Picture this: You've been working hard for the past year to make your site perfect in terms of SEO. You have keywords in your titles, lots of header tags, plenty of content, and a complex web of internal links that will make your site irresistible to Google. You sit back and wait and before you know the Google spider comes along, takes a good look at your site, and places you squarely on page five.
“Your site is perfect,” The Spider says, “TOO perfect.” Then he wanders away and places your competitors site on page one, laughing all the way.
That's right. Google is changing their algorithm again and this time it’s Penguin.
However, if you have been following the advice of this blog all along then you don't have much to worry about. We have said it a million times, if not more: Google likes sites that were designed with the reader in mind because that's exactly the types of site that readers like to visit. Readers don't want to see pages with weird link structures, keyword stuffed articles that provide no real value, and a squeeze page behind every link. They want ease of use and informative content, and Google is once again taking steps to make sure that's exactly the type of site that is showing up at the top of the search engine results page.
As usual, Google hasn't released the details of the new over-optimization penalty, and they probably never will. But hints revealed by their engineers have given us some clues to the things we should be watching out for:
Non-human targeted titles – If your website title tag is “camcorder reviews, camcorder info, camcorder deals”, then you might be in trouble. Make your site title user friendly, even in the best of times a keyword stuffed title tag only gave you a tiny boost to begin with, so ditch this tired old practice right now.
Bizarre internal linking – If you have a dozen pages on your site, and each of those pages is linked to from the front page a dozen times, each time with the same anchor keyword, then you might be in trouble. Organize your site for the reader, not for some mystical keyword algorithm that you will never fully understand.
Links from bad neighborhoods – Ads that offer 10,000 backlinks are always attractive, no matter how long you have been in this game. Private blog networks and link farms have been on Google's target list for some time now, and it only gets worse when the over optimization penalty comes along. Stop paying for bad back links and get out there and EARN some real ones that are worth 10,000 times more than the ones you paid for.
We could go on all day talking about shady SEO practices, but we don't need to. If you want to avoid Google penalties both today and tomorrow, you really only need to ask yourself one magic question: “Is this good for my readers?”
Informative content and well designed, easy to read pages are good for your readers. Pages optimized with nothing but search engines in mind are not. Start taking pride in the content and appearance of your pages and Google rank will naturally follow. The time and money you spend trying to shortcut your way into high rankings are far better spent EARNING your way to the top where your rankings are real and safe from penalties.
Remember, Google will get a visitor to your site once, the site itself is what will keep them coming back week after week. Do you want one customer to stop by today and never return, or do you want a cadre of loyal customers who you have to literally chase out the door at closing time? The answer should be obvious.