Mash News

Google’s Over Optimisation Penalty

Another month, another animal’s name (strange they all begin with a P) is announced as the latest Google algorithm update. Let us all quiver while we dissect the consequences of what the big G is up to (personally, I’m not stressing until the real snake in the grass is announced: the Python).

Much of this banter is psychological mind teasing – it’s the carrot and stick approach, do what we say and we’ll treat you well (i.e. use our products and services) play us at your mercy even if we have encouraged you as we’ve gone along.

Google continually works on its algorithms and especially its link evaluation system. It is the foundation of its success, it’s why we all love to use this search engine. Linking = relevance. Or so we thought!

Where is the relevance in having 100 blogs, all networked, spinning the same content around and linking back to your site. Similarly, why use an affiliate package where the company’s “system” is used to create and spin content to theme a site around a keyword just so that it can fill up the top banner and right hand side-bar with adverts.

The ‘make a million with me’ type messages are everywhere online and Google is quite right to clamp down on them. Unfortunately, when it hits small, legitimate businesses it’s painful to watch.

Online marketeers set up linking systems as they knew these could achieve results for their clients, but low and behold a company that took this advice to the extreme or practiced it in isolation from best practice SEO.

So, has it affected you? Have you had a message through your Webmaster Central Account? Well let’s look at what might have caused it and what you can do about it.
1) overuse of keyword anchor text in backlinks
2) overuse of specific, unnatural types of backlinks to your site

Analyse your Links
Make sure you understand the links to your site, the trend of linking domains and any bad links or artificial trends in there. The easiest tools to analyse this are Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer.

If there are lots of links reported as coming from very few referring domains, then “Houston We Have a Problem”. Links that stand out in this category are often site wide links from blog rolls or website template header and footer links with the same anchor text in them.

Check the anchor text in these links
This goes without saying and is slightly scary as an online marketer, as this was the holy grail of SEO up until 2011. The ability of your SEO company to weave natural linking structures into your overall link profile is going to affect your rankings and traffic from now on.

This is the time to look at your links and start using latent semantic text (variations of the keyword phrase) in place of duplicate anchor text and mix in more natural wording (brand names, click here, website etc). What you do not want is a collection of exact match keyword phrases dominating numerically in relation to your overall profile.

The sad fact is that many sites which have been overly optimised by SEO companies (and reaped the rewards of this) may pay the price now. Google has always been able to spot outright spamming and is now taking action on this. Through its Panda and Penguin updates it has removed large, pretty meaningless sites that are full of optimised but redundant copy and blog networks with similar shallow content but with lots of back-links and ads. But sadly, a lot of legitimate businesses are going to get caught up in this update.

So, are our search results any better? Well, I see much more in the way of Google products, more localised results, personalised results and many more brand names coming through. But, as this update was only implemented on the 24th April it will be worth checking back on a few choice keyword phrases to watch how the results will change over the next couple of weeks/months.

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Gail Mullard

Digital Marketing Strategist. Gail makes sure you are positioned expertly online, that your brand speaks to your target audience and that you make the most of digital communications. Loves to talk strategy!

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