As a small business owner using the web to reach customers, you've surely been implementing search engine optimization tactics to make sure your site turns up high in web searches. But just when you might feel like you're starting to get the hang of this SEO thing, it appears that search giant Google might start penalizing websites that are over-optimized.
At this year's South by Southwest festival, Google spokesperson Matt Cutts hinted that such a penalty would weed out sites that focus too much on SEO and too little on providing a quality experience for their users.
So what factors might play a role in an over optimization penalty? Cutts outlined several signals that would qualify as too much SEO, such as "too many keywords on a page" and "exchange way too many links."
The tricky part is determining what constitutes too many keywords or links. While the penalty has not yet been put in place, you can still take steps to make sure your business's site doesn't end up being labeled "overly optimized":
Related: A Six-Step Survival Guide for Search Engine Updates
1. Write content for people first and search engines second. Site content written specifically with SEO in mind is often clunky and difficult to read. Focus on providing content that’s useful to your readers and trust that links and search engine results will follow.
2. Focus on link quality over quantity. Just because you can buy 10,000 profile links for $10 from any number of link sellers doesn’t mean you should. Instead, redirect your efforts toward courting quality links that reflect well on your site.
3. Pay attention to Google’s '23 Questions.' Though these questions were released in conjunction with last year’s Panda update, there’s no doubt that these stated quality parameters are still in effect. Focus on getting your site in line with these principles to avoid over optimization penalties Google could release.
Related: New Google Search Update Could Spell More Trouble for Business Websites
Of course, Google hasn't announced anything specific yet and rarely releases exact details about the internal operation of its algorithms. To stay up-to-date on what Google does next, you can monitor SEO news sites and Google's Webmaster blog for details about potential over optimization penalties as they’re rolled out.
What steps will you take to make sure your site doesn't get penalized? Share your suggestions in the comments below.
AJ Kumar is co-founder of Single Grain, a digital marketing agency based in San Francisco. Single Grain specializes in helping startups and larger companies with search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media and various other marketing strategies.