RSS LinkedIn Google Plus

Call us: 0800 014 9884

How to avoid Google’s over-optimisation penalties

Matt Cutts

Many online marketers have been nervously checking search rankings ever since Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts indicated that over-optimised websites may soon face penalties. However, there are still plenty of ways to make your online presence attractive to search engines.

Why the panic?

In March 2012, Matt Cutts said Google wanted to “level the playing field” for businesses which create high-quality websites but don’t engage in aggressive SEO strategies.

“[We] start to look at the people who abuse [SEO], whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area,” he said.

What does this mean for SEO practices?

Keywords, backlinks and similar tools have long been used by SEO practitioners – and it’s very unlikely Google will ever discount them, as whether natural or contrived, they will always indicate a website’s relevance.

The key is in the nature of their application. For example, if a website provides genuinely useful information and a few keywords happen to fit seamlessly into the text, neither a user nor Google is likely to object. However, if it is filled with ill-fitting phrases – and the information is of a shallow nature and poorly written – it will be less successful.

What are the best SEO strategies?

The simplest advice is this: Make a useful website.

It might sound obvious, but it’s incredible how many shortcuts people will take to avoid spending time creating a quality product. The SEO practices applied to some ill-conceived websites often take just as long to implement as it would take to create a genuinely useful online resource.

To minimise your risk of facing Google over-optimisation penalties, it’s worth focusing on the following positive methods, known as white hat SEO techniques:

Simple navigation

Simple navigation

When a website is easy to understand and a pleasure to explore, people are more likely to visit for longer and return. You should therefore aim to build the most straightforward navigation model possible – and don’t forget to include basic facilities such as an about page and a contact page. A logical website structure is also easier for Google to index.

Relevant keywords
If your website is truly relevant to the product or service it is advertising – and the copy offers useful information – you’ll find yourself using keywords quite naturally. They then just need fine tuning to reflect the most popular search phrases.

Natural links
There is nothing wrong with linking to other websites – for example, if you and a separate local business are in the same local area and support each other, or you want to direct your users to helpful resources. It only starts to look spammy when you share links with large numbers of sites with no natural purpose for doing so. You should also link within your site, providing it is relevant and not excessive. For instance, don’t try to link to the same service page from every other page on your website.

Readable title tags and meta descriptions
These are the sections of text which are displayed in Google’s search results. If they just featured lists of keywords, it might have helped them rank highly in the past – but nowadays they are unattractive and unhelpful to users, which is Google’s pet hate. Modern SEO best practice dictates that title tags and meta descriptions should include natural keywords which focus on explaining what people can expect if they click through to your page.

SEO no-nos

Though most SEO issues are a matter of refinement, some practices should be avoided entirely. These are known as black hat SEO techniques and include:

Hidden content
This is when a website contains copy or code stuffed with keywords that are visible to search engines but not users.

Gateway or doorway pages
These are pages filled with keywords which are used as bait for search engines. They are not seen by users, as visitors are automatically redirected to a target page (usually the real homepage of the website).

Farmed content
Creating masses of shallow content to increase keyword use is known as content farming and it was one of the main motivators behind the Google Farmer series of updates (also known as Google Panda) in 2011.

Liane Baddeley

Written by Liane Baddeley

Google adds 'call-only' option to AdWords Tuesday 24th of February, 2015by Dan Moores When a user clicks a call-only ad on their mobile phone, it dials the phone number displayed – instead of taking the user to a landing page on the advertiser's website.

More on this story »

Google gives businesses new features Wednesday 25th of February, 2015by Martin Lindley Google has revealed two new features for businesses: one allows the use of chat features within the search engine results, while the other allows the selection of search display pictures.

More on this story »

Google to start warning users on slow sites? Thursday 26th of February, 2015by Andy Williams Google is reportedly testing a system which will warn users of slower websites by flagging them up with a red “slow” label within its search results.

More on this story »
theEword - 4 hours ago

Google gives businesses new features: http://t.co/mYcu0V0mcu http://t.co/lFQMmXoH9N

Reply Retweet Favourite
theEword - 9 hours ago

Digital marketing tip #5: Stop obsessing over ‘channel’ http://t.co/vBFOoo1NCR http://t.co/sHzGlmKgBI

Reply Retweet Favourite
theEword - 10 hours ago

Google to start warning users on slow sites? http://t.co/X21mZu9nse http://t.co/WkazE23NBh

Reply Retweet Favourite
theEword - 11 hours ago

Why the internet is going crazy over the colour of a dress: http://t.co/OUO86YfEVm

Reply Retweet Favourite
theEword - 1 day ago

Lessons from Hollywood on how to write content that gets attention: http://t.co/UAc17QMCOQ http://t.co/knv5DBjjce

Reply Retweet Favourite

Five ways to ensure you're writing great content in 2015 Friday 6th of February, 2015by Dan Moores 2014's Google algorithm updates made it very clear that 'Google-friendly' and 'reader-friendly' are starting to mean the same thing. We need to impress audiences, not search engines.

More on this story »

What do you need to know about your prospective customers th... Tuesday 10th of February, 2015by Sian English Do you really know the right things about your prospective customers? The more you know, the more targeted you can be with any marketing activity, and, the faster your business will grow.

More on this story »

Starstruck: lessons from Hollywood on how to write content t... Wednesday 25th of February, 2015by Martin Lindley The stars have something that we want. You know the answer. They have attention. But is there anything Hollywood uses to get attention that we can also use? Yes. Let me explain.

More on this story »

Who loves theEword

Who loves theEword Who loves theEword