Google Update, Search Engine Over-Optimization, Consequences and Remedies
There have been so many changes in Google search algorithm since the last time I wrote this article “Search Ranking Dropped – Why & How to Be Visible Again, which primarily discussed the changes in Google algorithm and their impact on site ranking and how to get your site visible in search again. The two most talked about and most recent changes in Google’s search algorithm are Google Panda and Google Penguin; both changes aimed to lower the ranking of (or to penalize, the way we talked about it) websites with low quality content or sites that don’t comply with the Google’s webmaster guidelines.
If you haven’t done any search engine optimization (SEO) work and just now start to think about it, or want to revise your SEO strategy, my advise is not to over-optimize and and use black hat SEO techniques and defy Google’s and other search engines’ intelligence.
Google Panda and Google Penguin – What are they?
Google Panda, started in February 2011, is a change to Google’s search ranking algorithm. Panda’s main objective is to lower the search ranking of sites with low quality content, especially content farms, while increase ranking of sites with higher quality and more original content.
Google Penguin, introduced recently in April 2012, is another major change to Google’s ranking algorithm. Continuing and expanding from the Panda update, Penguin aims to lower search engine ranking of websites using black-hat SEO techniques including keyword stuffing, hidden text, participating in link schemes, or using duplicate content etc. In short, Panda update will affect websites that violate the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Over-optimization with Black- and Gray-Hat SEO Techniques
If you or your SEO consultants, web developers/agencies have been using or are tempting to try the black hat techniques – some are mentioned below, think again as you are doing more bad than good to your site (and thus your business) in the long run. Your site may be downgraded or even blacklisted by search engines, and once that happens, it takes a lot more time and effort to remedy the situation and bring your site back to the normal ranking position that it deserves.
Some common techniques that you should avoid include meta-tag stuffing and keyword spamming, using hidden text, buying links or participating in link schemes and deliberately using duplicate content. If you hire external consultants/agencies to do the SEO works, be sure to grasp the followings and make sure they’re not using any of those techniques, as there are consequences. There are more black-hat SEO techniques, and more sophisticated ones as seen on Wikipedia, the ones I touched in this post are easier to do, thus have been adopted more commonly.
- Meta-tag stuffing, keyword spamming and the like: These are techniques that involve stuffing keywords either related or unrelated to the site’s content in the meta tags and/or in the body content with the intent to rank higher in search result and without adding much value to the content.
You’re probably aware that using the right keywords and the right density of keywords will help boost your site ranking. The idea is still valid, but the question is how much is enough. There’s a thin line between optimization and over-optimzation/spamming, so don’t over-do it – write for both people and search engines, but people first.
Here’s Google’s own words about keyword stuffing: “… Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google’s search results. Filling pages with keywords results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking…”