So the Google Over Optimisation Penalty has been released and has definitely taken the Internet Marketing world by storm! It’s no secret that Google has been banging on about eliminating web spam from their SERPs and now they have raised the bar once again. However, is this an evolution or a shambles?
The 24th April 2012 marks the that this penalty (also known as Google Penguin Update) was released and was believed to effect only 3% of SERPs but the reality is that it has done a lot more than that. I personally know of at least 25 Internet Marketers that have had at least one, if not more of their sites hit by this penalty. Great news right? My opinion, no.
It’s also a true fact that a lot of genuine SEO‘s actually spend a lot of quality time on their websites and put forward some useful quality sites. So if that’s the case, why are these quality sites getting hit? Why after Google’s promises to eliminate low quality sites are top-notch SEO’s getting punished? I will show you an example on US Google SERPs:
Term: New Shoes
Now if we take a took at this website it really has nothing to do with new shoes, and the fact that anyone searching for new shoes would most likely be looking to buy them. Is this useful and relevant to the user? No! Another thing to think about here is that this website ranks above sites that are relevant and do provide relevance and usefulness. What is going on here? Another Example:
Term: Bicycle Wheels
Again, another extremely unuseful website that in my opinion provides no real use to the user and from what I can see isn’t particularly optimised very well for search engines. So what is Google’s excuse and what is happening to the SERPs? It seems to me like the less optimised websites that are actually built out of hobby or for business reasons rather than a way to monetize Google are the ones that are surviving.
So what can be done?
Well a lot of SEO’s are still scratching their heads as to what can be done to ensure that their sites stay up providing that haven’t been hit, or what to do to recover their sites that have been hit. I’ve even heard talk of SEO being dead but in my opinion this is far from the truth. Google have raised the bar and are now running a tighter ship, so therefore we need to play by their rules.
From what I can see and from what I’ve read, link over optimisation seems to be the major factor for ranking decreases. Undiversified anchor texts appear to be doing more harm than good now and although previously worked well, admittedly is having a negative effect. Below are two images which back up my suggestions. Both images take a look at the percentage in inbound link with anchor text matching keywords. One of sites that were not penalised and one of sites that were.
These images demonstrate that every single website which got negatively hit by the Penguin Update had a “money keyword” as its anchor text for over 60% of its incoming links. Whereas the sites that didn’t have over 60% of its links a “money keyword” in its anchor text didn’t take a plunge. So to me, link diversity will play a major role here and would say 50% or less is a safe way to go. I would also advise throwing in your URL as an anchor text too, maybe even taking a “read more” or “click here” approach for anchor texts.
Another major factor for ranking decreases appears to be, what I like to call “niche under optimisation”. A post by Matt Cutts confirms that faking relevancy will have a negative effect on your website. Although this example is a little extreme it definitely gives insight as to what Google is going after; links that are not relevant and therefore not likely to be created naturally. It makes sense really because how can a “recommendation” (concept of “link valuation”) be valid if the link or recommendation has absolutely nothing to do with the page or website it is on?
Again this data identifies that sites that had no or very little links coming from websites and domain in the same niche were penalised. Although it shows that it’s okay to have incoming links from non relevant sites (as this may occur naturally), however it’s definitely important to justify those links with links coming from domains or websites that are relevant to your site or within the same niche. This suggests that Google is now devaluing or replacing anchor text use with “niche/content relevancy of linking sites” as a primary link relevancy, (or “quality”) signal.
So what do we do in terms of SEO now? Well my belief is to continue posting quality content and concentrate on getting high quality relevant back links and remembering to diversify your anchor texts. One tactic you could possibly implement is creating multiple high quality microsites that are relevant to your website/niche and using those as tiers. Another method (although this may be most “blackhat” solution) would be to create blog networks, however Google has already made it perfectly clear that blog networks will be deindexed and links devalued.
Google Penguin an evolution or a shambles? I will let you decide. Please feel free to leave your comments and feedback below. Good luck with your Marketing/SEO efforts and if you require any insight on your website(s) do not hesitate to contact me.