Google’s New Over-Optimisation Penalty Update
Over the past couple of days, Google have implemented some big changes to the way in which they rank webpages within the search engine result pages (SERP) and have started penalising ‘over-optimisation’. Google have said that this change is to promote the use of ‘white-hat’ optimisation practices, as opposed to ‘black-hat’ methods. This essentially means that they will be penalising anyone that is performing their SEO in an unethical way. What has happened, however, is that we have seen some dramatic shifts in the search rankings, and many websites have seen some harsh punishment for what could be seen as pretty legitimate SEO tactics.
Google stated in their recent blog post: “In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be to be ranked.“
What is Google Punishing?
Google is cracking down primarily on ‘webspam’. This can include keyword stuffing, abusive linking tactics, article spinning, and more. One of the other recent updates that Google made has affected a lot of the ‘black-hat’ linking networks and directories. These networks work in a way that you give a link to their site, and then they will reciprocate. This is then done maybe a couple of hundred times in order to increase the total links to the site. Not good. If you do have any links on these websites, make sure you contact them to get them removed as it will seriously affect your SEO.
As well as the linking tactics, Google is now heavily penalising anything that seems like keyword stuffing. This can range from having the same keyword appear in your webpage title multiple times, to having hidden anchor text keywords in your webpage footer (which you really have to be quite silly to be doing). It does seem that a lot of websites have been affected by these changes, even though Google said that ‘ this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to a degree that a regular user might notice’.
What You Need to Do
You don’t need to be some malicious web spammer to be effected by some of these changes; therefore it is really important that you go through your website to be on the safe side. Things to check are:
- Make sure that your webpage titles make sense and are relevant to the webpage content. For example, don’t have your webpage title as ‘New Shoes, Running Shoes, Sports Shoes – Sport Shoes Ltd’. This kind of title looks spammy in itself and will certainly not help with your click-through rate. Try something more along the lines of ‘Sport Shoes Ltd – High Quality, New Running Footwear’. You will have got in pretty much all of your keywords there but without the chance of being penalised.
- Check that the links on your webpages are relevant and that you don’t have too many. No webpage should have more than 100 links, and even that is pushing it. I would say that a total of 70 should be the most that you use. As well as this, make sure that the anchor text isn’t just a blatant use of an unrelated keyword; Google will notice this.
- Find out who is linking to your website to ensure that they have not been punished for carrying out ‘black-hat’ activities. This will only drag you down with them so use a utility like Open Site Explorer to check where you are getting links and check them out.
- Make sure that you aren’t keyword stuffing. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have your keyword in your content 100 times (which would be a very obvious instance of keyword stuffing), but it can also be much more acute. With the use of more specific, long-tail keywords, try to refrain from putting them into text when they are not relevant, or just hiding them under image ‘alt’ attributes.
I’ve Already Been Penalised, Help!
Don’t panic. If you have already been penalised, all is not lost, and you certainly aren’t the only one. Simply go over your webpages and check them, using the bullet points above as a guide. If you are unsure about certain parts of the site and think that they could possibly be seen as ‘black-hat’ by Google then just make some slight adjustments. Once you have done, re-submit the site through Webmaster Tools so that Google can crawl the new content. It may not be rectified for a couple of weeks, or maybe a month or so, but if you are only performing ‘white-hat’ practices then you should be OK.
Try not to wait it out too much (which is the advice that many SEO agencies are giving) as it is important to at least identify where the problem may be. On the other hand, don’t jump in and just make loads of changes because of this. Make sure that any changes you make are well thought out and informed. Hopefully you haven’t been affected by the changes and you can just use these tips as a guide for the future.
Let Us Know
If you have been affected by any of the changes that have recently happened then let us know by leaving a comment on this blog post and we will hopefully be able to give you some advice.