- ) I agree with you as search results are only made for REAL people and spam content is of NO value.
    Talking about OVER SEO; I do have my own story to share. I had written one article on one web 2.0 site and in first month created 8 to 9 backlink for that. In 2nd month suddenly loved my article and I was at #4 position for targeted keyword pulling tons of traffic from Google as that keyword was having high traffic volume but after 5 months I guilty to use some kind of SYSTEM to built backlinks after that my article SERP boosted and I was enjoying but very soon that article has been removed from search results for targeted keywords. Google still indexed me but not anymore for targeted keyword. This is ONLY BECAUSE OVER SEO

  11. Anil Agarwal

    I’m waiting for this thing to get implemented from Google. Lets see who will get caught in this penalty.

    1. Harsh Agrawal

      Already Google started hitting on Private Blog networks..For example, Buildmyrank got into Google penalty radar now. I guess, this is going to be a good change.. Lets see.. 🙂

  12. Social FeedBack

    Does somebody with more that one site can really keep up with Google will? Everytime I start to change something (e.g. add comments on my sites, faqs, better content…) something else change with Google (in fact every months about 10 things), so, it’s becoming impossible 🙁

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