Our friends over in the algorithm engineering department at Google may have taken a page out of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary “playbook” this week with the announcement that there will be an update in the coming weeks that will penalize websites for “over-optimization”. “Too much SEO?”, you ask. The short answer is yes.
Where content strategy is concerned, the beauty of this update is that Google is giving websites that provide rich content a better chance to compete with major corporations, larger budgets, and Black-Hat SEOs. Now more than ever it is vital that your website deploy a comprehensive content marketing strategy to work alongside your search engine optimization efforts in order to help your website get discovered by more web surfers and to avoid search engine penalties.
Google’s Matt Cutts stated while on a panel at SXSW that Google aims to “level the playing field” for sites that have great content but not-so-great SEO, thus penalizing sites that are over-optimized and lack rich content. Historically, websites were able to get away with low quality content so long as they implemented expert SEO practices or various black-hat techniques. While the fundamentals and basic best practices of SEO won’t change, the manner in which SEO’s approach their overall strategy with regards to content will need to be re-approached with new thinking. That being said, before you start removing keywords and changing all of your meta titles, take a moment to read a few tips and some of the things to avoid when updating your website’s content for the upcoming Google Bot update.
This isn’t the first penalty of it’s kind, and more than likely it won’t be the last as the search engines try to constantly improve the relevance and accuracy of their search listings. You may remember that Google launched the “Florida Update” some time ago which penalized sites for keyword stuffing, or having a keyword density over 10%. There was also the more recent “Ads above the fold” update which penalizes sites for over-crowding the top 50% of their web pages with paid ads…even if they are Google Ads-but that’s another topic.
Below are a few tips, as well as a few things to avoid to help your web pages hold their ground through the next Google algorithm update:
Make Sure Your Site Provides Rich Content
If you’ve heard anything at all regarding SEO, it was more than likely something along the lines of “content is king”. Personally, I’ve always felt that this wasn’t necessarily true, due to the fact that as an Internet marketer myself, I’ve learned over the years that I could simply apply various white-hat SEO techniques to a client’s website and expect positive results with or without “great content”. In the near future it will be more difficult to gain a high ranking for websites that do not maintain fresh, topic-specific content. At the other end of the web marketing spectrum, this update is outstanding news for Internet marketers specializing in content marketing as content will now truly be king.
Add Fresh Content Regularly
Having relevant content is good but producing fresh, relevant content on a regular basis is great! The forthcoming Google update will allegedly give even more authority to websites that update their content on a regular basis with relevant and optimized content. This further increases the importance of having a blog on your company website. Publish content to your blog as often as possible and on a pre-scheduled basis when applicable. Use an optimized blog on your website as the building block of your overall content marketing strategy and as your “first line of defense” against the next update from the search goliath that is Google.
Avoid Duplicate Content On Your Website
If the old SEO adage of “content is king” were entirely true, duplicate content would most certainly beconsidered the jester. While Google bots have already been on the hunt for site’s that contain duplicate content from other pages on their own site, or other websites throughout the web, they will now up the ante’ a bit. Basically, if you haven’t already checked your webpage’s for duplicate content, you need to make sure that you tackle that job soon, like yesterday. Keep in mind that syndicated content or content that is properly linked between pages is not considered duplicate content for the purposes of search engine rankings. In terms of Google, duplicate content means text that is the same as the text on a different page.
Keep Your METAdata Relevant to Each Page
While Google will be penalizing pages for over-optimization; conversely, it will be important not to “under-optimize” your page in fear of receiving the dreaded Google ban. Be sure to use relevant keywords for each page, post, image, etc. Using your most popular keywords repeatedly in your meta titles, keywords, and descriptions will most likely be considered “over optimization”. The easiest way to avoid having an issue with your metadata is to avoid the temptation of using your “favorite” keywords for every page- If the keyword isn’t found within the pages content, don’t use it in your metadata. Using an umbrella strategy to cover all page’s metadata will not work and could result in a loss of page rank.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
When optimizing your website for search, it is important not to “go too far”. For instance, if you come across a website that sells mountain bikes, it would be natural to have the phrase “mountain bikes” occur throughout the page. The problems arise when content managers use “mountain bikes” every 10-15 words. This practice is known as keyword stuffing and will also result in a loss of page rank. The optimal keyword density range is from 3 to 7%. At, or near 10% keyword density the page starts to appear as a keyword-stuffed page to the search engines. Imagine how you would view our site if you were reading this post and you saw the phrase “Google update” every 10 words. Some time ago Google implemented the so called “Florida Update” and essentially imposed a penalty for pages that are keyword-stuffed and over-optimized in general, these factors will again come in to play with the latest update.
Don’t Go “Link Crazy”
Websites that utilize content farms and link exchanges have already taken a hit with past Google updates and the upcoming tweak is expected to be no exception. If you or your SEO provider are engaging in these practices in an effort to build inbound links-stop. This is considered over optimization and will harm your website’s authority in the search engines. Focus on quality links from sites with a certain level of authority and a relevance to the content on your page that the inbound link is landing on. Again, this is not necessarily a “new” idea but the penalties in the upcoming update will allegedly be increased. It is also important not to overuse the same keywords throughout your page’s anchor-text and in your internal linking.
While this Google search update will probably cause a stir throughout the internet marketing world, the truth is that it will be relatively easy to avoid any loss of page rank simply by quality-checking your website’s current optimization methods and making sure that your site’s content is fresh, relevant, and precisely what your potential visitors are looking for. If you’re not currently leveraging content marketing as part of your Internet marketing strategy, now is the time to get started. By their own admission, Google normally does not announce future algorithm updates so be sure to take advantage of this news while you can, lest you find your business’s website dropping in the search results in the coming weeks.