There is a lot of reaction to a recent interview with Matt Cutts of Google, as well as Duane Forrester of Bing, where Matt Cutts announced that Google would be moving to ‘level the playing field’ by penalizing those that ‘over optimize’. This SEO penalty has of course got a lot of people talking and a lot of people worried but if you look in more detail at what Matt Cutts said about what this SEO Penalty means it turns out that those following recent SEO best practice and white hat techniques have little to fear.
The first thing that Matt Cutts mentioned would be penalized was too many keywords on a page: a good SEO specialist though should already be limiting keywords and limiting their density; 1 or 2 prime keywords at 1% and then two or three long tail keywords with 1 or 2 mentions is usually about right. Whether Google will be even more strict though or will simply use a bigger SEO penalty for those who flout this practice is unclear but Matt Cutts did say that the Googlebot would be getting smarter suggesting that it may find new ways to identify keywords, such as looking out for those stuffed into descriptions, titles and even meta keywords.
The second thing Matt Cutts mentioned would lead to an SEO penalty was too many exchanged links; now exchanged links already have less value than non reciprocal links but could it be that they will soon have no value or could actually lead to an SEO penalty? How Google will decide how many are too many is unclear but it is likely to be as a percentage rather than an outright number; presumably Googlebot will be getting better at identifying three way link exchanges and other link exchange systems as well. If you do employ an SEO specialist that is building your links this way though they are already out of date and you may have to wonder what other out of date techniques are being used.
Google want to reward people who create great content and therefore this has to be the way forward for anyone wanting to avoid an SEO penalty, Matt Cutts specifically said that he wanted to level the playing field for “those people doing over optimization or overly SEO versus those making great content and great sites. ”
Key is that Matt Cutts hasn’t condemned SEO completely, the key in recent years has always been to think of your SEO as a way to work with Google to help them understand what you have and to make sure you appear in relevant searches, not to try and trick Google: for those who do try this their time is up.
Google Panda has gone a long way to improve search results by understanding better which sites are good and bad; what Matt Cutts’ comments may suggest is that they feel their understanding bought about by data collected for Panda is now better and the time has come to increase the importance of several ranking factors.