There is no such thing as over optimisation

I hear it over and over again – ‘Is our site over-optimised?’, ‘have we triggered an over-optimisation penalty?’, no, because there’s no such thing.

The very definition of ‘optimisation’ means that something cannot be over optimised.

What they actually mean is ‘have I spammed the hell out of my own website?’

Often when a page has a unusually high keyword density (I don’t believe in such a crude way of measuring keyword content, but it works here) you can very easily tell that it has been written primarily for search engines, humans second.  My thinking is if a page reads badly due to a spammy writing style, Google (in particular) will very easily pick up on this and rank the page accordingly.

So, the point I was making is that ‘over optimisation’ really means keyword stuffing / spamming, and that a page will never be penalised for being optimised, only for being spammy.

I love Sphinn

I do. It’s great. Since it’s launch I have been introduced to so many great articles on great blogs that I have never even heard of, never mind subscribed to. In fact, of late my attention has been drawn very much away from my RSS subscriptions and more towards the popular posts of the day on Sphinn. It is essentially a user friendly, user controlled version of the searchengineland daily searchcast, plus a whole load of gems from relatively unknown search engine enthusiasts that otherwise wouldn’t have reached the masses. Looking at the home page content today, just some of the great reads are:

That is just a selection of articles I ended up reading in full, fom the Sphinn homepage this evening. Of those sites, 6 I had never even heard of and 8 I didn’t have an RSS subscription to. That really emphasises the power and usefullness of Sphinn to anyone in the search industry

It’s not just about the varied, great quality content – it’s also about the lack of spam, lack of childish ‘contributors’ (*cough* digg *cough*) and the fact that those using it are people genuinley interested in the SEM industry and it’s daily developments.

I just hope it’s popularity won’t be it’s downfall. If it becomes too popular it will become filled with ‘noise’, digg style. That is, below average content ’spamming’ its way to the top in an attempt to gain traffic and ultimately links. That, along with a bunch of left wing Ubuntu lovers waiting to flame anyone not in their select group of virtual geek friends is the reason why I haven’t visited Digg for weeks, if not months. I really hope the same doesn’t happen to you.

Text Link Ads – the Google Hypocrisy

The now infamous SES San Jose session on paid links this summer sparked a lot of debate, discussion, agreement and disagreement about its rights and wrongs. To familiarise yourself with the whole debate, the best round up / commentary was probably the one by SEOmoz. If you read further into the surrounding coverage you will hear Michael Gray (aka graywolf)’s presentation being mentioned a lot (he was on the panel making Matt Cutts cringe). That, for your perusal can be found over at (definitely worth a read).

This post however, is not about me having my 2 pence worth on whether paid links are right / wrong, what should be done about them etc. – I have my own views on that which I will talk about separately. I wanted to highlight a point that was touched upon in graywolf’s presentation about a Google decision which completely undermines their own link buying / selling stance.

So, you shouldn’t buy links, sell links, link schemes are bad yada yada yada. Now, anyone who has been involved in SEO in the past couple of years will have heard of – probably the biggest text link broker around. I.e. a company who profits from helping many websites break Google’s guidelines. You would think therefore, that Google wouldn’t allow this to happen:

Yep, you got it, Google allowing them (and lots of similar companies) to advertise their (webmaster-guideline-contravening) services via PPC. Surely if the impact of paid links on Google SERP’s were that much of an issue (which they most definitely are), Google should not allow such blatant advertising of these services. Conflict of interests on Google’s part? Without a doubt.

An additional point worth noting is that searches for “textlinkads”, “text-link-ads”, and any other brand (but not domain) specific searches won’t show until way down page 2, if not further at present (this used to be worse – they appeared to be suffering a minus 50 penalty until recently – i.e. the best possible position for any search term is 51).

Now I haven’t looked in detail as to what might have caused that (i.e. if there were any shady SEO tactics going on) but the cynic in me says its part of their crackdown on the paid links industry. Funny though, how they have conveniently forgotten to employ a similar crackdown on such services via adwords ads, meaning that Text Link Ads now have to pay for all their Google traffic. Looks like revenue was the winner, ethics the loser in this internal battle. Hmmm…..


Well, I was impressed.  Sure enough, it all worked fine and dandy.  Some may argue that the problem shouldn’t have occurred in the first place, but it did, it was acknowledged and it was fixed.

For any of you having similar problems, the solution (without requiring to contact support) is to add the following to your blog’s .htaccess file:

Simple as that.  Considering my hosting only costs just under £100 per year for a reseller account, I wasn’t holding out for any sort of response – let alone such a speedy, effective one.  I have only recently been using EUKhost, but  so far so good and highly recommended!

The beginning of the end for directories?

There is a very interesting discussion going on over at Sphinn at the moment after an abundance of popular directories (60+) apparently no longer appearing for their brand names in Google.

After wildly accusing Rand Fishkin of giving Matt Cutts a backhander to ‘hand job’ the directories out of the results (seriously, wtf?!) the submitter of the story and others not following the Sphinn etiquette they were all put in their place by Danny Sullivan, and an interesting discussion unfolds.

Have they suffered a manual penalty or have they just suffered at the hands of the algorithm?

I’m going with the latter. It makes sense. Think about it – what is a directory… really? A link farm? A free for all? Essentially, yes. Ok, maybe that’s a bit extreme, and it’s not fair to tarnish all directories with the same brush, but I’ve never really been convinced by directories being classed as ‘authoritative’ websites because they go through a ‘human editorial’ process. My experience of paid directories has been that if you’re willing to pay, you’re in (apart from the typical pills, porn, blah blah blah). Sure, a human review takes place but it is more likely a review of their Paypal account than of the website submitted. The only exceptions to this rule (as I have found out to my cost) seem to be the Yahoo directory and who will actually reject your submission (and keep your money!) if your site doesn’t exactly meet their guidelines. Good on them!

Why shouldn’t Google punish directories for selling links? We know Google can algorithmically remove the ability of pages to pass Pagerank if they are known to be selling links (that aren’t nofollowed, JavaScripted, robots txt excluded etc), so why should directories be any different? They shouldn’t, and apparently, now a lot of them aren’t

So what will it mean?

Hopefully this will also mean a reduction of threads at DP and the like, that typically go along the lines of “Quick – First 10,000 people only – $5 featured listing on my same-as-every-other PHPld directory – newly installed on a PR2 domain which I bought for $1 to try and make some quick money!!”

Seriously though if directories are not ranking for their own brand or domain they are not going to be passing any link juice (I hate that phrase) to sites listed within. SEOers will, therefore, stop submitting to them and spend their money on other spammy link networks quality, relevant link sources.

Websites already listed in these directories, relying on their link juice (ugh) will likely see a slip, or in some cases a tumble down the SERPs. A good kick up the backside for their SEO team to be a bit more innovative with their link building campaigns IMO!

Maybe all directories will add link condoms (another phrase I despise!) to all their listings, and continue to make a good amount of money by selling the ‘direct traffic benefits’… Yeah right! How many referrals have your sites received directly from a directory? Did those visitors generate enough revenue for you to justify the $99 annual fee (or whatever it is) that you forked out? Thought not! Without the ability to positively manipulate the rankings of submitted sites, directories are nothing.