Too Much SEO? Google’s Working On An “Over-Optimization” Penalty For That

From Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land…

Google’s Matt Cutts announced that Google is working on a search ranking penalty for sites that are “over-optimized” or “overly SEO’ed.”

Matt announced this during a panel Search Engine Land’s Editor-In-Chief, Danny Sullivan and Microsoft’s Senior Product Marketing Manager of Bing at SXSW named Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!. The audio for the session has been published where I learned that Google has been working on a new penalty that targets site’s that overly optimize for search engines for the past few months.

Matt Cutts said the new over optimization penalty will be introduced into the search results in the upcoming month or next few weeks. The purpose is to “level the playing field,” Cutts said. To give sites that have great content a better shot at ranking above sites that have content that is not as great but do a better job with SEO.

Here is the audio clip, you can find Matt saying this about 1/3rd the way in. (Note: We’ve expanded it from what we originally posted,

Here is the transcription (note: we’ve expanded this from what we originally posted, based on Rob Snell’s transcription of the entire session):

The way that I often think about SEO is that it’s like a coach. It’s someone who helps you figure out how to present yourself better. In an ideal world, though, you wouldn’t have to think about presenting yourself and whether search engines can crawl your website, because they’d just be so good that they can figure out how to call through the Flash, how to crawl through the forums, how to crawl through the JavaScript, how to crawl through whatever it is.

And, for the most part, most search engines have made a lot of progress on being able to crawl though that richer content.

Now, what’s interesting about your question is you went a little bit deeper and you said, “Well, what about all the people who are sort of optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO?” And, uh, normally we don’t sort of pre-announce changes, but there is something that we’ve been working on in the last few months. And hopefully, in the next couple months or so, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it.

And the idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit. So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.

And so that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the web site, uh Google Bot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO, we handle that, and then we also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area. So that is something where we continue to pay attention and we continue to work on it, and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now.

This is the latest penalty related algorithm Google is working on since releasing the Pages With Too Many Ads “Above The Fold” Now Penalized By Google’s “Page Layout” Algorithm.

We reached out to Google about the new over optimization penalty but Google told us they have nothing to say at this present time. Maybe we’ll hear more when Cutts speaks during the “You&A With Matt” session at our upcoming SMX Advanced show in Seattle this June.

Postscript From Danny Sullivan: See my follow-up analysis on the news here, Is Google’s “Over Optimization Penalty” Its “Jump The Shark” Moment In Web Search?

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Mike Corso

Greetings! I'm an SEO Specialist at Gartner in Stamford CT and an original Web Viking. I've been running Cool Site of the Day since 1998 and continue to be amazed at what people publish. Have a cool site or app? Click on the 'submit your site' link at top.

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