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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!