Google is preparing to crack down on websites that are “overusing” search engine optimisation techniques, in order to level the playing field between sites that use these methods and others that rely on using fresh, relevant content.
The comments have sparked more debate over what exactly causes websites to be ranked higher in Google’s results – a subject that continues to elude many SMEs – and experts say they should be ready.
“Over the past few years there have been more techniques appearing that have been about the math rather than about what Google is trying to achieve,” says StewArt Media chief executive Jim Stewart.
“And that’s what they’re trying to change here.”
Google’s Matt Cutts, part of the search quality group, said at a panel the company will attempt to “level the playing field”.
"We try to make the GoogleBot smarter, try to make our relevance more adaptive, so that if people don't do SEO we handle that,” he said, according to Search Engine Land.
“And we are also looking at the people who abuse it, who put too many keywords on a page, exchange way too many links, or whatever else they are doing to go beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now," Cutts said.
Cutts also hinted these changes could be introduced within the next few weeks, or within a month. But other than that, there’s no further information.
While the lack of details may be alarming, Stewart says businesses that are working on fresh, relevant content shouldn’t be too worried about their rankings.
“What Google is talking about here is those sites that work on formulas, using metrics like the percentage of keyword density rather than just focusing on how relevant they can be.”
Stewart says sites that are using a significant amount of backlinks are going to be affected, especially if those links are from low-quality sites.
“Originally having a link to your site was a ‘vote’ for your page, but if you’re buying backlinks and putting them on less relevant sites, then Google is going to have to crack down.”
“I’ve come across plenty of pages on a site that have backlinks, and yet have no relevant content. What Matt Cutts is saying is that they’re aware of what’s happening there and there will be some changes.”
Stewart says businesses that are focusing on reasonable SEO techniques should be fine, and won’t have to change anything. It’s those sites that are going above and beyond what it is reasonable that will be targeted.
“If you were one of these companies a few years ago that were using these techniques, and you haven’t updated them, you might find you’re in for a change.”