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Google’s Over SEO Optimization Penalty

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Google’s Over SEO Optimization Penalty

Matt Cutts PenaltyIf you haven’t already heard, Google’s Matt Cutts and Bing’s Duane Forrester recently did a SXSW session with Danny Sullivan where they addressed questions from the audience. About 1/3 of the way into the audio though, Matt let slip a comment about an upcoming rankings change designed to target “Over Optimization” in an attempt to level the SEO playing field.

You can Listen to the audio here.

About 1/3 of the way in Matt says this:

What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

So what exactly is this new change?

Truthfully, nobody knows quite yet. Many are expecting Cutts to shed more light on this at SMX Advanced this summer however it’s quite likely that the change will happen well before then (if it hasn’t already happened.)

There’s a lot of speculation on the various SEO forums about what’s involved, and if I had to venture my own guess I’d say it probably has to do with ranking factor correlation. I know that’s broad but there’s several directions Google could go with this.

Matt mentions too many keywords on a page, but I would assume that Google is already pretty good at detecting things like keyword stuffing and extreme link building so there’s probably slighty more to it. But what?

I’ve written about my theory of sustainable SEO before, and if you’re coming to SMX Toronto I’ll be speaking about it in depth so I won’t go too much into it here. Basically, Google’s top priority is making sure search results are useful to the user. True SEO success comes when your site adopts that same goal. If you’re focusing on making your site add more value for users and doing so in a way that’s easily crawlable and shareable you should have no problems with this change. Sadly, many of us often forego usefulness in favor of quick results. That’s probably what this change is designed to catch.

So what could it be looking for? Well, remember when I said correlation? One thing they might be doing is comparing various ranking factors. If your site is gaining tons of links but nobody’s sharing it or tweeting about it then that’s probably not natural and might be a signal. That’s my guess.

Enough about my guess though…

What do you think it’s about?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What do you think this change is really about? Do you anticipate your sites benefiting from it?

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Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones

By day Ryan Jones works at Sapient where he runs a search strategy & analytics team. By night he’s either ... [Read full bio]

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