Google Levels the Playing Field, Penalizes Over-Optimization

At the SWSW conference in Austin, Texas Google’s Matt Cutts announced the launch of another caveat to Google’s search algorithms. Google will now penalize sites that over-optimize to give sites with better created genuine content a better rank and drive organic search traffic and conversions.

Most anyone that has searched for their site in search results with their best keyword or phrase can pick out a website that doesn’t belong with the lot. These are the sites that have great SEO but very poor content. These sites are usually on the low-end of design and function. And usually have a keyword domain, keyword rich internal linking, and optimized title tags and body content. We can spot them because Google had not yet recognized the site has little value in content and is only ranking high based on SEO. This new penalty seeks to give the advantage to high content value sites and less on excessive SEO sites.

Over-Optimization PenaltyHow do you over-optimize?

Since Google keeps their search algorithms secret they will not disclose what “over-optimization” entails. Curtis did state “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 more level”. You can read the transcribed comments on the penalty from the SXSW conference here: “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!”.
For the most part the average site owner will not be penalized and the extremist will. Here are some ways you can err on the side of caution.

1. Keep your site name specific. Avoid generic keywords promoting the sites purpose like If you can make your domain name aligned with your brand and niche market.
2. Actually call your homepage Home. Google will still rank your site for that keyword regardless of the fact you title your page with it.
3. Don’t regurgitate a keyword by linking it back to the home page multiple times. At one time this was beneficial but now it will look spammy. You can use this tactic just too much of a good thing will get you red flagged.
4. Don’t link a page to itself. This is old SEO and Online Marketing and redundancy will not help your website anymore and it may even hurt it.

Google really wants to reward created content that is valuable and genuinely deserving of the Google search ranking. Cutts commented on the update, “Normally, we don’t pre-announce changes, but this is something we’ve been working on in the last few months, and hopefully in the next couple months or so, or you know, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it”. They rarely pre-announce things like this before they are ready but given the huge venue and opportunity it is to unveil something at SXSW it seems appropriate.


Image credits go to Sura Nualpradid (

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Eric Wagner

Eric is a CEO with a background in marketing and search engine optimization specialist (SEO). In his free time, Eric enjoys exercise, gardening, technology, a good book, and spending time with family and friends.

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