In an effort to penalize evil webspammers and reward those who utilize their SEO powers for good, Google announced that it will be adding new anti-webspam measures to its search algorithm. The changes are expected to roll out over the next few days.

During testing, the company says, about 12 percent of all queries were affected to a significant degree. Google claims that only about 3 percent of search queries actually change in a way users would notice though.

Specifically under fire are websites who use a tactic known as keyword stuffing. This practice involves the overuse of a word and (or) related words and phrases on a single page. Sometimes, stuffed words are even hidden by HTML, CSS and JavaScript tricks but webmasters already know to be careful here as Google does punish some types of this behavior already. While the specifics of what Google's Panda algorithm looks for are kept top-secret, keyword stuffing can lead to readability issues (repetitive writing with poor flow) and even take the form of incomprehensible globs of keyword text thrown onto a page.

In addition to keyword stuffing, Google is also focusing on link schemes. For many years, link farms and other strategies have existed to game Google's PageRank system. Link farming has famously fueled a good number of googlebombs, a phenomenon that has reared its ugly head time and time again. More recently, there has been a shift from link farming to "like farming", a practice that leverages social media in the same way link farms leverage links.

Although Google has taken many steps to fight link farms and related link schemes in the past, unscrupulous website operators have continued cleverly working around the problem. For example, when Google began putting more weight on the relevancy of sites that are linked to and linked by third-party websites, link farms began breaking up their content into categories so they would appear to have a narrower focus to Google.

So what should website owners take home from the new changes?

  • Don't over-utilize keywords in such a way that it affects user readability
  • Avoid repeating yourself and creating patterns of text
  • Keep your most important content "above the fold" (as far upper left as possible)
  • Don't link to untrustworthy websites (eg. link farms)
  • Don't let untrustworthy websites link to you (eg. don't utilize link farm services)

Users can view Google's existing quality guidelines here.