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Google Penalties for “Over Optimization” in the Works

Google SEO guru Matt Cutts

Will the next Panda update from Google include a penalty for over optimization? That seemed to be the message from Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team in a panel discussion at the South by Southwest Conference in Austin, Texas this weekend.

At a panel discussion titled, Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better! Cutts hinted that a penalty for “too much SEO” is in the works and could be implemented within a few weeks or months. The idea behind the penalty is to give sites with great content an edge over sites that are merely good at optimization.

Google’s Oracle

Mention of the new penalties came in response to a question about how mom and pop sites could compete with companies spending thousands of dollar on SEO. Cutts responded by saying that in a perfect world, webmasters wouldn’t need SEO.

He then went on to say that while he doesn’t normally pre-announce changes, Google engineers are indeed working on changes that will detect “too much SEO.”

How much is too much SEO? In true Google was sort of vague, but he did specifically mention sites that, “use too many keywords,” or, “exchange way too many links.” What that means in terms of actual numbers is anybody’s guess.

Cutts has addressed the question of over-optimization in the past and has said that optimization is sometimes, “a euphemism for ‘kind of spammy.”

Not Really Surprising

Given the direction of previous Panda updates and other directives from Google, an over-optimization penalty isn’t really surprising. The search engine giant has been sounding a drum beat about quality content for months now.

Google’s ideal web is a place where the top ranked page is the page with the most relevant content. In that regard, Google seems more benevolent than oppressive, but that’s not how the SEO world is likely to see this latest twist from Google.

Still, when Cutts talks, the SEO world listens and when he mentions a penalty for over optimization chances are he’s not just shooting the breeze.

Do you think that a penalty for over optimization is a good idea? Share your opinion with us on our Search Engine Optimization Forum.