Avoid Google Penalty For Too Much SEO – Get Your Content In Shape

Avoid Google Penalty For Too Much SEO – Get Your Content In Shape

By: Shelly Kramer
March 20, 2012

Avoid Google Penalty for Too Much SEOGoogle’s likely to penalize websites for too much SEO—at least that’s what the newest changes to its algorithm suggest. Matt Cutts’ mention of an impending algorithm change at SXSW this past week seems certain to make content marketing–and the creation of relevant content–even more critical to businesses of all sizes. And yes, Virginia, apparently there is such a thing as too much SEO.

This, combined with Google’s focus on semantic search as recently covered in the Wall Street Journal, really means just one thing. Google’s goal is to use technology to more fully understand what searchers seek, get smarter and serve up better, more relevant results more quickly–and perhaps even keep users on the site longer.

The latest (and not yet official) news is that Google’s pending algorithm tweak will actually penalize highly optimized sites. You’ve no doubt seen some of them – they sometimes don’t look great, they might even have content that’s not all that great, but they’re optimized to the hilt with keywords out the wazoo and all kinds of links, so they’re ending up on page one of Google’s search results.

While we are huge fans of SEO and the many brilliant people we know who are experts at optimizing websites for search, we’re also fans of great content. And now it appears as though it’s even more imperative than ever that smart search engine optimization and great content strategy go hand in hand.

And so now, what we’ll see is businesses—and SEO firms—of all sizes scrambling to actually produce content that will be considered by Google as relevant to the rest of the content on the site, as well as to how the site is optimized for search. Uber-optimized sites will no longer, by default, win the search engine wars, which means there’ll be lots of companies out there looking for content. This makes me sigh just a little, as I’m certain that we’ll soon see snake oil content marketing ninjas join the forces of social media gurus–and businesses that don’t know better or don’t do their homework will get taken advantage of. More.

In theory, these changes and the focus on semantics are intended to get to the heart of the searcher’s interest and serve up results that don’t require the searcher to leave Google in pursuit of different sites served up as search results. As a frequent searcher, this only makes sense. So, what does this mean for you and your site?

What to Do To Get Your Site Ready For Google’s Algorithm Changes

What to do? One thing’s for sure, if you’re not paying attention to this change, chances are you might see a dramatic drop in search. This isn’t new news – it was actually announced a few months ago, but it’s probably not a stretch to say that not a lot of businesses are paying attention—yet. Here’s what we think you can, and should, consider doing to get your site performing in the best way possible:

Toss Out Your Old Keyword Strategy: Embrace the Use of Synonyms

Google’s going to be looking for less of a particular keyword density and perform more of a contextual analysis than ever before. When you think about it, it’ll probably result in not only more effective content, but better written content.

Build Up Your FAQ Page

This really only makes sense. People go to Google (or any search engine) because they have questions. If you have a section of your website devoted to answering questions, it can only serve to benefit you. A robust FAQ page, designed to truly answer frequently asked questions, is a prime example of delivering relevant, frequently searched content. If you aren’t currently using a FAQ page, you might consider starting. Soon.

Quit Selling, Inform

This is not anything that’s new—at least to us. Truly relevant web content should sell less and inform and educate more. When you know what drives people to your site, serving them up information that will be useful to them in a myriad of ways is the key to a number of things, including stickiness, return visits, leads and the crown jewel of all websites, conversions.

Delivering the best, most complete results for searchers is the ultimate goal and Google’s not been shy when it comes to talking about their focus on that. Like it or not, change is afoot.

The time to consider your website and its current state of search engine optimization is now. If it is “uber-optimized” … and you probably know what that is because you’ve been paying a pretty penny for it, it might be a good idea to have a meeting with your SEO team, your content development team and your marketing folks and decide how you’re going to modify your content marketing strategy and what you’re going to do to ensure your site will still rank given these impending changes.

And if you’d like to hear the audio from Cutts’ presentation at SXSW, Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz embedded it in his post on this topic, so go check it out.

Image via SEOMoz

  • When I saw this title, I was immediately incensed, but as I read, it sounds like Google is doing a good thing. As a reader & “peruser” of all sorts of blogs, but particularly “mommy blogs” I’m irritated beyond belief at the ones that fill their sites with schlock and advertisements couched in “Hey! I eat Fritos! They’re so goooood!” or “You should write with a Sharpie. They are the bestest pens ever!”. Good on Google, and good on V3 for another informative post.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Laura!

  • It only makes sense to move towards this semantic based, content relevance model for Google but you are right — it will spawn a host of “content generation” companies that will be out to snooker and swindle businesses into thinking that their content model will boost SEO when in fact it will probably hurt more than help. 

    I really like the idea of an FAQ page. As my search habits have matured over the years, I find myself consistently typing questions into Google instead of keywords which I suspect others do more often as well. That’s a gem of a suggestion and I am already on it for my company’s site. Thanks Shelly!

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  • Anonymous

    I agree, John, it only makes sense. And I do sigh about those companies – and experts that are sure to come. 

    Glad you like the FAQ suggestion – we are doing the same thing for many of our clients. And yes, I ask Google questions all the time :))))

    So happy you found value. Appreciate you stopping by.

  • The problem has always been that companies try to game the system and they are successful doing so. Agencies exist who all they do is game the system. And the problem is we rarely go past page one or two of search results before trying a new search term. So you have to be in the top page or two.

    Google always has had the goals they want to achieve as stated but each time they change the SEO folks adapt and game the system again. For users this never means best results vs the ‘gamed’ results.

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  • You play too dirty… You play too clean… You play too much?

    Moderation in all things is a great motto, but when you set out to build
    a boat you want it to float. Is there such a thing as building a boat
    too well? So google wants relevant content to win. They make
    measurements. People figure out these measurements. SEO’s adjust. The
    problem here with over optimization is that what Google has deemed okay
    in the past is now potentially over optimized??? Is it really going to
    help to be “under optimized”?

  • Anonymous

    LOL … I get you! I don’t, however, think that’s the goal here. I think that a better parsing of content through contextual (or semantic) analysis, is the goal. And change – yup, that’s a given. So, what we’ve done in the past is just about always destined to change – with Google, with content, with marketing, with PR … with so many things. Don’t you agree?

    I think it will be interesting to see what transpires. But to me, change is a good thing.

    Thanks for coming by – love your comment !!

  • Anonymous

    Well said, Howie. Gaming is, without question, what happens. And then, the rules change. Is it bad? Is it leading to better, quicker, more in-depth, more specific results for searchers …. hmmm, imagine that. Not such a bad idea, is it?

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  • Just gave a talk in Virginia touching upon how this was a long time coming. We must pay attention to what Google is doing, but it’s just as important to think about what it will do next so that you can plot a natural course form here to there. 

  • Anonymous

    Of course you just gave a talk on it, Tinu! And yes, changes are a given. I sorta kinda think it;s fun adapting to them. Keeps us both in …. whiskey. Errrr, soda.

  • Beadwizzard

    And what about us small businesses online who sell things? We don’t necessarily have textual content but products, photos, shopping carts and such.  I would love to be found for the key words that describe my offerings and not get blogs or articles about what I searched for.  What happens to us?

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  • I like the idea of shaping up the FAQ page, but I think sites are going to have to lean more towards newsworthy content, additional blogs, even the possibility of adding a forum to compete in the coming years.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Greg. I agree … as always, businesses must continually evolve their online marketing efforts and keep fine tuning their websites on an ongoing basis. I especially like a focus on relevant content, though!

  • Anonymous

    I think you can modify your marketing efforts to produce relevant content. If you want traffic to be drawn to the things you’re selling on your ecom, you might just need to do that. Everyone wants the process to be as simple as being found for the keywords that describe their business. The web – and search – is evolving to the place that it’s about more than that.

  • Some of them points are really straight forward but all too often you will over look them

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