Why You Shouldn't Over-Optimize Your Website
The SEO world is obsessed with making websites "optimized." If you optimize your website for Google's search engine, expect a little shake up in the SERPs. Site owners used to use tricks like including the target keyword in the URL, controlling the keyword density on the page, and making sure that the site had a good internal linking structure.
These kinds of things may not work anymore. In a recent interview, Matt Cutts disclosed a few changes happening over at Google. In particular, Google is going to apply a new penalty to websites that are "overly optimized. The purpose of this algorithm update? To "level the playing field" as Matt Cutts put it.
It used to be that Google wanted you to optimize your site for its search engine. Cutts wasn't shy about laying out rules for making sure your website complied with Google's TOS and Webmaster guidelines. Google has a well-established set of "best practices" that you needed to follow as a prerequisite to ranking well in the search engine. At least, this is according to Google.
The search engine giant seems to be back-peddling a bit now with its new initiative towards "fairness." Sites that have better content, but are not as optimized, may have a better shot at ranking well in Google's SERPs. In some ways, this makes sense. Some website owners really do have great content but they also really stink at SEO.
Do these bloggers and business owners deserve to be stuck on page 2 or 3 just because they don't have the technical skill set to get to page 1 for their chosen keyword? Is getting ranked in Google a skill that you should have to learn, in addition to building your own website? Or, should Google be the one that determines where you belong in its SERPs? Google seems to be saying that there is less and less room for "organic SEO."
While Google tends to focus on telling people not to engage in obvious spam tactics like keyword stuffing, hidden text, and buying backlinks, it doesn't have much to say about less obvious potential spam and other design aspects that might help a site gain rank in the search results pages. "Don't worry about nofollow tags," Says Cutts, but what about hiring content creators to write articles that are decently optimized for a particular keyword and then just stuffing a site with those articles?
That's the business model adopted by Demand Media and its flagship site eHow. It's worked for them for a while now. What's the difference between that and stuffing a site with keywords or worse - spinning barely readable or obviously thin and useless content via automated content services like Unique Article Wizard?
Google remains somewhat silent on that one. Google does frown on automated content, and would likely discourage using sites like UAW. But those sites exist, have a healthy customer base, and those customers seem to be benefiting from spun content. Will Googlebot finally start finding and devaluing these sites that try to rank using "over optimization" strategies, both on page and off page? Only time will tell.