For those of you that do not know, Google announced recently that they would be going after over aggressive SEO tactics. On April 24th Google officially rolled up the Penguin update. This is by far one of the most aggressive stances on SEO we have seen. Forums and blogs have been alive with chatter from website owners who have been getting nasty emails from Google in their Webmaster tools accounts. Many are seeing their website traffic shrink by 50% threatening their very existence.

Now ask any seasoned SEOs and they will tell you that Google has been making these threats for years now with very little action. This has changed dramatically in the last couple years as the web spam team at Google has been hard at work adding ton’s of updates meant to clean up low quality sites and content farms. The web has been ablaze recommendations of how to avoid getting dinged with the over-optimization penalty. After last week it became painfully clear that nobody is safe from these changes after Seer Interactive received a penalty. These guys are a top-notch firm and their owner (Will Reynolds) is a constant speaker on SEO in conferences across the country. These guys are the definition of ethical SEO. Seer’s recent blog post was very humble in sharing their experiences with the rest of the SEO community. SEO professionals banded together to create awareness of the erroneous penalty and it was reversed within a day.

Although nobody can say for sure what exactly qualifies for an “over optimization penalty” several SEOs have stepped forward and proved some guidelines to follow. There are supposedly hundreds of factors that can trigger this penalty but here are a few things to look out for:

Excessive keyword usage

This is very commonly found in both title tags, meta descriptions and body content alike. Each page should target around 2-3 keywords tops and used be used appropriately throughout your website in conjunction with quality content. Write for people, not search engines and it’s important that understand that first page rankings are nothing without quality engaging content behind it.

Overused HTML elements

Overusing H1 tags as well as alt tags are an easy way for search engines to gauge over excessive tactics. Think is a how newspapers use heading on their stories. There is only one main heading used to describe the content. It should entice people to read through the article. Smaller heading attributes like H2 and H3 headings can be used sparingly to keep interest and attribute to the natural flow of the content.

Duplicate or weak content

Pulling in content from other sites, or respinning existing content is something that is pretty easy for Google to spot. Make sure your content is written to engage and convert your site visitors. Give your website a value proposition by offering unique content that gives the users something useful. Consider adding other forms of content such as video, whitepapers or visual aids like infographics. Please, Please, Please – Don’t dump a bulleting list of keywords on your page just to try and obtain a presence for these keywords. How does this help anybody?

Overaggressive internal linking structures

I see this all the time and it is so easy to avoid. Overaggressive internal linking schemes can include a singular anchor text throughout your site linking to your home page. Site-wide footer links targeting specific keywords are also a considered spammy and pretty useless to the end user. Internally link your content where it makes sense and avoid linking multiple links on a page to the same page targeting the same anchor text.

Excessive or “un-natural” backlink profile

Phew! Where do I start? Let’s start with bluntly obvious – Stay away from Paid links, links from spammy sites, blog networks, automated linking programs, link farms, reciprocal linking schemes and completely irrelevant sites. I always tell clients that link building should look like we were never there. Nothing stands out more that a backlink profile that goes from 100 links to 1000000 links in 6 months and then stops. Make link building a part of your overall web marketing campaign. Put your PR and social outlets to work for you cultivating valuable backlinks and social signals. This is the new SEO and it’s time to face the facts.

It’s important as search changes that you evaluate your SEO strategies to change with the times. Make sure you keep one eye open to the news in the industry and know when to adjust. There is also something to be said for a holistic, sustainable approach to SEO that is more about user experience and quality over cheap tricks and spammy tactics. Every situation is different and my only advise is to make sure you have a seasoned guide to walk you through the jungle that is modern SEO.