Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty – Is It Affecting Your Small Business’s Website Rankings?

Google’s long anticipated over-optimization penalty is now live. So Google released another update on April 24th, 2012 being called by SEO’ers as Google’s “Over-Optimization Penalty”.   Except Google is calling it an algorithmic update that’s targeting web spam.

Google Claims:

“Panda change affected about 12% of queries to a significant degree; this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to a degree that a regular user might notice.”

It’s not clear the damage this may or may not of caused sites.  Personally I am seeing ton of strange stuff.   I have seen some of our client’s get hit by this recent update.  When looking at which ones, it looks like it was clients who have over-optimization on their anchor text backlinks.    Those clients who have a well rounded backlinking profile with an aged site didn’t seem to be harmed and a few even look like they are doing better.

Tips to Make Sure Your Site Does Not Get Penalized By Google

  1. Create useful content that can be considered linkable assets (do this and links can sometimes come on their own ;))
  2. Use only unique content on your site
  3. Don’t keyword stuff your pages
  4. Don’t have a bunch of silly footer links
  5. Build a robust backlinking profile (social, directories, guest posts, comment links, press releases, etc)
  6. Deep link to your site (don’t just build backlinks to your site)
  7. Make sure backlinks have varied anchor text (don’t google bomb your site)
  8. Build links naturally and slowly over time (don’t expect to win the race in 30-60 days)
  9. Focus on the long tail and providing real value

Whatever you do, don’t go chasing Google’s algorithm.   Successful SEO is not derived from trying to game the search engines.  SEO success comes from hardwork to build linkable assets that bring value to the web and by building a real audience.  If you do that, most of your links will will come naturally and you can focus on just being a really great publisher of content.  

If you think you are victim of the recent update – Google does have a feedback form here.  Maybe submitting might bring back your rankings (doubt it), but may not hurt.    What we plan to do with client sites that have been penalized with this last update is probably remove some of the spammy links (where possible) and focus on building out anchor text links (not from blog networkds) with a varied anchor text: phrase match, brand names, and even generic terms like “click here”to try to balance out the anchor text backlinking portfolio.  Hopefully this will do the trick.  We’ll see and I’ll leep you posted of the results.

Some Good Advice From SEOMoz too About Over-Optimization:

Some Other Great Posts on Link Building and Google’s Recent Over-Optimization Penalty

 Be sure to let us know your initial thoughts (in the comments below) on this most recent over-optimization penalty and be sure to let us know if your small business website was affected by it.


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12 Responses to “Google’s Over-Optimization Penalty – Is It Affecting Your Small Business’s Website Rankings?”

  1. I think the main filter that is being activated is caused by the overuse of keyword anchor text. I did quite a bit of research and wrote a post on it here . It you are suffering from this, the only real option is to wait out penalty period. I don’t think it can last very long as way too many quality sites are being hurt.

  2. Brian – just read your article. Nice work. I agree with you that it looks like this recent update went after over optimization of anchor text backlinks. Now if a site is been penalized with this, do you think it’s better to:
    A) remove or change your anchor text links to more generic terms like click here or website (when possible)
    B) do not remove or change any current links, but go out and get a bunch of anchor text links that are on branded anchor text or generic stuff like click here, website, here, see this, etc?

    I think the ladder.

    I still think that they’ll dial this back a bit. As you said, in your article Google does tend to come out strong on new updates, they survey the damage and then dial the update back.

    I think that Philip Nikolayev has a great idea too of not making over-optimization a negative ranking factor, but just devalue those links a little.

    Anyways thanks for stopping by and let’s keep the dialogue going on this one.

  3. Matthew Hunt May 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    UPDATE: Here is a great post that explains what might happened with pengiun update and gives some ideas on how to fix it.

    I had a few personal sites get hit and a few clients sites get hit. The sites that got hit were all sites that had a ton of exact match anchor text links. It looks like if you have over 50% exact match anchor text links it can trigger a penalty or de-value in your backlinks, which can drop your rankings.

    The question I am looking to answer now is how to get these sites to bounce back?

    I am going to try 3 things:
    1. Change as many of the existing backlinks to none anchor text links, so things like “website”, “click”, “check this out”, “click here”, etc
    2. Add a whack of unbranded anchor text links to try to balance out backlinking porfolio
    3. Remove links

    The ladder is the last one I am going to try and will only do on sites I don’t care about.

    It should be interesting to see what i can get to bounce back and how long it will take. I am sure I am not the only one who is testing this out right now.

    At least we all have a pretty good idea of what is most likely causing the drop in rankings if you got tapped by the Penguin update.

    What are your thoughts or if you have questions – ask away too.

  4. Debbie (thewordwright) May 7, 2012 at 4:15 am

    I have a few things to add:
    1. It is good to do some housekeeping on inbound links. Perhaps it is an overkill, but it is better to get rid of inbound links from spammy sites, if you have any.
    2. According to Search Engine watch too many ads could be problematic.
    3. Check whether somebody duplicated your content on Copyscape. Duplicate content is definitely penalized.

  5. Yes Debbie all good points.

  6. So some updates on this over-optimized algo update from Google.

    We’ve surveyed the damage on sites we manage and we are almost 100% certain that for our sites it’s an over-optimization of anchor text backlinks challenge. Part of me can’t believe I missed this, the other part is not surprised. Now standing back and looking at it the backlinking portfolios, it looks unnatural.

    Now note, this update does not necessarily mean that overoptimized sites got penalized. It can also just mean that overoptimized links (and anchor text in general) has been de-emphasized, so links that had a lot of positive impact on your sites rankings before now don’t matter nearly as much. I believe it’s a de-valuing of links and not a penalty (otherwise negativeseo is going to a major major problem).

    I think that onpage over-optimization was largely unaffected by the update (although I cannot say this 100% for sure). But Google has pretty clearly stated that they do not want to discourage onpage SEO.

    I personally feel on the sites we where we suffered a ranking drop it has nothing to do with the on-page optimization. I think standard on-page optimization is still a very important element to rankings.

    So is getting exact match anchor text backlinks! BUT you have to acquire them naturally or build them naturally and abandon exact match links 90% of the time.

    Everyone asking if you can bring back a site that has fallen in rankings?

    I think it’s most likely possible, BUT I don’t 100% know the answer because not enough time has past yet.

    It comes down to (in my opinion) whether this update was a link devaluation or a link penalty. If it was a devaluation, then you can continue to vary your anchor texts and you will probably fair ok. If it was a penalty, it will be much harder.

    Let’s all hope it was a devalueation, right? 😉

    I personally think it is a devaluation and not a link penalty, although I don’t have enough data to definitively say one way or another, it’s just a hunch I have from doing this for while and being in tune with some of the smartest SEO’ers thoughts.

    But please do not just go spamming a bunch more links to your sites with more diverse anchor text to try to balance our your backlinking portfolio. Your backlinking strategy needs to focus on getting links from sites with actual content that is relevant to your site.

    Link building is increasingly becoming about becoming a serious publisher of content and learning how to create linkable assets, then in turn learning to market those link bait pieces of content.

    In the meantime we are trying to bring back rankings on quite a few sites. We are doing the following things:

    1. Create new quality content (web 2.0 blogs, guest posting, etc) and get generic anchor text links
    2. Change as many of the existing backlinks (that we have control over) to none anchor text links. So things like “website”, “click”, “check this out”, “click here”, etc
    3. Remove links (very last resort)

    My thoughts after an Google update like this has always been to focus on new links and not try to fix around the old ones. But that is just based on my own intuition and not any specific facts or data, so do what you think may be best. I will report our results as we get them. I suspect it will take 30-90 days to know what is working and what is not.

    Let’s continue the dialogue. Let us know your thoughts below. If you figure out some successful ways in recovering from this over-optimization update let’s us know.

  7. Matt, these are great reminders for small businesses, Small businesses face a challenge because they either try to do their own SEO or make a simple mistake that can cost them dearly, like joining a link creation farm. The three biggest violations by otherwise solid small business websites were: 1) Creating the same anchor text. 2) Bad inbound links (usually by paying a lot of “cheap” links and 3) Unknowingly keyword stuffing. I think your suggestions will help people avoid these three big mistakes.

  8. Richard, I agree with your statements too.

  9. Hi

    Have been hit by the penguin update.

    Have noticed we have lots of exact name anchors on articles posted on ezine articles and go articles.

    As we can edit these is it ok to change all on the same day for instance or will doing this also get us flagged for being unatural?

    Many Thanks


  10. Alicia, good question. I guess it depends on how many. If 1000 + then you might want to do it in a drip fashion. If is couple dozen, then probably no biggie. Just let the big G, crawl them naturally again. No one will know how changing anchor text on backlinks until the next update. We’re all awaiting that update.

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