If your site dropped from rankings in Google but you didn’t receive a message in your GWT account about unnatural links then you might have a totally different problem on your hands.
Google not only penalized webmasters for spammy links pointing to their sites but also for over-optimized pages to level the playing field (according to Matt Cutts).
What’s Over-Optimization penalty all about?
If you are keyword stuffing your meta tags, or excessively using the same keyword phrase over and over within your content then you probably are going to lose your current search engine rankings or will in the future(unless you are big brand of course).
I think Over-Optimization penalty also includes anchor text links which means that thousands of backlinks pointing to your site through your targeted keyword term can seriously damage your position in the serps. This one actually is the worst kind of penalty because a competitor or someone who simply doesn’t like you could build those links for you.
You could remove them (if you feel like sending out DMCA complaints all day) but if someone is dedicated to take you out you won’t be able to keep up.
The Over-Optimization penalty sounds good if you are in fact stuffing keywords or hiding things from users just to manipulate the Googlebot…but I think they are going overboard with this.
Because of all these new algo changes a lot of relevant sites dropped in the process. First of all, Google should really just discount the bad links since they know which ones are raising the red flag instead of putting out fear and making people go crazy over who links to them.
Second, I don’t think having targeted keywords in your title meta tags should be considered a bad thing. People do want to find information they are searching for and these new over-optimization factors are sort of hurting the relevancy of Google’s search results pages.
A lot of people reported blank pages ranking on the front page for some major keywords, or sites that are now dominating certain verticals simply because they used a key phrase once or twice within their content which doesn’t necessarily make them relevant for that term.
I can only think of 2 possible reasons why all of this is happening right now.
1. Google does really want to remove obvious spam but messed up by rolling out untested new rules mistakenly penalizing good sites. They also probably didn’t realize that businesses will try to damage their competitor’s rankings if it’s possible to do.
2. They have discovered that poor search results make users click more on the sponsored listings. I really hope that’s not the reason but if you think about it for a minute then it doesn’t seem so impossible anymore. After all Google is a business and they want to make as much money as possible. Can’t blame them really.
For example, let’s say I search for “fake pink unicorns” and find results with information about “fake black unicorns” or just some general info about all kinds of unicorns…well I will probably click on them to see what’s up but most likely also hit the “Back” button in my browser.
It means that Google has another chance to show me their sponsored ads once again and since those usually include the keyword users type into the search box there is a high probability I will click on them.
What’s happening in this case is that now sponsored ads are more relevant than organic listings.
By the way, FTC just recently announced that they hired an outside lawyer Beth Wilkinson to handle their legal case against Google (if it happens at all).
I don’t think it’s a coincidence do you? Especially when considering the fact that this announcement came right after Google’s recent algo changes.
In a nutshell, the government will argue that Google controls two thirds of U.S. Internet searches, and that it has rigged its search results in ways that hurt its competitors.
Grab a bag of popcorn because it’s going to be an interesting show.
Anyway, so back on topic…how to optimize your site to meet Google’s new quality guidelines?
Funny thing is that you are still optimizing and nothing has really changed. No matter how you look at it you are trying to optimize to satisfy their bot so you can rank better.
1. Don’t use keyword meta tags at all – Google told us before that they don’t factor them in but I think now it might actually hurt you if it’s used. I used to add 2-3 keywords in my meta tags but I won’t be using them at all in any of my future posts from now on.
I don’t think adding some keywords should hurt you but I have seen sites using 50 or so lol
2. Use smart titles for your pages – For example, let’s say you want to rank for keyword “blue widgets”. What I would do is structure my title like this: “Blue & Cool Looking Widgets”
Do you see what I am doing here? I broke up the main key phrase so it doesn’t look so obvious I want to rank for it.
I have discovered that doing this can help you rank better …weird.
3.Don’t build anchor text links – Maybe you can get away with some but I wouldn’t do it if you want to stay on the safe side.
What if someone tries to negative seo your web property? Sorry I have no answer to that.
Now more than ever before it’s important to use short and brandable domain names. If you use an EMD (Exact Match Domain) for your site it’s going to be tricky to get it ranked.
For my blog Affhelper.com I can just use “Affhelper” for my anchor text because that’s my brand I guess. But if you use a format like this: keyword1keyword2keyword3.com then I am not sure how you are going to link to it. Don’t use EMDs!
4. De-Optimize your pages – Most of us, before all the new changes, used our main keywords for categories, navigation menus, and even tags. Don’t do it and if your site currently has this type of structure then you need to change it.
If your site is about “Blue Penguins” then there is no reason to create categories like:
– Blue Penguins Reviews
– About Blue Penguins
– Cheap Blue Penguins
If you do that it will be considered keyword stuffing and probably a penalty will be issued. So with that said, you need to strategically pick relevant titles now.
I think it’s ironic that Google tried to level the playing field and crush the SEO industry when nothing has really changed, because people will simply optimize for the new algorithm that has been integrated.
As long as there are free organic listings webmasters will continue to do whatever it takes to rank on top even if it means creating a slightly under-optimized website 😉