The Google Over-Optimization Penalty: Why SEOs Shouldn’t Worry About It

Relax. Quality SEOs Don’t Need to Worry.

The web community is all abuzz with the news that Google is planning to penalize (in some way) sites that are “overly-optimized” for search engines. As any SEO blog will tell you, Matt Cutts of Google Web Spam fame, revealed at SXSW that Google has been working on a way to penalize sites that are too optimized for search. They plan to roll this out in the coming month(s).

As a result of this announcement, my Twitter feed is flooded with “Hold the phone SEOs. Your day is done!”. While I’m not by any means going to ignore any change in Google’s algorithms and web spam systems, I don’t believe the new Google over-optimization penalty is a concern for quality SEOs. Yes, “quality” SEOs. You can call that “whitehat” if you want.

Basically, Cutts said that this change is intended to level the playing field for sites that are creating top quality content, but who may not have the best understanding of SEO. I think that’s great. He also said that this new change will look at things like “too many keywords on a page”, sites that “exchange way too many links”, or “go well beyond what you would normally expect”.

I’ve always believed that optimizing a site for organic search is best accomplished when the progress is…organic, just with SEO strategy behind it. I know a lot of SEOs out there still focus on “over-optimization” tactics like manually acquiring links (either one-way or exchanges), getting their site listed in directories, and making sure their content has a precise keyword-density. Quite frankly though, SEO is (and has to be) much more than that. And by more, I mean less. Less tactical optimization and more strategic direction. My work at SwellPath focuses on developing SEO strategies to make sites more relevant to their target audience, making sure the site is as search-accessible andĀ digestibleĀ as possible, and then getting the site’s quality content out on the web.

Spending hours and hours looking for link exchanges isn’t a good use of time, keyword stuffing your content leads to a bad user experience, and designing your sites for search bots detracts from your brand. This the over-optimization that I believe Matt Cutts is hinting at penalizing. I think that quality-focused SEOs, who know that the fundamental pillars of SEO continue to be relatively unchanging over time, have nothing to fear from the “over-optimization” penalty.

Rant. Done.