Let me start with a quick introduction to the recent debate on Over Optimization Penalty for those who live under some sort of information proof bunker and haven’t heard a bit about it. You will probably hear (and notice) the effects of this new discussion once your site loses all its organic traffic. SEO experts will tell you that it is the new Over Optimization Penalty from Google which has pushed your website down on SERPs. Then you will start Googling and probably stumble upon multiple articles that will teach you stuff which by then will hold no meaning just because you were sleeping when you shouldn’t be!
What is Over Optimization Penalty?
Well, the over optimization penalty is another patch from Google (Bing included for that matter) to save their search results from the smartness of SEO masterminds. Last year it was Google Panda update, before that it was the paid links crackdown and this year it will be the over optimization penalty. This has now become a habit of Google. Whenever there are too many questions being thrown at Google they come up with some patch or other to silent their critics.
Google, by no means, seems interested in totally changing their algorithm architecture. Instead, they have been patching their algorithm to fight those who trick their systems. Soon Google’s search algorithm will be a patch of patches with confusions all around.
Over Optimization is one such patch which Google will crack a whip on websites that concentrate more on SEO instead of content quality. Matt Cutts, Google’s anti-spam chief, hinted the same at the recently held SXSW. Under this new penalty, once effective, Google will penalize websites for abusing SEO tricks. The idea is simple – let content be the king and Google the Demigoddess.
And the idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So 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.
And so that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the web site, uh Google Bot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO, we handle that, and then we also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area. So that is something where we continue to pay attention and we continue to work on it, and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now.
~ Matt Cutts
But, Why is it Important for Google to Implement Over Optimization Penalty?
Well, lately everyone has been writing for search engines and publishing whatever their audience wants to read. That touch of innovative thoughts on articles being generated doesn’t seem to exist.
I am sure that most of you, the content developers, won’t agree with me because I am questioning how you make your living. But, for a moment, forget about it being your job and think.
- Don’t we write what people want to read?
- Don’t we write for the audience?
- Don’t we write for traffic?
- Don’t we write for better search engine rankings?
See, I am not saying that we have stopped writing innovative stuff. All that I am saying is that the innovative quotient in today’s content has gone down. We have become more and more search engine friendly.
Few years back we used to pick up our morning newspapers and skim through the headlines to find whatever was useful for us while sipping our cup of coffee. Gone are those days of newspapers. In this age of Internet we rely on Google News type websites that curate the latest news information. So, what happens is that writers notice a topic which is trending on such leading websites. The result is obvious. All of them start writing about that topic. In no time that particular topic starts trending with other important stuff buried somewhere.
In short, the media ends up shaping the news and forces the readers to read what is trending. Although that is useful for readers, in this process some of the best news is lost somewhere. This must be controlled.
We need to promote the investigative sort of content creation where writers generate new ideas and Google helps those writers stay on top. It is important for writers to write something new and then readers search about that on Google for extra information. It is important for innovation to take over spamming. It is important for honesty to take over technology. It is important for us to stay crystal clear with our readers.
So, is SEO Dead?!?!
Well, not really. Chill fellow SEOers!
Let us all read two more pointers about Search Engine Optimization. This will help us understand what SEO is and how over the years we have been missing its real definition:
- SEO is about analyzing data related to your site’s traffic in order to understand what exactly your viewers are looking for. This data will give you a picture about what search engines love in your website and what they index the most. An intense analysis of this data will help you understand how to optimize the website’s content for the reader’s benefit. Note that nowhere did I ask you to optimize the content SEO wise. I did not ask you to push in extra keywords. I asked you to generate content that readers will love.
- Secondly, SEO is about technically improving your website so that search engines are easily able to crawl it. You, as a SEO specialist, need to understand how search engines crawl websites so that you can come up with an infrastructure which is search engine friendly. Again, I don’t mean extra keywords. I am talking about good coding standards and information hierarchy.
See, as of now Google is trying hard to come up with that perfect search engine algorithm which will index pages that are actually appreciated by readers. For this all that we can do from our side is generate comprehensive content. The rest will be taken care of by Google (and Bing’s small share).
“We’re always trying to best approximate if a user lands on a page, are they going to be really, really happy instead of really, really annoyed? And if it’s the sort of thing where they land on a page and they are going to be annoyed, then that is the sort of thing that we’ll take action on.”
Okay, I agree! Now, HOW do I tackle Over Optimization and Avoid the Penalty?
I know, I have written over 1100 words of content which might make no sense if you just skim through it but it will if you read it carefully. For those who are now convinced that the implementation of Over Optimization Penalty by Google makes a lot of sense from the search engine giant’s perspective then for them here is my way out. Let us read it point by point:
- STOP keyword stuffing - See, there is no such theory as keyword density. Really. Gone are the days when a keyword density of 3-4% will take your article somewhere. Please don’t stuff keywords everywhere. I mean that you should not do it on purpose. See, it is very obvious that you are tricking the system when you stuff keywords in anchor texts, URL and title tags. Write content that makes sense – for search engines and for readers. The rest will be taken care of.
- STOP linking to websites in your network - Lately Google has been angry with webmasters who interlink to all the websites in their network. See, if you have a collection of 50 websites and you start linking to all of them from all of them then you are obviously over doing the interlinking thing. Aren’t you? Ask yourself guys! And, once you realize that you are at fault then stop doing the same.
- STOP using backlinks from useless places - Well, this what we call link spam. You, as a SEO, can do your best to garner links from comments, directories and various networks. The moment you do this manually to trick the system, you will be caught and killed. They really don’t make any sense so don’t spend time in such stuff.
- START creating content - Go back to the archives of 1stWebDesigner itself. You will notice that Dainis, the owner and only author back then, was writing content regularly. He didn’t write stuff that will make it into history books but he made sense. He provided readers what they wanted to read. The end result was pure content which was worth every word. Readers loved it and 1WD grew like hell. And, it is still growing. So, just make comprehensive content and fall in love with it.
- START interlinking to old posts - See, once you start developing regular content then indirectly you are telling Google that guys I got fresh content. I know you love fresh content and see I have it. Why don’t you crawl my website more often? Once Google starts to crawl your website then you can push in few more advice for the crawler. And that you will do with the help of internal links that will link to older blog posts of your article. By using the idea of internal linking you are actually telling Google that my other content is also useful. You can crawl that too. Makes sense? But, please don’t over do it.
- START doing SEO - So, did I confuse you? Well you got confused because you haven’t read the rest of my article. You really haven’t. Scroll up and read the “Is SEO Dead” section. Try to figure out what actually SEO is and implement that format of SEO in your website. Get it, Mr. SEO?
Google might not be God but whatever they have created is their own system. You can trick them today but in the long run they will pin you down. After all it is their own arena. They created it. They aren’t losing their own game, right? So put some sense in yourself and have fun.
Salman Siddiqui is an alpha geek, design guru and seasoned WordPress critic. Writing, for him, started out of ego but it has become the most luring and enlightening career option of his life. He is walking that extra mile for his freelancing dream.