As a part of the continuing push toward quality content reigning online, Google has announced plans to penalize “over-optimized” websites. This is the latest step in Google’s effort to completely overhaul the search algorithm.
Focusing on content
As with almost every change that has been made to Google search results lately, this most recent rearranging of search results will focus entirely on quality of content. In a discussion at SXSW, Google engineer Matt Cutts discussed the plans to “level the playing field” for “all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO versus those making great content and great sites.” This is a big part of Google’s other stated goals to change ranking results on the basis of semantic search, search that focuses on how humans think and interact with the web.
Who will be affected
Will this latest algorithm update affect your website? Early estimates are that somewhere between 5 and 20 percent of websites will be directly affected by the algorithm update. Most estimates say that the Panda 2.2 update, one of the biggest changes in the Google algorithm, affected about 12 percent of all search results. Your website will likely be affected, it is just a matter of how much or how little.
What counts as over optimization
What constitutes over-optimization will be the question of the day when this update goes live. There are some obvious answers: a site that has hundreds or thousands of links from obviously dummy websites will likely be considered over-optimized. Sites that focus on a single keyword and use that single keyword in every title, post, page, link and image will also likely be penalized. Matt Cutts has previously discussed that “over-optimization” is often read by Google as “spammy.” As with all Google updates, there is no way to know exactly what the algorithm weighs, but generally if you are concerned that your site is too thin, too spammy, or too optimized, it may be a good idea to step back and focus on useful content, instead of optimization.
Looking to social signals
Though it has not been explicitly discussed yet, Google does consider social signals heavily in search results, especially with the Search Plus Your World update. Google’s Analytics tools are being updated to map social signals and social interaction more heavily, and this increased tracking will likely play into the new updates as well.