Google’s “New” Over Optimization Penalty May Not Be So New

Google’s So-Called “New” Over-Optimization Penalty Google has been in the news recently for an announcement made by the webspam team regarding a new algorithm update that they say will include penalties for over-optimization. This does not seem like new news to me. Sure, maybe they are adding some new tricks to their arsenal, but from what I have seen, Google has been penalizing sites for over-optimization for some time. A few obvious examples include the recent very public penalties applied to JC Penny and for link manipulation. In both cases their sites were devalued for a few weeks to a few months then returned fairly strong not long after.

The more serious questions in my mind will be, Is Google opening themselves up to negative optimization tactics if they take this too far? and how will they differentiate between someone who is over-optimizing their own site, and someone who is a competitor trying to get someone else’s site penalized? It seems to me that when it comes to over-optimization it would be very easy to do on someone else’s site. There are a lot of blog directories and article directories where one can post links to a site in a very spammy way for very little money. How is it that Google thinks they can determine what is being done by the site owner versus what is being done by a rogue competitor?

Sure, maybe if you mix in some on page factors such as high of keyword densities or linking off of your site to bad networks, but those are obvious and should have been penalized all along. So what is it Google, are you really changing things as significantly as you are implying or are you simply trying to put some fear into website owner and try to scare people off of SEO? I am starting to wonder if their announcement was more intended to do the latter.

Thoughts on Google’s Announcement that they will be targeting over-optimized sites

Really Google, you’re going to be targeting over optimized sites? Wow, that is big news (insert sarcastic expression here). That is about as breaking a news story as possibly “Brazilians are good at soccer” or “Barry Bonds may have been on steroids during record breaking season”. Seriously Google, maybe you can announce that you are increasing penalties, or maybe changing the way you target over optimized websites, but it is obvious to most in the know that this is something that you already have been doing for years. So why the announcement, my guess is that it is intended more as a deterrent to keep websites from optimizing at too high of level. In Google’s perfect world, no sites are optimized, and everything is natural. That would make Google’s algorithms much more effective, and it would make Matt Cutt’s job along with the web spam team’s work so much easier. However, in the real world where we live, and where Google lives whether they like it or not, websites will continue to be optimized for search engines and with Google as the dominant search engine for Google in particular.

What could Google specifically be cracking down on?

There are a number of well known over optimization techniques that Google as long cracked down on. Such techniques include obvious on-site spammy tactics as keyword stuffing (the act of repeating or using the target keywords frequently within a page), or invisible text. But what I think Google will be going after more is what is commonly referred to as link spam. That is the act of a webmaster or SEO going out and getting lots of links back to a site using specific keywords in the links. The problem Google will always have here is it can be difficult to tell the difference in many cases between legitimate incoming links and link spam unless the SEO or webmaster over does it. In many cases where Google has already penalized sites for link spam, I suspect that they use an algorithm to determine some factor that they consider out of whack, such as too many links coming to a site at one time with the same link text, or too many links pointing to only one page of a site, or too few links with natural elements such as URL or name of the company, or links from too many sites that Google deems low quality. It is also likely that they are looking at some combination of these factors. The thing that puzzles me is that they have been doing this for years.

So back to my original question, why do they make this announcement now? I think it is simply a matter of trying to scare site owners and webmasters to discourage SEO in an attempt to make the job of fighting link spam easier.

What do you think?

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