Well the last week or two were rather interesting considering that most of the online community was talking about over-optimization penalty, negative SEO and outing. All that became a bit clearer after Google announced their webspam update, or now officially called Penguin update.

Penguin update was started on the 24th April and it’s now finished, so if you were hit your probably can already feel the results, to make things more confusing Panda 3.5 started on April 19th, so that may be the reason for the drop as well. Understand one thing, Panda update looks for user experience, so it will drop bad pages, thin content and similar from the serp, while Penguin update is going after spam, onsite spam like keyword stuffing and cloaking as well as offsite like link schemes and paid links. Danny just did a great article on Search Engine Land about recovering from Penguin, so check it out.

So the presumable over-optimization penalty that caught the eye of most webmasters was in fact Penguin webspam update, but instead of focusing on over optimization and nitpick about it, it targets outright spam according to Google. Before the update was announced we started a survey to see what the community think will be the greatest negative SEO factors for the over optimization penalty, that now relates to the new update. But not just the new update, it relates to Panda and general search quality as well as the quality of your website in general.

The negative factors we included in the survey can fall under many updates, we added them because we felt that Google may develop a new algo that will refocus on some of the older ones in a stricter manner, it turns out we were partially right. Some of the factors are very old, but Google is not tolerating them any more. So let’s talk about the results we gathered, first things first, I want to thank everybody that participated in the survey, a total of 71 people. Some of them I know because we talked afterwards and I had a discussion on Google+ with a few prominent SEOs, so thank you all.

Results:

So this is the sum of all answers we gathered, there were some useful comments to as well. The least negative factors seem to be weak social vs links ratio and misuse of rich snippets, and I was quite surprised by the later. In my mind that is going to be a very negative factor as we already spotted a great number of websites misusing rich snippets to gain higher rankings in the serp and Google noted them as well. The winners of the negative factors were quite obvious, overuse of exact match anchor text, too many link exchanges, links from other shady websites and too many links from paid sources.

Well, in truth, all of these may be negative SEO factors, but people have different opinions. I separated the results of people who were kind enough to leave their comments and add to the survey, as I mentioned I know most of them and they are quite known in out industry, so here are their results.

A bit different than the overall results, let’s compare the two and see what the difference is.

Now this is quite the difference. Blue ones are the overall results, and red ones are the results of people who added their thoughts. You can see that most of the factors included have higher value, especially the misuse of rich snippets. But other factors like links from shady websites and links from paid sources, as well as thin and similar content.

Now this gives us a heads up, but you shouldn’t take the results for granted, some of these may not be negative factors, some may be higher and lower in terms of importance, we probably missed a few. But generally speaking these are the things you must take care of or stay away from, especially if you have suffered a ranking drop or have been removed from the serp in total.

A quick reminder, Penguin update is not a penalty, it is just like Panda update, an update of their algorithm that targets specific things, so again, it is not a penalty. A such you can’t just submit a reconsideration request, but Google did come through as they published a form you can fill out if you believe you were wrongly damaged by Penguin update.