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The Google Penguin Over Optimization Penalty

by Brian Greenberg on April 26, 2012

in General

What is the Google Penguin Over Optimization Update?

Google has been trying to rid their search engine of low quality websites considered spam since it’s inception.  People have also been trying to manipulate the Google search results for years.  This has produced many low quality sites to rank on the top pages of Google, and hindered the ability for quality sites to rank, as quality sites have to constantly compete with those that use black hat seo strategies.  The biggest culprit in recent days have to do with keyword rich anchor text.  Producing low quality incoming links has produced incredibly positive results for web businesses, and has given rise to low quality content distribution networks.  Examples of these are:

  • blog networks
  • blog carnivals
  • 3 way link building schemes
  • article spinning networks

With the use of the above tactics, websites are able to produce hundreds, if not thousands of in content keyword rich anchor text links pointing to their domains.  And it worked!

With the Panda algorithm updates, many of these networks have been identified and de-indexed by google.  This is a good thing!

If you were participating in producing low quality content on any of these networks, you most likely have seen large decreases in your rankings over the past few months.  It appears that Google has not only devalued the links from these networks, but have also implemented a penalty to those sites that have used them.

If you have seen a large decrease in you rankings in the past few days (starting around April 23rd 2012) due to the new Google Penguin Over Optimization Update, then I would take a close look at the anchor text distribution for your website.

I use seomoz’s Open Site Explorer (http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/) to see this.

My site http://www.seo-services.com has seen a large decrease in rankings from this Over Optimization Penalty, and I believe it is due to my anchor text distribution.

If your site has too high a percentage of incoming anchor text as your keywords… I believe a flag has gone off in Google, and your site will be penalized for Over Optimization.

In my particular case, I have a strong issue with this.  I have an Exact Match Domain, which means the name of my site (SEO Services) is my main keyword.  Many sites with exact match domains (EMD) have been hurt by this penalty.

Exactly what the limits are to have this Penguin Over Optimization Penalty flag your site is unknown… if I had to make a guess, I would say if over 25% of your incoming links are for one of your keywords, this would set the flag to the Google Algorithm.

I have looked at many of the websites that now rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords, and have noticed that the highest used anchor text was either:

  1. The Company Name
  2. The Site’s Url
  3. Some other anchor text like “click here”, “visit the site”, etc.
  4. Partial match keyword anchor text that is very evenly distributed
Historically Google has initially been very harsh when rolling out a new algorithm change, turning the dial all the way to 10 (on a scale of 1-10), but the algorithm has always scaled back and settled somewhere around 6 on the dial of harshness.
I do believe Google will adjust this algorithm in the near future as they get feedback from the internet community.  The main issue I see it that too many quality sites have been flagged and punished by this update, and too many low quality sites are now ranking on the first page.  This will bring down the quality of the searches, and Google will most likely adjust their penalty.  So be patient until the dust settles, which could be up to a few months.

How Has Penguin Changed Online Marketing?

Thankfully, clients of SEO Services have done pretty well during this update, as we run a white hat seo company that focuses on quality content creation, social media, and producing high converting valuable sites for our clients… but there have been many great websites wiped off of the top 5 pages of Google due to this recent penalty.


Moving forward SEO needs to focus on:
  1. Producing high quality content, both on and off-site
  2. Building a social media community using an on-site blog, facebook, twitter, facebook, and Google Plus
  3. Collecting reviews and positive feedback from social networks, review sites, and product and site reviews.
  4. Displaying customer feedback to the engines using micro data in the form of  rich snippets
  5. Building quality websites that produce low bounce rates, high page views, and long time on site statistics
  6. Have your site produce successful searches (searches where a visitor does a search, goes to your website, finds what they were looking for, and does not do another search).
Less Focus on Anchor Text
In my opinion, anchor text is the major issue in the Over Optimization Update.  This really caused problems, since even sites that were producing great content, were including keyword anchor text links back to their site from within their great content.  Many white hat seo’s thought they were safe since we were doing exactly what Google told us to do… but the winners in this latest update were those that ignored anchor text.  So produce great content, but don’t include too many keyword rich anchor text.  The links still help, but the anchor text can hurt.

Why the New Google Penguin Over Optimization Update Needs to be Changed

Quality websites welcome the fact that Google is trying to weed low quality spam sites from the search results, but they included a penalty associated with this latest update that has caused high quality sites to disappear.
Successful websites invest in SEO.  If they invested in producing a quality site and quality content, they most likely included keyword anchor text in their content too.


Google should just devalue the weight of anchor text, rather than penalize it.  This would be great for everyone in my opinion.
I read a great post by Philip Nikolayev, PhD located here
It is a long read, but if you have been hit by this update, it is comforting to read this, and gives a persuasive argument as to why this update needs to be changed.


More weight should be given to sites with strong user behavior statistics.  
If a site produces content that users like, continually produces successful searches, quality reviews, low bounce rates, and high page views, the site should be protected from being arbitrarily penalized.  The fact that so many great websites were hurt by this update is disturbing, and will ultimately deprive Google searchers from great search results.
If users are subjected to low quality sites on the first page of Google, and the quality websites are buried on page 9, people will not only we upset and frustrated, but they will start to use Bing, or other Google alternatives.  When Google starts to see their logs producing poor search experiences by users, they will adjust, like they always have.

What to do Now?

  • Less focus on Keyword Anchor Text.  The incoming links still help, but using keyword anchor text needs to be kept in check.  Too many incoming links with exact anchor text can trigger the Over Optimization Penalty.
  • Keep producing great content (both on site, and off site)
  • Focus on social media… building a community, and producing helpful fresh content to your customers
  • Be Patient.  Google will make the necessary changes to keep their search results the best in the industry.  If you conducted yourself with reputable marketing tactics… producing a great website, user experience, and great content, your rankings will come back.
Please provide your feedback in the comments section.
I would love to know if you agree that the main factor causing this Over Optimization Penalty is anchor text distribution.
Do your own testing on your site, and the sites that are now on the first page of google regarding their incoming anchor text
How can we band together to voice our opinion about the damage this update has done to quality websites?




About Brian Greenberg

Brian Greenberg has written 9 posts in this blog.

Brian has been a leader in the SEO community since 2001. He has built over 50 websites himself, and has done SEO marketing for hundreds of websites. Brian is the founder of SEO Services Internet Marketing, LLC, and also owns and operates numerous successful online businesses in various industries. Brian is a contributor to SeoChat Forum, a DMOZ editor, and has a resume of proven seo results that includes some of the most competitive industries on the Internet. Brian holds a Marketing, Business Administration, and Berger Entrepreneurship Degree from the University of Arizona.

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