Google’s Plan to Penalize Over Optimization of Web Pages

Just read two great blog posts that discuss how and why a web page would be considered “over optimized” by Google and therefor possibly be penalized by Google in their upcoming search engine algorithmic changes.

Update 4/26/12: Because there is so much going on in the blogosphere on this topic, at the end of this blog post, I have been adding other relevant blog posts that I find on the Google Over Optimization Penalty matter.

Update 5/03/12: Ok – we now all know this has been called the “Google Penguin Update” – more articles about this below.

6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits

In this article Rand Fishkin, of SEOmoz, points out 6 areas where, in the past, SEOs have traditionally over optimized. These areas include

  1. the meta title
  2. internal links
  3. footers
  4. content boxes
  5. sketchy links
  6. repetitive targeted pages

While I agree with most of what he has to say, I’m not sure if it is SOO black and white. My friend Caroline, at, states it best:

Thanks Danny. I agree for the most part, however I think 1, 2 & 4 can be done in a way that helps rankings as well as people… I think the search engines will have a hard time distinguishing between the two. I want to believe that these penalizations will only happen to blatant offenders.

Yes, search engines will have a hard time, so the big question is who will they penalize and why? Also, should you start changing these different areas in anticipation to the big PENALTY… even though it may affect your current rankings and even if the PENALTY comes along who says it will hurt YOUR site?

Plenty to think about…. As with everything, I believe a balanced approach is always important. Don’t change everything at once. Work on one area, like the page titles, and see what happens. NOTE: make sure you know what your page is currently ranking for and measure whether your proposed title change will affect those rankings.

On a similar note, check out this article from Daily SEO Tip:

4 Characteristics of a Spammy Website

In this blog post, we’re going to address the bolded question above: ‘Where should I acquire links from?’. Whether you’re a beginning SEO or if you’re training someone in-house to oversee your link building campaign, it’s important to have processes in place to help qualify a link prospect. After all, you don’t want links from sites that also link to porn, gambling, or viagra sites right?

The following are 5 characteristics of a spammy site. If you see a few of these warning signs popping up, it’s best to avoid these sites. After awhile, you should be able to determine whether you want a link from a site with a blink of an eye.

The article continues to discuss: Low value content, questionable blogroll links, lackluster design and low social engagement.

Although this post is focusing on “sites you should NOT get links from”, it also gives some insight into your own website and webpages… what makes them SPAMMY.

How do you plan on dealing with the upcoming Over Optimization Penalty???

Related Articles Since 4/24/12

Are Google Results Getting Better?

It’s been a crazy week in search. While not entirely unexpected, Google launched its new Webspam update (which should still be in the process of rolling out, as Google said it would take a few days). This update, according to the company, is aimed at black hat SEO tactics and the sites engaging in them, to keep them from ranking over content that is just better and more relevant. While most that don’t engage in such tactics would agree that this would be a good thing, a lot of people are complaining about the effects of the update on the user experience, and on results in general…

Webspam and Panda Updates: Does SEO Still Matter? WebPro News, 4/26/12

How to Stop Over Optimizing and Start Creating for SEO

Is your website hurting because of over optimization? It’s a question every SEO faces at one time or another. Over optimization penalties have been around for awhile, but Matt Cutts recently announced Google will soon crack down harder on sites that take SEO to the extremes. How do you know when you’ve gone to far? In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, we explore what happens when certain SEO techniques stop delivering value, and when you should switch your strategy to more productive activities…

Whiteboard Friday, SeoMoz, April 4, 2012

Ranking in Google After Penguin

This is an awesome article – which really shows data insights on what happened with Penguin and what you should focus on moving forward. I love the example he gave for window blinds.

…My purpose in showing you all of this isn’t to point out how much the Penguin update failed to achieve any quality improvements in Google’s search results (though it clearly did fail in that regard, and badly). My point is to demonstrate that much of what you may be hearing about this update — be it on the forums or even from Google itself — is simply not reflected in the actual search results. That means you need to do your own research and rely on the real-world data surrounding the results for any keywords you want to rank for….

Johnathan Leger, 5/2/12

Google Penguin Update: Don’t Forget About Duplicate Content

Another thing on the quality guidelines list is: “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

Of course, like the rest of the guidelines, this is nothing new, but in light of the Penguin update, it seems worth examining the guidelines again, if for no other reason than to provide reminders or educate those who are unfamiliar. Duplicate content seems like one of those that could get sites into trouble, even when they aren’t intentionally trying to spam Google. Even Google says in its help center article on the topic, “Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”

“However, in some cases, content is deliberately duplicated across domains in an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or win more traffic,” Google says. “Deceptive practices like this can result in a poor user experience, when a visitor sees substantially the same content repeated within a set of search results.”

Google lists the following as steps you can take to address any duplicate content issues you may have…

Web Pro News, 5/7/12

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