It's Live: Google Over Optimization Algorithm (3% Of Searches Affected)

Apr 25, 2012 • 9:09 am | comments (87) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google PageRank & Algorithm Updates

Google Over Optimization Bridge LogoAs expected the over optimization algorithm Google's Matt Cutts pre-announced a few weeks ago is now live according to the Google Search Blog.

Well, Google said it is rolling out now, but trust me, based on the volume of posts in the forums and complaints, it is indeed being rolled out and seen by webmasters.

Google is calling the update the "webspam algorithm update" according to Danny Sullivan Google told Danny:

I think 'over-optimization' wasn't the best description, because it blurred the distinction between white hat SEO and webspam. This change is targeted at webspam, not SEO, and we tried to make that fact more clear in the blog post.

Either way, Cutts explains somewhat of what this algorithm update targets. It seems to go after content spam, spun articles and keyword stuffing. Here are screen shot examples given by Cutts:

click for full size

Of course, content out there just for link spam:

click for full size

Google said it might not be able to see which types of sites would be affected by it by just glancing at the site. Google said to detect these sites it would require "deep analysis or expertise."

3% Of Queries Affected

While Panda impacted about 12% of search queries, this impacts about 3%. Cutts wrote:

For context, the initial Panda change affected about 12% of queries to a significant degree; this algorithm affects about 3.1% of queries in English to a degree that a regular user might notice. The change affects roughly 3% of queries in languages such as German, Chinese, and Arabic, but the impact is higher in more heavily-spammed languages. For example, 5% of Polish queries change to a degree that a regular user might notice.

There are tons of complaints in the ongoing WebmasterWorld thread and Google Webmaster Help forums of course.

Forum discussion at Google+, WebmasterWorld, DigitalPoint Forums, Cre8asite Forums and Google Webmaster Help.

Update: This is now named the Penguin Update.

Previous story: Google Webmaster Tools Drops Features



04/25/2012 01:22 pm

That's very good news for all.  Work hard to get the rank - that's be the moto.


04/25/2012 01:23 pm

I'm pretty sure that more that 3% of the queries are affected. People are reporting massive changes on all niches, and it seems quality doesn't surface on page 1. Probably we'll have to wait a few more days to see what remains in SERPs on page 1


04/25/2012 01:29 pm

Typo: "according to Danny Sullivan who told Danny" I think it should be "according to Matt Cutts who told Danny"

Alex Genadinik

04/25/2012 01:38 pm

As someone who was penalized by Panda, I really feel for everyone who is going to get hurt by this update. People work thousands of hours to build up their website and their livelihood and it gets taken away just like this.  Very sad.   Does anyone think things would be different if Larry Page would not be at the helm? I think Matt Cutts just takes directions from higher up.  Anyone with thoughts on who is really to blame for the injustice to the small and medium sites?


04/25/2012 02:43 pm

I didn't build links.  I wrote all content myself.  I researched the subjects.  I put video.  I added pictures.  I purchased a top of the line WP theme for $150.  I kept the site updated.  I had Adsense and some affiliate links which I made full disclosure on. And now I'm nowhere to be found while a blogspot blog with 1 post copied from an Amazon review is on the first page. So to all the new people that want to get on their high horse about building a quality site, shut the hell up. 

Alex Genadinik

04/25/2012 03:18 pm

Sorry to hear that and yes, I think all the crap about "build a quality site" is a bunch of subjective BS.  Google is screwing the little guys left and right and that is the truth.


04/25/2012 03:35 pm

3% my butt. make that 30%!

Dave Fowler

04/25/2012 03:37 pm

Is it live, or is it going live? In yesterday's post Google announced that the new webspam algo would be launching "in the next few days". I appreciate that tales of its impact have started to appear almost immediately, and my commiserations to any innocent victims caught up by the changes, but I suspect we'll not have a clearer picture of any positive or negative impacts until the weekend at least. I'm at least relieved to read that this is more about hitting blatant webspam rather than SEO per se.

Barry Schwartz

04/25/2012 03:39 pm

Pretty sure it is live.

Jill Whalen

04/25/2012 03:52 pm

Go Google!  Bring on the crying and all the new lost traffic site audit business! 

Link Hunter

04/25/2012 03:59 pm

This is surely not only targeting spam but pushing Googles agenda. Its kind of sad that they need to use the excuse of webspam to make these changes. I've seen sites that haven't done any manual link building or use spam tactics in years get hit, so its a bit disingenuous to use the label of "webspam" with this update.


04/25/2012 04:25 pm

Hey the Internet isn't called "Google", so there are other marketing options. I myself don't rely on 100% of Google traffic simply because this is their website, and they can change rules at any given moment that can affect my business. After all, it belongs to them. If I were Google I wouldn't appreciate the webspam either. (I get enough spam myself because of my high rankings.) Two word of advice for website owners: 1. Do Not rely on one traffic source (Google) 2. Create unique written (non spinned) content


04/25/2012 04:41 pm

 I hope this in tongue in cheek. Rooting for the demise of others?

Jill Whalen

04/25/2012 04:43 pm

Not at all tongue in cheek. Rooting for the demise of crap SEO once and for all. 


04/25/2012 04:46 pm

 You are a moron

Michael Martinez

04/25/2012 05:12 pm

So, technically, I don't think I have to admit I was wrong, but for those people who want to believe that I was wrong, take this as an admission that I was wrong about an "over optimization penalty" (even though it's NOT an "over optimization penalty").

Barry Schwartz

04/25/2012 05:15 pm

Okay, you are wrong. :)


04/25/2012 05:24 pm

 You don't even do SEO, haven't even read these comments, and have zero idea what is actually going on in the serps. It's people like you, who just parrot nonsense and claim to have a clue about seo, that really grate people like me who actually do this day in and day out for money. FOAD.


04/25/2012 05:36 pm

How could you say that? A lot of white hate SEO's are also affected with these update. A legit business with quality content and no link building activity are also hit. Browse around and see what people are experiencing right now before making rather shallow opinion. Here's one for an example : Not to mention the SERP results for keywords that's just doesn't make any sense.


04/25/2012 05:53 pm

Don't be angry @b39bc64248e6f36a051491cd28edcd38:disqus , do the quality works and you/your money/your job will be fine ever. Thats it. Google is doing its part, you do yours.

Carlos Chacón l SEO

04/25/2012 05:56 pm

There are tons of  "content" using just for link spam... I hope Google can identify at least 50% of them! -Not sure if they can go over deeper and penalized some very *good* black hat techniques.

Mike Kalil

04/25/2012 05:57 pm

 I don't think the stuff they're targeting is typical SEO. It's spam.


04/25/2012 05:58 pm

 These 2 advice are very true. Thanks @ShanIMGreat:disqus

Barry Schwartz

04/25/2012 05:59 pm

We got a top list of those hit

John Britsios

04/25/2012 06:04 pm

I expressed my opinion about the "link Schemes" part of this algorithm on my G+ here From my observations, this was a huge failure for Google and I hope they will realize that soon. In my opinion the algo is still in Alpha phase and was not launch ready.


04/25/2012 06:07 pm

Yes exactly, Kris. My site which has made it through all of the previous Panda updates (due to the fact that it's high quality) just got hammered last night. This whole "build quality sites" thing is starting to piss me off. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that this latest update is going to be removed and things will go back to the way they were. I've seen very few positive comments on all the forums/blogs I've been to today. Looks like lots of people who worked hard to follow G's quality guidelines were hit hard.


04/25/2012 06:13 pm

Totally agree with Anon. This update has hurt a lot of legitimate people who rely on their online businesses to make a living. It's like firing hundreds (thousands?) of people with the flick of a switch. I know we're supposed to "diversify" our traffic, but that's kind of tough when G holds a monopoly on the search business. I don't think I could continue driving 4,000 visitors to my site everyday through Youtube or Facebook...unless I paid for that traffic, which I'm not about to do.

Scott Offord ★

04/25/2012 06:22 pm

I'm glad to see this change taking place and I'm happy to know all of my clients will be safe from any negative effect, because we don't employee these shoddy content writing, distribution, and linkbuilding practices.


04/25/2012 06:26 pm

Hi, I have been building my site up for a few years now and spent lots of time writing useful, unique content and today post of my pages have been hammered. I have tried to build a decent site within the rules and this is what happens. 2/3's of my traffic stripped over night and this might just be the start. seems many innocent sites have been hit

Marc LaClear

04/25/2012 06:39 pm

 But do your competitors?  Why can't they build links to your sites? This is the opposite of being "safe".

Greg Beddor

04/25/2012 06:50 pm

It's definitely live. Seeing changes all over the board yesterday and today.

John Britsios

04/25/2012 07:44 pm

 Scott those are great news and congrats. But just to clarify, none of my customers have been hit so far, since I obviously never been involved in any of those garbage strategies. Though I have a new customer who asked for my help because he was hit from an excessive toxic link building attack on the 27th of December 2011 and 12th of April 2012 done by a competitor. Be very happy that your customers have not been victims from such attacks.

Chuck Marino

04/25/2012 08:22 pm

You'll come back. Give it a few days to settle down. 


04/25/2012 09:08 pm

Your all idiots because your wasting time reading comments and forums looking for a simple answer to fix your site when you should be working.  GET BACK TO WORK!

Peter Sundstrom

04/25/2012 10:32 pm

 Looks like Google are already "tweaking" the results of the latest update. Many people have been commenting on how a blank Blogger page was ranking #1 for the term "make money online". As of today, that page is no longer ranking.

Duke Taber

04/25/2012 10:36 pm

None of this is going to work. The solution for Google search is not in tweaking the algorithm. It is the need for a new paradigm. The net has changed, Google must change or die a slow and agonizing death. I am not a SEO or Internet expert but I have seen these symptoms many times before.

Bill Zimmerman

04/25/2012 10:59 pm

 You don't a website, right?

Bill Zimmerman

04/25/2012 11:00 pm

Have you actually looked at any of the SERPs?


04/25/2012 11:22 pm

Three years ago while in law school, I built a website devoted to sharing information on family law in California. I know very little about SEO but I ranked high enough to draw potential clients from my efforts. I recently moved into an office relying on this traffic to begin my practice. After this update, my traffic via google dropped from 160 visitors per day to 5!  All the top rankings for California family law-related keywords are dominated by huge national websites which offer very shallow analysis and are basically useless to readers. Gone are the firm pages including my own which provided more detailed info specific to California law. This update may prevent web spam but it also affects people like me who know enough about the Internet to write articles on my area of expertise. The only paid links I have are placed are on legitimate law-related sites like BBB, yellowpages, yahoo directory, other lawyers, etc. It's a shame that my site which contains hundreds of hours of research and is as thorough as some treatises is hidden below loads of BS do-it-yourself hack job guides. Here's my next move which I'm sure was anticipated by google: I have to pay them for ads! Isn't that what this update is about? Again, I'm no expert but it seems clear as day that that is what's going on.

John S. Britsios

04/25/2012 11:26 pm

I have some new thoughts about this so called "Over-Optimization Algorithm". I am not convinced yet that  a new algorithm have been rolled out. From my observations, seems like Google was creating for a while a list of web sites who have inorganic or unnatural links pointing to their sites and they just pressed the button and all those sites tanked. The reason I make this assumption is, that I could not find any sites that have high keywords densities, duplicated or low quality content being tanked. But all sites I know that have been affected, are sites that have inorganic or unnatural links. Also for a while now Google was sending webmasters emails warning them about their bad links and were also advising them to inform Google in detail about their efforts to remove those links. If this was an algorithm, then how comes that webmasters should remove the links and contact Google about their efforts? Just thinking loud.


04/25/2012 11:45 pm

The problem is, what's the fix?


04/25/2012 11:53 pm

 I kind of laugh to myself when "expert" SEO's/webmasters come on here and tell people to stop crying or complaining then boast about how their website hasn't been hit as a result of their "skillz" and "hard work".   Well news for you, I can assure you, you are in the Google SPAM Updates radar (that's what I am calling it, a promoting "Google" Spam Update) if your are making any sort of money off of the Google ecosystem.  Because you are a flea going against a Goliath.  And best yet, you have become complacent with your 1 successful website that could be completely shutdown in one day because of a "rule" the Google Money God decides they want to change or personally mafia "hit" you with a manual review.  It has nothing to do with combating SPAM because very little of the most Spammy backlink profiles have been hit, and everything to do with increasing P R O F I T.  Don't get caught on the wrong end and most of all don't get complacent like I was.  


04/25/2012 11:56 pm

 You sir are a moron.


04/26/2012 12:48 am

3% of the SERPS? Try 30% of the SERPS. This was much, much bigger than Panda ever hoped to be. Not really sure how Matt Cutts can cover this up much longer... the results are seriously less relevant, and plain worse.


04/26/2012 01:49 am

 Amen brother Our business model employs 100% professional writers, provides actual user experiences and had only 1 affiliate link and well over 1000 posts of unique content on a 15 year old site.  This update killed off over 200 unique terms that we ranked for and now how lovely a site that is 3 months old and has only 2 total pages and best yet broken english from SE asia ranks better than our site on many terms is this fair.  Our site is nowhere to be found in top 6 pages I personally saw earnings drop a $1000 a day and traffic fall off by more than 60% - imagine that the exact amount that comes from google.....that is a big big hit.  BS on this not hitting legitimate sites.  We pays close to 25K a year in professionally trained copywriters that work for companies like P&G and Coke.  Among other costs in development and promotion in traditional print, and radio media. We build no links - they are given to us by strategic partners and we have a F-T person that is paid to remove bad links as they show up.  I hate Google!


04/26/2012 03:46 am

Finally the most awaited Over Optimization Penalty got Confirmed. Thanks for posting it ...  

Cutts Hater

04/26/2012 04:02 am

You have no idea you moron what's going on do you?  It's idiots like you that should have their websites removed from the Google Index

Cutts Hater

04/26/2012 04:15 am

Over the last few months Matt Cutts and his team have been out to massacre those who earn a living from Google traffic. The fact is that most of the people who do SEO on their sites take pride in their product (their website). The end user does not give a toss how it got ranked on page 1...they just want information. Often (especially since the first panda updates) people will go to great effort and polish their sites...the result? The searcher is happy, the webmaster is happy...therefore Google should be happy. Why don't these pricks come up with an algorithm that detects crap content? Who gives a **uck about links? No one should...all that matters is that the searcher leaves happy and educated. What we are seeing now is a degrading of the user experience, ugly, weak sites from the 1990's being 'resurrected' and us who strive to make a living from providing good content being shoved out of the frame. This is more about 'big brother' shafting Free Enterprise and trying to shove us back into Corporate Slavery.  It's also about Google making more money from their Adwords program.  


04/26/2012 05:09 am

I spent the last 3 years (full time) working to become the leader in my little niche. It wasn't easy a but through hard work and determination I slowly built my traffic up to 1,000 visitors per day, which at a 3% conversion rate has been sufficient enough to provide for my family. I have always gone above and beyond to take care of my customers and provide them with useful and meaningful rich content and information. This morning my world was turned upside down! I woke up to find out that Google took a crap on me and completely dropped me from their rankings. I am still ranked well in Yahoo/Bing but the traffic doesn't compare to Google. The problem I have with this "update" is how do I know what was wrong with my site? Google hasn't contacted me. I knew an update was coming but I thought I had nothing to worry about. I have NEVER used any type of black hat SEO techniques. How do I know what I need to do to repair my rankings? What exactly was I penalized for? How am I supposed to fix what I don't even know was upsetting to Google? Most concerning is how do I continue to support my family? This wasn't a side job or hobby of mine. This was my business! My life! I feel like I was just fired from a job for the first time in my life without any type of explanation! My website is, without a doubt, the most relevant, informative and user friendly site in my entire NICHE! Guaranteed! So if Google is indeed trying to improve their product for their customers, why in the heck was my site thrown out?


04/26/2012 05:40 am

LOL the Pay day loans site STILL ranks #3...!/tehseowner/status/195386132836515840 


04/26/2012 05:48 am

Hey Barry Happy independence day ( Israel is 64). Nothing is more important than having a strong and successful Israel. CheersZiv


04/26/2012 07:30 am

Wow, ya weirdo. Go Ron Paul 2012. We're from America, not Israel. Sorry, someone had to do it.

John Britsios

04/26/2012 07:47 am

Who would want SEO consultation from a spammer?


04/26/2012 08:41 am

Weirdo you. Who cares about Ron Paul and whoever you go for.


04/26/2012 09:23 am

It's probably accurate in terms of queries. However, this is aimed at the most heavily SEO'd results which are the queries that will generally have the highest volume which is the important metric. Again, evidence that Google is thinking like a programmer not as an end user.  Panda generally hit longer tailed but generally still trafficked terms that didn't merit individual linkbuilding. 

Herman Joseppe

04/26/2012 11:32 am

How can a site like which doesn't even open and give 403 error is on #1 page??

Herman Joseppe

04/26/2012 11:36 am

Isn't it an example of spam results? It ranks for keywords like mexico real estate, playa del carmen real estate and  many more! Can't Google even weed out such obvious spam 

Eliseo V

04/26/2012 11:52 am

I hope all those abnormal (mentioned below) results that are dominating the SERPs at this time disappear so we can all be convinced this update only weeds out those that "deserve" it....not very convincing so far.


04/26/2012 12:24 pm

How can recover penalized site or keyword ? which  is already in ranking before this over optimization update??


04/26/2012 12:55 pm

I would thank you million times, if you could give me a hint about whether Google will reconsider about the sites affected in their recent "Update Targeting Webspam In Search Results" in a shorter time or else they will not consider.

Tony Baker

04/26/2012 01:42 pm

This is the first time since April 2011 that I have been effected in a positive way from a Google Panda update. But with this latest change I am almost back to pre-panda levels. I've had a huge spike up in traffic since April 22 2012. Jumping for joy! :-)


04/26/2012 01:52 pm

I totally feel for you and so sorry.  The same thing happened to me. I have a 5 year old site that sells a product.....I do ALL white hat SEO and work hard to create the best company I can. We offer amazing products, great service and I have hundreds of helpful unique articles. I always decline guest posts that want to link to areas outside of my field, or link outside of the country I serve.  My keyword density is not spammy and I don't use linking companies.  I try and do everything by the rules without short cuts. Still I dropped from number 6 nation wide in a VERY competitive industry to 14. I wrote local pages for all over the country and they really got hit. San Diego went from 1 to 24. BUMMER!  Other terms went from 6 to not in the top 100! WHAT?   However,  we have another income from my husband's company.  I thought this morning how difficult it is to have an internet business as your main source of income.  Soon I am launching another site and we had hoped to go in this direction, but now I am wondering if that is a good idea to think of it as more than "extra money."   It is hard to say don't worry, but my instinct is that the results will bounce up and down this week  and then will QUICKLY stabilize within a week to a month at the latest. (My best guess)  Google CAN'T penalize so many people that didn't do anything wrong and get continued support. Last time this happened I did nothing and then it rebounded.  Good luck! 


04/26/2012 02:24 pm

And I quote:  because we don't employee (It is EMPLOY!) these shoddy content writing -- Hey Scott better brush up on your grammar: The next Google algorithm change might toll for thee. 


04/26/2012 02:26 pm

I have never known Michael Martinez to be wrong. About anything.


04/26/2012 02:35 pm

BTW - Scott: Since you provided the link I am amused to see you hitting the whole   "Milwaukee web design"...."Milwaukee SEO"...thing pretty hard at your site. The point being that what isn't spammy content to you may be spammy content to me or - worse - an algorithm with no ability to discern certain nuances. Don't be so quick to think that whoever got hit on this was 100% deserving. I doubt there's ever been an update from that Cutts & Pals that didn't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Brankica | Online Income

04/26/2012 03:04 pm

I think there has to be a major bug in this update, since yesterday some terrible sites are ranking, empty pages, scrapers etc, while I see a lot of amazing sites dropping to page 10 and beyond. I hope they fit it cause as a Google user I am not a happy camper not getting good results. 


04/26/2012 04:05 pm

Yes i agree something has gone wrong today with google, i am seeing tons of quality sites loosing rankings today. Not sure whats going on????

Fionn Downhill

04/26/2012 05:05 pm

Amen sister...

Fionn Downhill

04/26/2012 05:13 pm

John, except that removing the links still did not work and they sites still got hammered.  I do agree with you though that this has a lot more to do with links than OOP or major algo changes.

Fionn Downhill

04/26/2012 05:14 pm

Remove any bad links to your site including crappy directory listings and hope they find you.

John Britsios

04/26/2012 05:41 pm

What do you mean Jill?

Duke Taber

04/26/2012 07:01 pm

This is my thoughts on the future of Google search in a nutshell! 

Michael Martinez

04/26/2012 07:28 pm

I have known Michael Martinez to be wrong about many things. 


04/26/2012 07:31 pm

"Nothing is more important than having a strong and successful Israel" What?


04/26/2012 08:06 pm

From webmasterworld[dot]com/goog/4446081.htm "1) What is the year over year (quarterly is good too) increase in the population of customers using Adwords? 2) What is the average increase in spending for each customer using the Adwords platform in the same time period? When I see analysts talk about Google, they say something along the lines of "doing their magic" to get more clicks on their ads etc. thereby raising their profit. Food for thought about a Reuters article today covering the trial. "Google trial docs show plans for growth past search" In 2010, Google projected it would get 35 percent of its 2013 revenue outside its core search business. Obviously, they failed. Late 2010 is when Panda Started. "

Ken -

04/26/2012 09:55 pm

This doesn't make any sense, Matt Cutts is talking about stuff the industry has known probably since back in 2007. LOL it's hilarious how he mentions keyword stuffing, if they only updated this fix in this update then kill me now because I could've made a lot of money of the last couple years by keyword stuffing. This is just more useless info from Cutts in my opinion..


04/26/2012 10:10 pm

Probably i will become Matt Cutts hater

John Britsios

04/27/2012 12:43 am

A tip for the site owners who have been affected by the "Penguin" webspam algorithm update on April 24th, 2012, and you don't think they should have been affected Help Google, so they can help you too. Good luck!


04/27/2012 12:48 am

Jil, have you even researched whether the new google serp is better or not now after the so called webspam update before you open your mouth? There are more higher ranked spam in countless industries than ever before. Do a search for "python hosting" without quotes. This is just one example. All my spammy competitors now rank above me.

Brian Whitney

04/27/2012 03:39 am

Kansas Churches - nice #2 result - just what I want to see when I want to go to church. (not that there's anything wrong with it) ;)

Xristos Kostouros

04/27/2012 11:22 am

Please see our resent case study here. Google's actions admit negative seo.


05/02/2012 09:21 pm

He cares. And many others do as well. Your comment that "nothing is more important than have a strong and successful Israel" is your opinion, and you have the right to that. But without a strong America, there will no Israel. 

Robert Kinney

05/03/2012 02:08 am

Totally a sad sight to behold, number 1 in the SERPS are bad content sites. Way to go Cutts.

James Hobson

08/25/2012 07:30 pm

In my humble opinion, if Google really wants to "legitimize" the rankings they would post a definitive set of guidelines for web design and marketing. Without knowing exactly what Google wants or does not want, the individual is left to their own creativity in order to attempt to please the algorithms . . . and then Google changes rejects the success and tells you to try again (can you say girlfriend from hell?). Google certainly has the right to do as they please with their company and products, but these algorithm changes are not user friendly, and isn't it supposedly about improving the user experience?????


10/03/2012 06:06 am

Many business companies were being affected by the new implementation of Google to it's new algorithm and updates. But for sure this is for the good benefits to all of the website owners to have a secure campaign through seo. I know that Google already took an advantage about this update.


12/11/2012 01:18 pm

just give me brief idea that how much keywords i should stuff in one content and the limitations of description, keywords and title for on-page and off-page both.,.....pls

Click Whisperer

03/12/2013 06:47 pm

I'm not butthurt. I steer into the white when a hat looks grey. What's grey today will be either white or black tomorrow - so you better decide which side you're on.

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