Matt Cutts Announces Penalties for Over Optimisation

Recently, Matt Cutts announces that Google is developing a penalty for the rankings of websites that have been overly optimising their content.

At SXSW panel named “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better! featuring Matt Cutts (Google’s Head of Web Spam), Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan and Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager of Bing, Cutts announced, saying Google doesn’t normally pre-announce algorithmic changes.

Essentially Cutts said that he’s got a team working on levelling the playing fields so that those people that have been overly optimising will start to see themselves lose rankings.

What does “Over Optimising Mean?”

It’s hard to say exactly what he means by over optimising – he referred to link building, and pages with too many keywords so I’d guess it’s fairly all encompassing. If you’ve not been using social signals to the max in the last few months you might be in extra trouble, even if you’ve been doing all you can on the social side of things – if you’ve been getting too many links and put too many keywords on the page you might want to think about getting this sorted.

Cutts also referred to great content – I think they must be working on a way to determine if a site deservers the links it’s getting, I’d guess this means you site must have a blog / news section and must be putting out authoriative content – let’s be honest, most basic standard pages don’t generate the volume of link that over seo’ing has been giving them.

Why did Matt Cutts warn us about the over optimisation penalty?

It’s also interesting that Cutts has put a timescale on this – interesting beacuse this would suggest we have some time to do something about it. He said it would be ready in the next couple of month, maybe a soon as in a few weeks. I say interesting because this is a bit like Google reaching out to the SEO sector letting them know to start changing their ways and also letting us know that this next change might hur us quite a lot!

I’m feeling a bit concerned at the moment about a group of websites I work on, the company has multiple sites on different domains with a blog on a central domain. It occurs to me that the model is becomming unmanagable in the way that Google want us to work with them.

Relevance and Over Optimisation Penalty

I think one of the big pointers is the mention of relevancy in determining over optimisation. i’m guessing this largely applies to links in two ways: the first being the relevance of the link to the page that it’s on, people are getting links from the various sources where the anchor text isn’t really relevant to the rest of the page content, but is relevant to the destination content, it’s fairly obvious that if they get better at working out the relevance of the page content to the anchor text of the link they can work out if the link is worth passing link juice through or not. So if you’ve got loads of links from comments on blog posts that aren’t relevant to the blog post itself, it’s likely it’s not going to pass any strength through.

The other thing to consider about relevancy is its affect on article marketing. Article marketing makes a page of content that is very relevant to the anchor text of the link which means the link is potent. It makes sense to me that part of their thoughts on relevancy will be in how relevant the page of content is to the rest of the content on the domain, or at the very least in the virtual silo in which it exits.

I imagine that Google is still quite a way away from working this out because most sites have a load of content on them that might seem relatively tenuously connected to other pieces of content on the site but which are central to the site owners business.

How to prevent an over optimisation penalty

OK so I’m not going to pretend to know how to overcome the over optimisation penalty Google is about to dish out, it’s probably fair to say I’ve done some over optimisation in my time, but if I was going to give some suggestions on how to overcome over optimisation penalty they would be:

  • Have a blog on the site and create lots of unique, newswothy content
  • Double your efforts on social media, linking back to the site with lots of (non-spammy) posts – concentrate on Google+, Google will thank you for it in the long run.
  • Reach out to as many relevant websites to get links now!
  • Change your anchor text strategy to be partial match and brand
  • Re-write onsite content that appears spammy, keyword stuffed (or just redirect it if it’s the same as something else on the site)

Use this lead time to do as much as you possible can, it’s not often that Google give us a heads up on what they are about to do – act now, or suffer later!