Why Google penalizes over-optimized sites and how to recover yours

A lot has been said and written about why Google penalizes over-optimized sites in their Panda and Penguin updates.

Peter Nevis, a writer for Orange Line Online Marketing, has written today’s guest post in which he dives into the reasons behind these updates and the consequences.

So, if you’re hit by one of these updates, pay attention, because Peter also shows you the way to recover from them and get your rankings back.

Here goes.

When Google made an update to its ranking algorithm, now affectionately called “Panda,” it tried to clean up the search engine results pages by filtering out sites that provided low-quality or thin content. This time around, Google’s “Penguin Update” promises to kick it up a notch by filtering out more webspam.
How will it do that?
By focusing on sites that do too much SEO, Google hopes to weed out spammy websites, thus allowing good-quality sites to bubble up to the top of the search results.

The Panda update is an algorithm change, so it’s not like websites that are hit by this one won’t ever be able to recover. Google has said that re-inclusion requests won’t be considered for this. Instead, the site must clean up its overly-optimized site and then the ranking will come back over time.

The intent of this update is to “level the playing field.” Some websites focus more on SEO and figuring out how to rank well in Google’s search engine than creating beautiful websites with interesting content. If your site uses an exact-match domain, you’ve optimized the keyword density on your site really well, you’ve taken great pains to include long-tailed related keywords, and you’ve generally tried to reverse engineer your site so that it should rank well, the Penguin update is going to hit you – and hard. As crazy as it sounds, you have to start making your site less optimized.

Content Is King

Google has been beating this horse for ages. It wants to be the ones that rank your website. It doesn’t want you to try to do this yourself. Doing this yourself would be an example of “blackhat SEO,” since you’re trying to “write for the search engines” and figure out how the algorithm works so that you can manipulate the search results for your own benefit. Google wants to serve the end-user’s best interest by serving up the most relevant content based on the search query entered.

google penalizes over-optimized sites
Photo Credit: aliwest44

The company has always held that as its main goal and it’s unlikely that they will change that view anytime soon. Start writing quality content. Forget about spun content, or content you can buy from a cheap article factory. Take the time to hire experienced writers. Don’t worry so much about keywords. If you do, you’re still getting hung up on “SEO’ing” your site. This is what’s going to get you into trouble over the long-term so you have to let go of that idea. Focus on content. Make it unique. Don’t make it unique in the technical sense. Make it unique in the sense that you bring something new to the table that users would find interesting.

It’s easy to write an article that, from a technical perspective, is 600 words in length, and contains words that are – when strung together – unlike most of the other articles on the Internet. This is not what “unique” really means. Unique means having a voice. It means expressing ideas that no one else is expressing. It means writing in a style that is uncommon yet easy to understand.

Fixing Your Backlink Strategy

Finally, stop worrying so much about getting the maximum number of backlinks, whether your site has good internal link structure, or whether you have optimized anchor text in the links pointing to your site. Stop chasing spammy link partners via 3rd party “link-wheel” services, obvious blog networks, and SEO companies that promise you number one rankings exclusively through “bulk link” packages.

All of these are signs that you’re trying to game the system. Instead, approach websites or blogs and offer to write an article with your bio in the footer (your bio contains a link to your site, obviously). This is going to be hard. It’s supposed to be. If getting good rankings was easy, everyone would have the number one spot in Google for their chosen keyword.

A lot of webmasters will turn you away. Pay them no mind. Keep asking for guest articles. The key to making this work is you have to have something of value to offer the site owner. If you have nothing valuable to offer, don’t expect much in the way of guest post offers. If you’re having a lot of trouble getting anyone to link to you, maybe you need to think about how valuable your site really is. Do you really have content worth linking to?


Google should be able to figure out what your site is about without you having to do too much work. This is the driving idea behind the Penguin update. As Google continues to refine its algorithm, expect more of these kinds of changes. Expect harsher penalties for those who violate its Webmaster Guidelines. You see, what Google is really telling you here is that the best SEO is really no SEO.

Peter Nevis contributes to various websites, he’s a marketing expert and enjoys writing articles about SEO & online marketing strategies. Find out more about Orange Line.

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3 thoughts on “Why Google penalizes over-optimized sites and how to recover yours

  1. Dave Cousin says:

    The num,her one link building strategy is to write great content, have a feed that goes out to a few places including Social Bookmarking sites (which can be no follow) and then let the links come in naturally, this is what Google want to see and they will reward you for it.

  2. Louis says:

    Since this change from Google has come down we have made massive changes to our strategy and we see it helping so far… Thank you for creating this great post about the Google update as it will help tons of people I am sure. When you have second tell us what you think of our site.

  3. Gary says:

    I always have real difficulty with the whole content is king point. I can totally see why this makes sense when you assume that all searchers are looking for information. In these instances the best content should be the “winner” and the searcher will then have found the best website. However alot of searches are actually looking for a product.

    In these instances all of the features of a product might be really well described by 20 images and a video. Without any words bar the price, delivery information and other “non-product” content the website might be able to deliver the perfect user experience. No “content” that Google can read is needed, so what does the website do? It is having trouble ranking because it doesn’t have the content to excite Google. It can either black hat link build or create some content that ranks. But hang on, that content was not created for users it was created for Google and we are trying to entice others to link to us by creating it?!!??? So now, we are playing the Google game but through content generation. But Google wants us to create sites for users…….It never quite stacks up to me when searchers are looking for products rather than information.

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