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What Does the New Over-Optimization Crack-Down Mean For Your Blog?

The latest news in the world of Google is yet another new algorithm for bloggers to freak out about—the over-optimization penalty. For those who are unfamiliar, Google’s SEO engineer Matt Cutts made an announcement last week that companies and bloggers will now be penalized for over-optimizing their website. Naturally, this has left many heads spinning. Many companies have put a great deal of time, effort, and money into optimizing pages in order to rank highly on a SERP, and suddenly this new announcement seems to devalue all of this work. The worst thing about this algorithm change is that bloggers and webmasters have not been given a clear answer as to what “over-optimization” actually entails.

For this reason, many SEO experts are left speculating. Although it could be quite some time before bloggers understand just what constitutes as over-optimization in the eyes of Google, it’s still important to try and keep your site from being over-optimized. This can be done by looking at what some experts are assuming as well as why the algorithm change was created in the first place.

What Constitutes as Over-Optimization According to Google?

Although Cutts never comes out and gives a clear answer, he does explain why this penalty is an important one. This penalty is supposed to “level the playing ground” when it comes to sites that put a heavy focus on SEO and sites that are smaller and maybe just creating great content. Google wants great content at the top of their SERPs, not just content that is optimized for SEO. Cutts said that Google “start[s] to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they’re doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect.”

This leads many to believe that Google is not completely against a website optimizing a page for SEO, but too many keywords are going to become more of an issue for the GoogleBots. Although penalties for things such as doorway pages or other black hat SEO tactics were already in place, the new announcement leads many to believe that this is going to be a bigger issue for Google in the very near future.

So what can you do to prepare for this new over-optimization penalty? Consider some of the ways you can make sure your page is not over-optimized and how to make sure it stays that way:

How to Make Sure Your Pages are Not Guilty of Over-Optimization

The best thing you can do to make sure your pages are not over-optimized is read your content. If it sounds like it’s written for a robot, you’re sure to get flagged with this new penalty. In situations where your content sounds strange or sounds like it was written for SEO only, it’s very easy to tell that you need to make a change. However, if you cannot tell whether or not your page is too optimized, consider some of the following tips:

  • Your keyword density should be between 3 and 5 percent.

A keyword density deals with how many times the keywords you are trying to target show up in your content. If you have an article with a keyword density of 10 or 20 percent, Google is likely going to pick up on that and penalize you.

  • Don’t have too many advertisements above the fold.

Although this was never a good idea in the first place, it’s likely going to be more of an issue now that the new penalty has been brought to surface. You want to make sure that the majority of your valuable content is above the fold and your advertisements are toward the bottom.

  • Generic domain names are not the best idea.

Oddly enough, Google isn’t a fan of generic domain names. If you have a domain name that is related to a business brand name, you could get penalized. Many people choose their domain names based upon keywords, but this is likely going to be a target for the new Google algorithm.

  • Guest blogging is likely the best way to get backlinks.

Guest blogging ensures that you are getting a backlink from a quality source as opposed to certain directories and other sites that allow you to buy a backlink. Google will not see this as over-optimization because you are offering valuable content to readers.

The best thing that you can do for your site is create as much valuable, original content as possible. Although it may take a while to see results, this will ultimately pay off in the end.

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Amanda DiSilvestro is a writer on topics ranging from social media to merchant services. She writes for an online resource that gives advice on topics including payroll processing services to small businesses and entrepreneurs for the leading lead generation website, Resource Nation.

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  1. Rob Start says: 4/11/2012

    Google want to punish over-optimisation. What is their exact definition of over-optimisation? Okay but why do google have to be so vague???


    • Amanda DiSilvestro ) says: 4/11/2012

      Google always seems to be vague and I’m not sure why. Part of me thinks that they just want people to go about their websites as if the search engine didn’t exist–so just creating content for readers. This ploy seems to be about just that. It makes sense, but I’m not sure it’s totally going to work. We will have to see!


  2. Rob Rubin ) says: 4/11/2012

    I’ve never been in a fan of SEO optimization to begin with. I write a humor blog, and trying to deliberately put keywords in place was really making my stories sound awkward. So, I kind of welcome this change if in fact they will reward people who just write for the sake of writing.


  3. Dave says: 4/12/2012

    You have to keep in mind that Google is a computer program. It can’t understand what your blog is about without some clues. A well written article will have not only a sprinkling of the main keyword but also some LSI keywords. So keywords will always play a role.

    For most of us, this over-optimized website scare wont amount to anything. Personally I think the thing they are going after is way over optimizing with thousands or even tens of thousands of backlinks. There just arent that many websites that will generate that kind of backlinking naturally. I have websites that generate thousands of visits per month and never get a single natural backlink or actual comment. So a new blog for a keyword that generates 2000 searches per month suddenly shows 1000 backlinks would be tip off. Don’t forget that Google can tell how many visitors are even going to your website. If a new blog got 50 visits but showed 500 backlinks, something would be fishy.


    • Rob Rubin ) says: 4/12/2012

      I hope you are right. I mean it is a challenge to get quality backlinks outside of constantly commenting on other blogs. And even then most of the time they are NoFollow and virtually useless. (I have DoFollow on my blog BTW).

      It will be interesting to see how the ” SEO experts” alter their methods. I mean, if Google wants natural sounding text with limited junk like ads, I kind of have a hard time seeing where an SEO person can help.


  4. Amanda DiSilvestro ) says: 4/12/2012

    That’s a great point Dave. There are sites that are obviously over-optimized (such as the ones you are discussing), and I think Google is trying to crack down on those types of sites. If this is the case, many of us probably won’t be affected (I hope you’re right!)

    And Rob, I think what Dave is saying is actually going to work well with your want for people writing for the sake of writing. Keywords will likely naturally be in place. Thanks so much for your viewpoints!


  5. Josh Squires ) says: 4/12/2012

    You know, if you just generate quality content and associate yourself with sites that do the same, you have no problem. It’s the people who want to get ranked fast without putting in the work that are gonna feel the backlash on this one. Them and those people who own the crappy blog networks. I don’t know how you don’t see this coming a mile away.

    Once again, quality content rises to the top. I like what Google is doing.


  6. CJ - Food Stories says: 4/12/2012

    Very interesting article. I enjoyed reading it.


  7. Linda Daniels says: 4/13/2012

    Firstly, love the picture of Matt. In regards to the update, I don’t believe sites have to much to worry about unless they are already boarder line spam. If your blogs title and content are keyword stuffed then chances are people aren’t going to read it anyways. Google is just restating what already works. Write and build your site with the your targeted user in mind and it will rank well and get traffic.


  8. Dr Kavita Shaikh ) says: 4/30/2012

    Nice picture of Matt Cutts holding out the red card! BTW the penguin update of google clearly mentions what over-optimization is. Matt Cutts has illustrated an actual example where the website and article is about weight loss, but the keywords ‘auto insurance’ and ‘car insurance ‘ have been added in the middle of every 100-150 words with no meaning whatsoever. There are many sites that sell text link ads and these sites simply insert the anchor keyword into their existing articles and get paid ad revenue in return. So just lke Panda, penguin is also harmless unless any site is involved in unnatural stuffing of keywords


    • Amanda DiSilvestro ) says: 4/30/2012

      This article was actually written before the announcement of the Penguin update, but thanks so much for bringing it up! You’re exactly right, and Google is trying–we have to give them credit! Thanks for reading :)