Will Google Penalize Over-Optimized Websites?

By Samuel Frost
Will Google Penalize Over-Optimized Websites?


It seems like a ridiculous notion, but there is evidence to suggest that Google might actually start penalizing websites that "over-optimize" for SEO. If this does happen, imagine the headaches that will be caused for us affiliate marketers; too much SEO, not enough SEO, where does it ever end? 

According to Search Engine Land's Barry Schwartz, this new adjustment to the "infamous" Google Bot was announced by Google's Matt Cutts during a panel with senior Search Engine Land staff. Basically, it seems that soon Google will start penalizing websites that have done too much to optimize for better rankings in the past few months. According to Cutts, the purpose of this move is to "level the playing field" a bit.

So what exactly does that mean?

Basically, it means content is king. In the interview, Matt Cutts goes on to explain that it's a matter of all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site."

I've always been a big fan of quality content and building websites with great usability, and I feel this trounces SEO every time (at least these days, as search engines trend increasingly towards rewarding good content) That doesn't mean ignoring SEO. In fact, properly optimizing websites is one of my favorite things to do, and you will definitely see great benefits from it.

But what you need to do is get your website content and design in order first. It seems very likely that over-SEOd sites will be penalized, as this news is coming straight from one of the top guys at Google. To help you make sure you won't fall victim to this latest round of Google changes, I've devised a cunning little checklist you should follow:

  1. Make sure the focus of your website is quality content. If your website consists mainly of "content thin" pages designed solely to make sales of affiliate products, you could be in trouble. Ensure the basis of the majority of your website pages is quality content that actually provides value.
  2. Add more content. Whether your site is low on value-added content, or it is choc full of the stuff, keep adding more content. I can't imagine a situation where Google would ever be penalizing websites for more content - just make sure its original and well-researched.
  3. Improve and tweak the design of your website to make it more accessible. The free Affilorama site building lessons will help you get a good idea of how to build a quality website that your users will love. Remember that Google is relying increasingly on human reviews to determine the value of a website, so make sure you have designed your site(s) with user experience in mind.
  4. Check for major SEO problems with Traffic Travis. The page warnings tool of Traffic Travis will hunt through your website for glaring SEO issues (missing image alt tags, incorrect heading tags, not enough content etc) Once you've got your content and website design in order, this is the perfect way to tweak your website without overdoing it. You can get a free copy of Traffic Travis here.
  5. Sit back and don't worry about being "Google slapped". If you've got great content, a usable website, and aren't spending every waking hour tweaking your site for SEO, then you really shouldn't have too much to worry about.

It does seem likely that Google could start penalizing websites that have over-optimized for SEO. But don't let that worry you - just follow my checklist above and you should be fine. 

I'd love to hear your comments and opinions on Google's move towards penalizing over-optimization, and it would be great if you could share any content creation and website design tips you have too. Just leave a comment below!

Kari Farmer 10 years ago
"I can't imagine a situation where Google would ever be penalizing websites for more content - just make sure its original and well-researched."

I'm not so sure about that. It seems like everything is getting penalized nowadays...and it's getting quite frustrating.
Ashley Weyers 10 years ago
If you read Google quality guidelines, they actually specifically say that you should write your content for readers and not for search engines.

I think this is the point that needs to be made, focus on a valid niche with a valid high quality content strategy that benefits readers and Google will rank you.
Ralph 10 years ago
It seems Google getting more and more strict..I'm Wondering whats going be next with Google
sharma chell 10 years ago
I think..More rules..People look for new alternatives slowly..SEO and marketing people promote new search engine. I guess down the road ..Google revenue will be down...by cpc marketing.
rakesh kumar 10 years ago
But you have not clearly explained what is over optimized website or opver optimization.
10 years ago
Rules improve depending on the users needs, I think Google is still fair. There's a lot of site who all care for the rank and willing to pay bucks to the top. I think website must come naturally and fair with others. As long as the competition fair, ethical SEO practitioner doesn't need to worry
Uchenna R Ani Okoye 10 years ago
Soon Google are going to penalise people for making websites altogether.
devin saini 10 years ago
Since last post, Google has released Penguin update and wiped out many affiliate businesses. I guess it's going to be very hard to be a successful affiliate now.
Martin 10 years ago
At this time we just have to think like humans, not like spiders, stop spam on forum. Must submit interesting articles and to reduce link anchors to max 6-7%. We have to embed site's deep links, our company and the paragraphs : "learn more about ........ here" as anchor text.
Financial Samurai 10 years ago
I hardly do ANY SEO except for a search friendly title, and my site has grown to about 300,000 pageviews a month after 3 years.

I just write consistently 3-4 times a week, and original content. Affiliate revenue has also consistently gone up.
Anthony Benting 10 years ago
My site has a lot of content yet they still keep dropping it back. eventually no one will bother with google it's not worth the effort and time.
Oliver Ohene-Dokyi 8 years ago
I agree! It is most important to share diverse information around a topic and many businesses need time until they become popular, especially when trying to compete to similar businesses or products. Everyone is interested in something and most of the time satisfied with products that already fulfill the need. As long a website/business owner keeps excited and curious about the main topic of the business and what hers or his business can do do in order to truly help out a customer providing a product, tool or even a recommendation towards a competing product, chances are high people will follow up upon for as long as the business keeps providing great contents.
Charline 8 years ago
Terrific article! That is the kind of info that are supposed to be shared across the web. Disgrace on the search engines for not positioning this submit higher! Come on over and talk over with my site . Thank you =)