The penalty is part of Google’s larger ongoing effort to reward high-quality sites, especially those that regularly produce relevant and informative content, which Google lumps under the term “white hat” SEO. Google’s nemesis is “black hat webspam,” in which SEO techniques like keyword stuffing and link schemes are used to rank pages higher than they should be.
As part of the over-optimization penalty, sites that engage in “black hat” tactics will receive decreased rankings—and who wants to get on Google’s bad side?
If you’re using solid SEO principles, regularly creating great content and avoiding spammy SEO tactics, you’re likely in the clear. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check over your site and incorporate these 6 SEO-related changes to keep your website visible and in Google’s good graces.
- Real titles. It can be tempting to include several keywords in your site’s title, but don’t do it! This is the place to showcase your brand name and, if applicable, your location, too. In fact, it’s likely that your brand name already includes keywords, whether it’s Digital Marketing or Web Design or Copywriting, to name a few.
- Too many internal links. Building internal links is just as important as building outbound links, but don’t go overboard by linking to the same internal pages over and over using slightly modified anchor text. Instead, link to internal pages that are useful and relevant. If you really need to link to the same page again, make sure you’ve modified the anchor text (and that it sounds natural, too, instead of a blatant string of keywords).
- Give footers the boot. Your site’s footers aren’t meant to house a ton of links. Instead, use your footer as it makes sense for your site. And if you have links you want to include, put them in your site’s menu or in another visible place so that they not only help drive traffic to your site, but they actually help visitors, too.
- Ditch the filler. Watch out for text blocks that are only created for search engines. You’ve probably seen them—they’re typically included toward the bottom of a page that includes great, relevant, readable content—and then, bam! You see a paragraph that’s been blatantly keyword-stuffed. If you’ve got these on your site, delete them! Or better yet, rewrite the content so that you can still get a keyword boost without giving a clear signal to search engines that you’re trying to manipulate them.
- Steer clear of penalty-likely sources. If your site includes backlinks from penalty-likely sources like link networks, reciprocal lists and article marketing lists, do what you can to ditch your connection to these sorts of links. Link-building is a vital part of SEO, but when you build your links with disreputable sites and services, you might as well not have links at all. And when you think about it, you work hard to create great content for your site—so why should you waste that effort with spammy link sources? Instead, concentrate on sharing your content through your social channels so that you encourage readership and external linking. Comment regularly on blogs and use those comments as opportunities to include a link back to a specific post on your site that relates to the subject matter. Sure, it takes some work to build links, but surely that’s a more appealing alternative than to have your site completely buried by Google as a result of penalties.
- Too many pages. If your site includes a large number of pages that are targeting only slightly modified variations of keywords, clean it up! Instead, create one well-written page that targets a number of keywords—you’ll still get great visibility in search results without running the risk of penalties. Plus, you’ll keep your readers happy, too. People are smart—and if they come to your site and see a bunch of keyword-laden content that’s hard to understand and not helpful, they’ll hightail it out of there—and that’s the last thing you want.
There’s no denying that SEO is an art and a science—and because it’s a difficult technique to master, there’s a chance that you’ve outsourced your SEO work. If you’ve taken that route, be sure that you keep an eye on your site and your content to make sure nothing wonky is happening. If so, ditch your SEO firm ASAP and get someone who knows what they’re doing.
Are you glad that Google is continuing to take a stronger stance against SEO manipulators? And have you made any changes to your sites as a result?
Image by kenteegardin via Creative Commons