Link Emperor Blog

Let's All Take a Deep Breath... and Talk About "Over-Optimization."

April 25, 2012

Over the past few weeks, Google has caused a lot of stir in the SEO community.  It started with the de-indexing of certain blog networks, particularly Build My Rank, and now most recently, launched yesterday, they've come out with this "Over-Optimization" penalty:

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/04/another-step-to-reward-high-quality.html

From the sound of it, according to some people, if you've been "Optimizing" your website, they're about to remove ALL those benefits you used to receive.

...

Ok, let's get serious here. Believing that takes quite an imagination.

After all these years of them failing in their mission to discredit the influence of fabricated backlinks (and they have)... Do you think for one second that just because they nicknamed something the "Over-Optimization Penalty" that they just found the magic bullet?  That they're going to remove all of us from the SERPs?  Every last one of us who's ever built a backlink?  Only the abandoned websites from 1995 with no backlinks will survive?!

Come on...

Now, if you really read what they posted in that article, they give examples of:

1) A ridiculously spammy keyword meta tag, and
2) A very typical-looking spun article that you would find on any average private blog network.

That's it.  So, let's focus on that.  They might as well call it the "I hope you're not still keyword stuffing, because that hasn't worked in years, and also we're continuing to cut down on private network blog posts" update.

Ok! Not too crazy.  Let's collectively slow down with the hysteria.

And yet, I have received some absurd questions this month.

"Should I track down all of my backlinks and try to remove them?"

"Should I stop link building?"

Dear lord no.  No, please noooooooooooooooo.

The penalty they're handing out is a de-valuation of certain backlinks, or links coming from certain sites.  A de-valuation of the link itself, not of the recipient of that link!  

That's key, so read that sentence again if it didn't sink in.

If your site has original, quality content and isn't actively linking out to tons of other sites as part of a link farm or blog network, you should have VERY LITTLE to worry about.  

But if you have a ton of similar backlinks from some type of link farm or blog network strategy, and those all get de-valued in one shot, then you're most likely going to drop in the SERPs.  It does not mean that your site has been penalized.  It means that the sites linking to you have been penalized, and you are no longer receiving the benefit of those links.

If you don't have one glaring Achilles Heel, one really powerful type of link that's been your one-trick pony, you'll most likely be alright.  Just diversify and continue.  DIVERSIFY.

And seriously, take a good hard look at your site.  If your site looks horrible, and your bounce rate is close to 100%, what are you even worrying about your rankings for?  Your conversion rate is what you should be looking at.  Google hates terrible sites, and so should you!

Now, has Google caused a good amount of changes to certain SERPs lately?  Yeah, a number of people were knocked down pretty hard, though luckily not that many of our customers... because Link Emperor only builds diversity.  It would be pretty darn difficult for you to use Link Emperor and not get a ridiculous amount of diverse links.

That's why every time I hear about these SERP updates, I keep looking at my rankings and going... what? What is all this commotion about?

The kitchen sink approach is alive and well!

But before we wrap up, let's talk business for a second.  Seriously...

Sure, it's a rocky boat these days... Sites are getting tossed around...  

But ask yourself.  Do you wake up every morning and have to check your rankings on every single SERP?  Would a few of them changing have a serious impact on your day?

Then maybe you're not in the right industry.

I'm serious.  

SEO is free traffic.  It's amazing, wonderful and a whole lot of fun.  But at the end of the day, if you're going to lose your shirt this month if your rankings drop, you should stop worrying about SEO and start taking a really hard look at your business itself.

That may be a tough pill to swallow for some people, but really... diversity isn't just for link building, it's more importantly an investment term.  Your website is an investment, and your traffic streams are investments, and they all need to be part of a diversified income portfolio.

If some of my rankings disappeared tomorrow, I would take a deep breath and realize that Google is run by an algorithm.  And an algorithm can ALWAYS be gamed.  

So first things first, I'd recognize that Google actually messes up a lot of the time.  Way more than you think.  If one of your sites just dropped off the first page today, it may very well be a fluke.  Check again a week or two later, and there's a good chance that you'll be back.  

A great example of this is the fact that this morning, right after the update, it was reported that an entirely BLANK blog was ranking #1 for the term "make money online", one of the most competitive keywords on the internet.

If you do a search on that now, just a few hours later, the results have been completely re-organized and that blog is gone.  Edit: Since I last checked, the #1 and #2 spots have just switched again! :)

Complete anarchy?  Quite possibly.  But I see it more as an annual shakeup that Google likes to do to keep SEOs like us on their toes.  A lot of people react to it, but you're better off just ignoring it in the short-term, until some reason can be gleaned from it and Google figures out what they actually want to do.

Part of it is also that Google runs split tests ALL of the time.  So if you "lost" your #1 ranking, it might still just be Google testing other sites to see if they have a better click-through rate for a few hundred impressions.  Or it may be them rolling out a temporary change to the algorithm and then realizing that it didn't work that well, so they'll roll it back.

Now, if after the dust settles (a couple days/weeks later), I'd come to the conclusion that my site had taken a more lasting hit...

All I would do is read around the Internet, figure out what had changed, and work on it.

How can I afford to do that, you say?  

Because I have money saved up for a rainy day.  That's something that all entrepreneurs need, whether they're in SEO, Real Estate or anything else.  But particularly SEO.

If every time that your rankings move around, it takes up a significant portion of your day, then you may very well find yourself losing out on a lot of days of productivity throughout the course of the year due to random split tests and trials by Google employees!

Don't let that be you.

Now, let's wrap this up.  If you've been heavily relying on blog networks for your link building, take at least 75% of those resources and move them into just about EVERYTHING else.  Comments, wikis, press releases, article marketing, social signals, web 2.0s, trackbacks and more.  Keep your level of link building relatively steady, but work on getting links from everywhere you can rather than just a couple of places.  

Diversify your backlinks, and diversify your business.

Hopefully this helped a few people de-stress!

Signing off,

Bobby MacDonald
Co-Founder, LinkEmperor.com