This is the third and final post in this series. If you have not yet had a chance to read Part 1 or Part 2 we urge you to do so! You don’t need to in order to enjoy this post, they just have lots of good information in them.
Sadly there is more confusion than certainty out there regarding exactly what major search engines (like Google) want us to do to our websites. We want to, maybe even need to rank well, but there is always the worry that something we are doing to help rank our sites will not be taken kindly. Yes, guidelines exist like Google’s Webmaster Guidelines to tell us some things that we should and should not do, but there is seldom any concrete word given either way. Because of this it is up to us to learn all that we can about safely promoting our websites, take all advice and instruction with a grain of salt, and use our good judgement when it comes to getting the job done.
Trouble with General Things
Sometimes there are things that don’t really fall into any one category, but are instead general or site-wide problems that could get your site in trouble and/or earn a penalty.
No hidden items – Whether it is text, links, or other bits of code or content, you don’t want to be caught trying to hide anything. Search engines take a dim view to things being visible to them that are not visible to human visitors. In the past text (often massive lists of keywords) was placed against a same-color background to hide it from people; in the same vein, CSS was used to hide text and/or links by placing them off to the side far beyond the sight of a person.
Forget cloaking, doorway pages, and redirects – There are just some things that we don’t do anymore, and these are some of them. Not only are they frustrating and deceptive for human users, but they also deceive search engines, and as you’ve probably guessed, they do not like to be duped.
It is pretty easy to avoid cloaking; just don’t serve up different content for search engines than you do for human viewers. Geo-targeting and conditional content are in a whole different league and are just fine, so don’t worry too much about them! The same principle applies to redirects. There are different types of redirects, and some of them are very useful and legitimate. It is when they become “conditional” that problems tend to develop. Just make sure search engines and users are seeing the same things and you should be in the clear.
Now there is a difference between squeeze pages / landing pages for marketing purposes and good-ol-fashioned doorway pages. Doorway pages are meant to stand alone and simply be there for the purpose of drawing in search engine traffic to your main website. Squeeze pages are pages intended to capture leads for marketing purposes and like landing pages are definitely a part of your main website. “Landing Page” is a term that can refer to any page of your website, i.e. the page a visitor “lands on” after clicking an ad for your business.
Avoid excessive site down time – Some of your site’s inevitable downtime is not going to be your fault. It’s actually likely that little of it will be if you are like most site owners. The trouble with a lot of down time comes when Google interprets it as meaning that you are not serving the needs of the public at large, and you may have a penalty issued for it.
Have too much focus on advertisements – Too many ads or just a few really big ads can spell trouble for your website. Google sees them as something that is in the way of your actual content, especially if the ads are one of the first things on your page.
In short, you don’t want to be seen as trying to hard (and thus being over-optimized) or trying to cheat the system in some way. The internet is a big place, but Google is doing its best to investigate every little corner of it. While one of these things might not get your site in trouble today, there is no telling what tomorrow might bring.
Google Over Optimization Penalty – SEO Dojo 100
Some interesting perspective on the “Over-optimization Penalty” as it is known today.
Keep your head up, your nose clean, and don’t try to game the system. You see, that only works if the system stays the same…but it doesn’t. The next big algorithm update could be right around the corner. So don’t be reactive, be proactive, and protect your site from potential penalties by doing all the right stuff.
What do you think about these possible penalty causes?