Google Over Optimization Penalty

Google Over Optimization

Over Optimization has been the recent craze of those who were unfortunate enough to be hit by this Google algorithm change. It’s not an easy thing to deal with over optimization. So how do you get back on track once you’re hit by Google?

Black hat has gone a bit further

Over Optimization has just been added to the list of ‘don’t do’s’ by Google. I thought only black hat techniques were placed in this category but obviously now that is no longer the case. Even natural, white hat SEO now has a fine line that it cannot cross. That line is named just enough optimization.

Seriously, you can no longer be aggressive in your SEO to be good. Things are going to slow down from here on for Google to pass over your site and let your SEO grow.

The Factors Behind Over Optimization

Over Optimization is optimizing your website far beyond how it would be naturally done so in an off-page perspective. It is a content-quality check to enforce the Panda update.

The defining, common factor is an ‘if statement’. If your website does not have quality content AND:

  1. You have a lot of exact-match Anchor Text coming into your website – signaling unnatural link building
  2. You are practicing Obvious Link Exchange – link exchange pages already signal spam to Google. Setting up a link exchange page is a no-no. Right now, in-content link exchanges are the best way to go.
  3. Your website has a Fast Link Acquisition Rate – again, signaling unnatural link building
  4. Your Social Signals vs Links Ratio is far from each other – if there are a lot of links coming in, there should be people coming in from those links. If those links are quality, the people coming in from there should most likely engage in a social activity in your website. If your social signals are not consistent with your links, there must be something wrong.

“It’s widely believed that keyword stuffing and link exchanges are already spam signals in Google’s algorithm, so either Google intends to ratchet up the amount of penalty or dampening that those spam signals merit algorithmically or they have new over-optimization signals in mind as well,” – Matt Cutts

Perhaps Over Optimization can be simplified to optimizing your website for the search engines rather than for people.

The bottom line is, a site can only be considered over optimized if it is filled with SEO techniques – whether good or great, and the content does not live up to the site’s SEO level.

“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.” – Matt Cutts

One thing’s for sure

Over Optimization PenaltyIf you have great, quality content that focuses on people and not search engines, you have nothing to worry about.

Here are 23 guidelines from Amit Singhal to ask yourself in verifying content that the Google Panda Update will consider ‘quality’

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  3. Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  4. Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  5. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  6. Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  7. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  8. Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  9. How much quality control is done on content?
  10. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  11. Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  12. Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  13. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  14. For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  15. Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  16. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  17. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  18. Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  19. Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  20. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  21. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  22. Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  23. Would users complain when they see pages from this site?

Double Your Growth.

We curate the best of inbound marketing news and send over the top 10 we know will contribute to your growth - once a month.

  • From Matts it seems like SEO will become more and more difficult, as already the competition is high which is giving more opportunity to using complete internet marketing rather than just focusing on old back linking strategies, social media is also playing a major role is providing good traffic source lets see in the future after Algorithm update on how it effects ..!

  • Hey Sean awesome post! I have been wondering what google might be considering over optimizing and I remember always doing anchor text diversity in the past.

    I do have a question though regarding the title to put that will display in the serps. I normally did this with most sites:

    keyword 1 | keyword 2 | siteurl

    Would you suggest staying away from that and doing a more natural title with the main keyword within it?

    Looking forward to your thoughts and thanks in advance!

    • If I may answer here….

      I would definitely move away from simply listing keywords and then the brand. You should try to incorporate your keywords and brand in to your title tag in a more natural way if you can. This is definitely the way things are moving…

  • Great tutorial on over optimization, Most of the time real bloggers does not over optimize their website. But in search of quick traffic to their site the became victim of these tricks shown on some blackhact seo site. ~rakesh kumar

  • Valuable tips. Google over-optimization penalty aim is to change the playing field so that sites with great content and higher user value rank above sites with excessive SEO and you have provided some valuable tips to avoid the penalty.

  • My SEO traffic went down the drain since the latest updates and I barely have time to do any SEO on my blog. Go figure…

    Like the new look, Sean!

    • Really? That sucks. Any idea why? I’m 100% sure your website is not a candidate for ‘over optimization’ hmmm…. That’s really weird.
      Thanks Ana :) Glad you like it. I needed a ‘Logo’ so I had to change the whole header to make way for it.

  • 1. It is definitely easier to optimize a website with great content than to over-optimize bad content.
    2. I believe point 4 on your list of over optimization factors is the most relevant for the future: A high link building rate, sources, whatever is usually, if done “naturally” reflected in the social signals. That is exactly why Google is complaining about those “closed walls” of Apple and Facebook and pushing G+. They really need access to these signals in order to assess the natural quality of linkjuice. Until then, well, it seems they are penalizing bad links, and that is quite risky for all of us. Aaron Wall has a great post about that

  • Philip

    Just like in football, playing dangerously and unsportsmanlike conduct merit certain penalties.

    For me, this is one of best ideas from Google. This will make sure that everyone will focus more on the quality of the content rather than the aggressiveness of the SEO tactics.

  • Sam Hayman

    When will someone put a bullet in Matt Cutts head. Would love to read about that in the news

    • Lol. Easy Sam. You don’t want that to happen. Matt Cutts is simply a spokesman for Google.

  • JD

    Question – I definitely have sites that I’ve overly optimized for in the past that have a number of link trades (all on topic) as well as keyword stuffing, keyword titles issues, etc.. I know I need to change the content substantially on my sites but I’m not sure how quickly I should go about this. I’ve seen some drops from 1st to 2nd page for some sites and some drops top 3 on 1st page to the middle. Thoughts on how quickly changes should be made? Titles, H1s, link deletions, etc.? And yes, I should’ve known better but I got lazy… :(

    Thanks in advance for your advice.

    • JD: are you ranking currently for anything? If you aren’t then I would just attack everything as fast as possible and make all the required changes.

      If you are ranking then it should be a step by step approach, the thing is you never know which small change may affect your rankings the most and by doing small changes if you do lose rankings fast, you can quickly reverse that one change and hopefully resolve the problem.

  • Mhester Seyo

    These feeds my knowledge very well, thank you for putting the tips in this blog.

  • huh what the hell this google panda…i need slow down my SEO from now…i don’t want get penalty….tq bro coz sharing this..

  • Alston

    Thank you so much for the great post on this article.I have been searching around for some good articles about Google Plus. Your article hit the spot!

  • Richard

    Even my website is also affected by the penguin update and the result is nowdayz m not gettingmore than 1k visitors per day..thank alot for the informative post i will definitely work on these tips

  • shivam

    Yup, its more important to focus on people that on SEO – after all its the people whom we are writing for!!

  • James Smith

    Hi Sean;

    It’s an very helpful article to me – finally nice article to recover from over optimization penalty.

    • Thanks James! Glad you found this one helpful for you. Hope you weren’t penalized?