By Published On: March 27, 2012Categories: Paid Search Advertising

During this year’s SXSW media week in Austin, TX, Google did something out of character. It was something so big that it has Internet Marketers shaking in their boots. In the past, Google was usually tight-lipped on algorithm changes and became more so after BING proved to be a possible threat. However, this time was different, and instead of holding secrets and changing the algorithm without warning, this big, over-the-shoulder statement flowed as easy as poison in the ears of many SEO companies.

Unexpectedly, Google announced the impending launch of a new Over-Optimization Penalty because they’ve decided they need to “level the playing ground.” The disclosure came during an open panel — entitled “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” — with Google’s and B’s heavyweights on the star-studded panel. Google’s goal for the penalty is to give sites that have produced great content a better chance to rank and drive organic search traffic. We have all come across at least one site that just shouldn’t be allowed to rank because of its poor content, but succeeded due to hard work on their search engine optimization efforts. They usually have a keyword driven domain, lots of keyword-rich internal linking, and heavily optimized title tags and body content – but their content is weak. Over doing SEO got them there, and now, that will be their undoing. It seems Google felt the rankings were heavily dominated by those with big SEO budgets, so companies with big pocketbooks were able to overpower the “little guys.”

Here’s the scoop, direct from Google’s Guru, Matt Cutts:

“Normally we don’t pre-announce changes, but there is something we’ve been working on in the last few months and hopefully in the next couple of months or so, you know, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it. And 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, 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. 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. And 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.”

While most of the SEO world is collectively shaking in their boots, here at, we are salivating. Why? Because this move by Google plays right into what we have done with our own clients. With the upcoming over-optimization penalty we expect our full SEO clients to thrive, because our SEO campaigns are so much more than the addition of random keywords and title tags in your content. We have always preached to our clients that optimizing your website is only a portion of the process, the proverbial foundation of SEO. The foundation is necessary but doesn’t make a home.

For us, the insertion of keywords or optimization of the site’s user-friendliness is just the beginning, and it is really all of the external factors (backlinks to external files of all types and sizes) that make an SEO campaign.  MY prediction is that when Google seeks to level the playing field, they will heavily weight the things we always moved for… consumer driven, useful content and “votes” of confidence from other sites (indicated by them “referencing us” and putting backlinks to our content in their site).

Google has always said content is king. And now, loudly, they have put their money where their mouth is.

SEO is not dead, it’s gotten better, and local businesses that do it right will thrive!