You may remember in a previous blog post we talked about Google’s web spam chief Matt Cutts’ speech at SXSW, where he revealed the search engine’s plans to penalise sites that were deemed to be “over-optimised.” Well the time has come for the algorithm changes to take effect – going live in the next few days.
Google has since distanced themselves from the “over-optimisation” term and instead are now saying that they plan to target those websites that practices the dark arts of SEO: black-hat techniques. Sites that operate link schemes and continually use keyword stuffing to achieve higher rankings are the ones being targeted by the new changes. The aim is to provide a better web for search engine users. Think of the times you have searched a particular term and clicked on a link that you think has the information you require, only to be hit with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and the same keywords featured so many times that an article is unreadable. It has happened to us all. Thankfully, Google’s new changes will remove such sites, instead favouring sites with high quality content.
This is excellent news for those of us that practice natural, ‘white-hat’ SEO techniques and put in the hard work to achieve high rankings. However, there is one problem about the latest shift in algorithm, at least initially anyway, and that is the fact that some innocent websites may get swept up in the first sweeps. It happened with Panda and it is to happen again. Although Google will restore rankings in time, once necessary tweaks have been made, it is still worrying to wake up one day and find yourself hit with a penalty. Even a drop in traffic for a day or so can lead to significant loss of income.
If you have checked your analytics and noticed a big drop off, you may have been caught up in a sweep. There are ways to check whether you have been hit with a penalty, and to get your site restored if you have.
Check your Google Webmaster Tools
If you suspect that you have been penalised unnecessarily the first thing to do is check your Webmaster Tools account. Google will generally post a note in your Webmaster Tools providing information on the penalty. Of course, if you have been caught up unintentionally, there may not be any such note.
Check search engine TOS
Although you know, and we know, you’re innocent of any unnatural SEO techniques, it is still worth checking your site against Google’s TOS, just to make sure everything is in accordance. Changes to algorithm may of changed without you be aware, which is always a possibility with Google.
If you’ve found out that you have been stung with a penalty you will need to notify Google immediately and follow the rules for a reconsideration of your site. Google are usually pretty quick to reply to queries and the situation can be rectified rapidly.
While it is hard for us SEO guys to keep up with the constant changes, the fact that Google are weeding out the cheats is great news for all round. I never liked black hats anyway.