Google’s Over Optimisation Update – Loathe it or Love it?

Earlier this month at SXSW, Matt Cutts (head of the webspam team at Google) talked about a new “over optimisation” update. Here is the full transcript if you’re as geeky as we are and want to read the whole thing, or if you just want an idea of what we are talking about here are the important bits:

“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 bit more level.

So that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the Google Bot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that 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 whatever they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area. So that is something where we continue to pay attention and we continue to work on it, and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now.”


At first this may sound like a nightmare for the SEO’s but if you keep reading…

“absolutely there are some people who take it too far. What we’re mindful of is when someone says, “We’re White Hat. We continue to do the right thing, and we see the Black Hats who are over optimizing or going too far, and they seem to be doing too well.” So we’ve been working on changes to try to make sure that if you are a White Hat or if you’ve been doing very little SEO that you are going to not be affected by this change. But if you’ve been going way far beyond the pale, then that’s the sort of thing where your site might not rank as highly as it did before.”


Based on that transcript alone I don’t think the vast majority of webmasters/business owners out there should be worried. I believe Google’s intention is to try and make the more natural, White Hat SEO and the people that are not doing SEO but have good, user friendly sites achieve better rankings than the Black Hat (spammy) SEO and it’s about time too.

Matt also said the following in support of SEO:

“The way that I often think about SEO is that it’s like a coach. It’s someone who helps you figure out how to present yourself better. In an ideal world, though, you wouldn’t have to think about presenting yourself and whether search engines can crawl your website. Because they’d just be so good that they can figure out how to call through the Flash, how to crawl through the forums, how to crawl through the JavaScript, how to crawl through whatever it is…

A lot of people seem to think that Google hates SEO. That’s definitely not the case…

We even made a video about this. If you do a search for webmaster videos, we’ve made something like 400 videos. And we made one specifically to say Google does not hate SEO, because SEO can often be very helpful. It can make a site more crawlable. It can make a site more accessible. It can think about the words that users are going to type whenever they come to a search engine and make sure that those words are on the page, which just makes the site more user-friendly.

So the same sorts of things you do to optimize your return on investment and how well something spreads virally or socially is the exact same sort of stuff that often works well from a search engine perspective. So there is a ton of stuff that is fantastic to do as an SEO, it just makes your content more crawlable and more accessible.“


Black Hat vs White Hat
Combine this with the Google Panda update that has been effective at filtering out a lot of “low quality” sites and we will hopefully see the Black Hat SEO/spammy techniques become less effective. We certainly hope this is the case and are keen to see how this update affects positions over the coming months.


What do you guys think? Is this just going to be another algorithm update that nobody will notice? Are the Black Hat SEOs always going to be one step ahead of Google? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

This blog post was written by Diana Esho – follow us on Twitter or Facebook for an inside look into the technical side of SEO.