In a post important enough to double post at Inside Search & Webmaster Central and then explained in some detail by Danny over at Search Engine Land it looks like the much publicised ‘over optimisation penalty’ is rolling out right about now and will be affecting around 3% of search queries.
Over Optimisation – Matt, Foot, Mouth
After the usual internet panic after any statement by Matt Cutts and especially one as inflammatory as over optimisation, SEO’s were running around, bumping into walls, clients were asking questions, SEO was dead and the Internet as we know it was about to fall into a gaping chasm to be replaced with only the purest of pristine search results listings – or not.
As ever, the reality is a little more gentle and whilst there has seemingly been a big technical push, including millions of manual reviews to identify sites with ‘artificial or unnatural links’ it would seem that behind the scenes they have been working on developing better heuristics and fingerprinting for over optimised sites so they can let the algorithm do the heavy lifting.
The post specifically mentions link schemes and keyword stuffing along with ‘all sorts of webspam techniques’ so it would seem that they are looking at an overall spam rating for a given site based on many factors that they can use to factor into that sites ability to rank and hopefully create a fairer playing field where good content and site quality beats a hearty link budget.
“Another Step to Reward High-Quality Sites”
In Google’s own words, the change is another step to reward high-quality sites AND an attempt to lessen the stranglehold that some ‘over optimised’ sites have on certain search categories and this is a good thing.
It’s good for users as you should get ‘the best’ results for your query and it’s good for SEO’s and businesses as it will be a sad day when Search, the new Wild West, where anyone can get famous, is 100% ruled by who has the deepest pockets.
It’s good for SEO’s also as it’s hard work always recommending that people fly a straight arrow with their SEO strategy when there are competitors ruling the roost with a roster of thousands of clearly purchased links.
Moves like this are a step in the right direction and it will certainly be interesting to review some of the areas we are working in against sites that are propped up by crappy links and dodgy page copy.
Another Step to bigger Ad Revenue for Google?
The cynic in me thinks that better content in organic = less commercial results = more adverts but hey, maybe I have been in this game too long and should stick to the Google is not Evil script! What is truer than ever is that whilst it is important, organic SEO is only a part of the bigger picture and in most cases, you are going to need to get your PPC, Social and a whole other bunch of ducks in a row to compete in this ever-changing marketplace.
More to Come?
I think it is safe to assume, that much like Panda, this will just be the first of many iterations of this signal and there will be casualties for sure. The general SEO rules of play remain the same: build a great site, focus on your users, use white hat SEO strategies and don’t adopt any web spam techniques.
If you are a business owner and are seeing a drop in web traffic, or you are unsure just what your SEO agency has been doing whilst optimising your site then it is time to start asking questions or talking to someone who knows what questions to ask.
The real question here is did Google canonicalise those two posts or are they starting the new, clean internet with some duplicate content posting, answers on the back of a postcard to Bowler Hat Towers please. 😉
Happy SEO’ing folks.