With over 40 SEO changes each month Google continues its relentless battle against spam websites and better end-user experience. Its latest filter, coming into effect by the end of this month or middle of the next, at the latest, targets over-optimised websites.
The question of over-optimisation is one which crops up time and again in SEO and webmaster forums and also has been asked in quite a lot of emails I received following my post on websites which have a spam website signature even though, they themselves might be entirely legitimate.
Before we discuss it any further it’s worth listening to Google’s High Priest of Search, Matt Cutts and what he has to say on the matter:
You can see from Matt’s comments that essentially what constitutes a spammy website is a website which practices in all those Black Hat SEO techniques which you know you should not use: doorway pages, hidden content and keyword stuffing. It is important to note that Matt has mentioned keyword density and this is a subject which I addressed on my post regarding keyword density and gaming Google. Because, right now, keywords are still important and their density is still a valid metric Google takes into account the temptation still exists to overdo this in the belief that there can be no such thing as too much of a good thing. Well, guess again.
Google’s focus on rooting out spam websites from its index is not going to let up. This does not mean that you should not worry about SEO either. So what exactly does it mean?
What is an Over-Optimized Website?
Google’s latest penalty is not against SEO. After all, SEO is the clear attempt to help Google index a website properly so that it appears in its search rankings exactly when it is needed. This is pretty straightforward and Google is not against that. What it is against is attempts to game its algorithm (like overdoing the keyword density) which are beginning to become the hallmarks of sites which have little or no value to offer but which need to be on the first page of Google in order to make money from advertising.
Google’s logic is that the optimization of a website is not a complicated, time-consuming affair. A business which is being run properly has little enough time to devote to it and the optimization of its website is always going to be secondary in detail and primary in quality content. It takes the view that websites which cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ right up to the maximum allowable limit, or sometimes go a little beyond it, in an overzealous effort, are unlikely to be the kind of websites which the end use will find relevant to a particular search query. It is these websites which Google now will find and penalize with a drop in search rankings.
This of course is something Google could have put in place at the beginning of the year, or the moment the Google Panda update came into effect last March, so the real question here is, why now?
Google is a data-driven company. It does nothing for which it does not have sufficient data and when it comes to solving problems in search it will only act when it can implement solutions which address, algorithmically, specific problems right across the web.
Google has been amassing social data since June and the launch of its social network, Google Plus. The social signal (as Google calls it) plays a pivotal role in search and when it becomes sufficiently nuanced it can help root out spam content (and spam websites) with almost the same precision as a person. Using this data Google is moving, by degrees, away from conventional search and into the world of the fully semantic web. I will be writing about this a little later this month, right now, however, it is important to note that right now we are still a little time away from semantic search. SEO is still important and so is content and it is in the value of that content that you put on your website that your online business visibility is going to rest upon in the future.
So if there is one practical thing you need to take away from this entire post it is this: Make sure you have a rock-solid rationale for the content you create and that the content you put on your website is truly valuable to those who come to visit it.
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