If one of your hobbies is following Google’s efforts to improve and enhance search engine optimization (SEO) for users, you’re probably already aware of the recent announcement from Google’s anti-spam czar, Matt Cutts, that the search giant will soon penalize sites that are “over-optimized.” While Cutts understandably wasn’t very specific on the definition of “over-optimized,” if you’ve been doing SEO on your site and are asking yourself if your it’s over-optimized, it might very well be.
Most experienced SEO experts know this list by heart already, but it bears repeating. If you have or do any of the following on your site, not only is it over-optimized, it’s also guilty of cluttering up the Internet with webspam:
- Keyword Stuffing. We still see this with many new clients and prospective clients. They go crazy once they get a hold of their META data and start loading it with every conceivable keyword remotely related to their business. I’ve seen sites with 75 META keywords in their source code. Or they fill their site footer with the names of all the cities they service – all fifty of them.
- Hidden Text. Text on a page that can’t be seen by the human eye, usually because it’s in the same color as that page itself, e.g., white text on a white background, shrinking the font size so that even Thumbelina herself couldn’t decipher it. Again, I’m amazed I still see this, even though it’s a fairly well-known black-hat (i.e., unethical by search engine standards) technique and can result in your site being removed from search engine listings entirely.
- Cross-promoting with suspicious link directories and sites. If your site has been around long enough, inevitably you will get emails from various webmasters asking you to cross-link or exchange links with them. Chances are, the directories or sites that are asking have nothing to do your site’s topic or industry. Beware these email invitations. Google heavily frowns upon link exchange schemes, and if you inadvertently cross-link with a site that practices black-hat SEO techniques, your own site’s rankings could be adversely affected if Google cracks down on your “link partner.”
Cutts says that Google’s recent update affected a relatively tiny percentage of all sites (about 3% of all English-language sites, per his blog), but you can expect to see more sites feeling the crunch as the company rolls out more changes in its effort to make the web more friendly and useful to users. Despite all the hand-wringing and Sturm und Drang among SEO consultants, experts and so-called gurus, it’s not really a surprise when you consider that, from the very beginning, Google has never been secretive about its goal to ensure that high-quality content rises to the top of all search results.
The algorithm may still be far from perfect, and some sites that otherwise engage in legal/white-hat SEO methods may occasionally be unfairly swept into the “over-optimized “maelstrom, but overall, sites that have refused to “go to the dark side” and have instead focused on building beautiful, brilliant and user-focused sites filled with great content and even greater customer service, can cheer that, at last, content is king again.