The SEO industry exists mostly because of Google. Whether we SEO professionals love or love to hate the search behemoth, we all have jobs because of Google. Even whispers and rumors of an algorithm update can have a major impact in the SEO world, because the way we do our jobs is directly influenced by how Google does theirs. So when Matt Cutts, head of Google’s search spam team, announces that Google is working on a tweak to the algorithm that will punish sites that are too optimized for SEO, everyone gets a little jumpy. Here is what Matt Cutts had to say about the pending algorithm update at a SXSW panel a few weeks ago;
… the idea basically is to try to level the playing ground a little bit. So all of those people who have sort of been doing…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 website, the Googlebot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that if 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’re doing to sort go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area.
After news of the pending over optimization algorithm update hit the web the other week, a few of my clients wanted to know how this was going to affect their websites. Were their sites at risk of an over optimization penalty? I read a few more recaps of the panel discussion to get a better understanding of what exactly “over optimization” means to Google, and I told them that as long as their site has been practicing white hat SEO all along (which it definitely has since my company started managing it) then you are in no danger of being flagged for over optimization. Matt Cutts even admitted, “If you’re white hat or doing very little SEO, you’re not going to be affected by this change.”
This update is designed to help smaller, mom-and-pop websites that are producing great content and have user-friendly websites to perform better in the search engines, even if they don’t have the SEO budget to compete with the big brands. Personally, I think that’s great. There are plenty of smaller websites out there that do everything by the book when it comes to SEO, but they are blocked out of the SERPs because bigger brands can just dump money into their SEO campaigns. Giving these quality websites the opportunity to really make an impact in the search engines is long overdue.
Every since Google came out with the first Panda update last year that put the kibosh on content farms, they have moving in this direction; great content is what matters the most for great SEO. I told one of my clients that since their white has been well optimized in accord with Google’s quality guidelines AND they are producing a ton of great content, this update should theoretically help their website do even better in the SERPs. So if you are worried about getting an over optimization penalty from Google, double check your SEO efforts. If everything has been white hat then you have nothing to worry about.