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Google lands a harsh blow to sites with too much SEO

Anyone who has made sure their sites are as search engine optimised as is humanly — or mechanically — possible should be quaking their boots right about now. Google has announced a major algorithm change that is going to penalised overly optimised websites. (Are you sweating yet?)

This change comes on the back of another algorithm change made recently where Google blocked search results from the co.cc domains.

Google Engineer Matt Cutts explains the change as follows: “We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect.”

But what constitutes an overly optimised site?

Websites that have engaged in any of the following could be affected by the new change when it is released:

  1. Too many keywords on a page

  2. Have way too many backlinks to their site
  3. Are not providing relevent content that solves a problem

While these are just three examples of what constitutes overly optimising a website, it does raise a few questions about what Google is doing to its Search Engine as well as what message it is sending.

Right, so firstly I think we can all say that this will actually be a welcome algorithm change. For too long now have I been, personally, fed up with clicking on search results from the top half of page one in Google SERPs. This deprioritisation of overly optimised sites means that the results that I am going to get are going to be far more relevant and content rich.

Secondly we cannot discount the fact that now this might open the door for lesser SEO companies to make a quick buck. There might be a little wiggle room for these companies who have not done great SEO jobs on their clients sites to see those sites moving up the rankings — by chance… This will mean that companies will have to be even more careful about choosing their SEO providers.

Some things to think about when choosing your SEO provider:

  1. How much relevant content are they going to add each month

  2. What is their link building strategy
  3. What is their major focus in terms of SEO? If it is not content — RUN
  4. Check their track record and ask for 3 references in different industries

Lastly, what will Google prioritise in this algorithm change?

My gut feeling is that there will undoubtedly be a move towards even more social factors being a major ranking factor. This is, after all, the route that the search giant took in its last set of major updates. It only makes sense that there would be even more bias in that direction.

Only time will really give us an indication of how it is going to go, but there are definitely going to be a lot of unhappy clients and angry SEOs after hearing this news.

Author | Jonathan Houston

Jonathan Houston
Jonathan Houston is passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan is the Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. Jonathan's work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital... More
  • About time. 

  • Good.

  • I’m going to argue those 3 points… I honestly don’t care where they’ve come from because they make little solid sense:

    1. Too many keywords on a page:
    Do you mean keyword stuffed?  In which case this is what the industry has ALWAYS referred to as spamming.  If you mean that the page lacks focus… then this is what the industry has called a poorly optimised page – it’s not over optimised it’s just not done properly.

    2. Have way too many backlinks to their site:Wikipedia is pretty much linked to from every other website in some form or other.  Are Google now going to decide that their 1st result for most searches just suddenly fall away from their search results for having “too much seo”?

    3. Are not providing relevent content that solves a problem:This is far too subjective to really cover.  Ultimately the point here was don’t copy and paste someone elses content.  That’s an duplicate content issue, it’s not useful.  Rather write your own content, be unique and stand out – oh wait been saying that for 10 years.

    Like I said, the points raised don’t make sense until you add a little context.  Ultimately nothing has changed, Google just like to state the obvious from time to time.  All of those points were brought up with the Panda/Farmer update.  Poor quality content and subsequenly the links were removed from their index.

    As far as I can tell on any level this is just a continuation of the Panda update.  Google’s trying to cut the junk and spam they’re simply saying don’t be part of it.

    Agreed that social media is taking off.  Google still don’t quite have a handle on Facebook but reckon that if you can get a decent trend on Twitter or a few good +1’s you might be onto a winning formula.

  • CouponSnapshot

    As far as I’m concerned,  high quality content and natural backlinks are
    the key points. If you do have good content, you will attract a lot of
    links. Google becomes more and more intelligence and smarter.  

  • I feel that a few people in the SEO industry have put fear in the hearts of webmasters and SEO companies. Content writers need something to write about ;)

    Matt Cutts has said something that we all already know so it comes as no surprise. Focus on brand, this means great content, easy navigation, social media engagement. DON’T OVER COMPLICATE THINGS. 

  • Brendan pramjee

    SEO is a myth. Google have always said – good design,usability + good relevant content is all that’s required

  • Trafficfundi

    You know. what’s new. sites with crap content, should not be allowed to show up in SERPS. Sites wil irrelevant content should not show up in SERPS. Sites with too many backlineks shouls not show up in SERPS … what’s new and why has it taken so damn long for them to release this update? Matt Cutts? What the hell is new here?

  • I get all that but having too many backlinks has never and will never be bad for a site. Unless Google is trying to scrap SEO all together.

  •  Robert what SEO consulting do you do? I want an audit on my websites.

  • There are little new considerations listed here for featuring in SERPS, but so many SEOs efforts are misguided that it needs to be said from month to month.

    We work with externals whose work I audit, who have been in the industry since my Gran hit puberty. And although they claim to be aware of these things – it goes as far as conversation with the decision makers. All they care about is growing links, who cares from where as long as the relevance ratio looks about right. For a brand, that could do more harm than good because a site should only be found when users are looking for something that you efficiently offer. Furthermore, you’re an over-achieving nuisance.

    Take heed of advice on choosing your service provider, especially when considering the longevity of your brand and brand personality. Many SEOs are out purely to make a buck, they don’t care about the business as you do for obvious reasons. So don’t expect them to.

    Thanks Matt!

  • “Unless  Google is trying to scrap SEO all together”. +1 for Google if that is the case! They are adapting to the industry and not the industry adapting to SEO which is how it should be!

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  • Craig Bruton

    I think the actual type of backlink is the issue, Google discourages “link farms” where site owners are getting links from sites on the same servers (IP addresses) and sites with a ridiculous number of backlinks I imagine are also getting penalised. Although this has always been the case perhaps they are getting stricter on these backlinks..

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  • What exactly do you mean by “too many keywords on a page?”  If you’re talking about stuffing the same keyword across the same page, article, etc. – then I agree. In fact, Cutts has made it pretty clear that Google is going to penalize that more than ever. You’ve even got to make sure your meta tags and picture file names aren’t too repetitive with the same keywords.
    However, every word you use is potentially a “keyword,” depending on context and relevance. You’re not suggesting we NOT focus on LSI, are you? Granted, it’s pretty easy to naturally sprinkle in LSI when you’re writing on a topic you know. Nevertheless, it’s an important distinction to make between that and straight-up keyword stuffing.

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