During a recent panel event at SXSW it was revealed by Google’s Matt Cutts that Google is working on penalising sites that are ‘over-optimised’.

According to Search Engine Land, Matt Cutts said that the new penalty will be rolled out in the next few weeks. Cutts claimed that the purpose of this looming penalty is to “level the playing field”; penalising sites with poor content, little information but good SEO and rewarding sites that have great content but don’t rank so well due to poor optimisation.

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Cutts stated;

“All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimisation or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect.”

Google has revealed very little in terms of what constitutes ‘over-optimisation’. Once again, for site owners it’s a case of wait and see what happens.

This update is the latest in a string of algorithmic changes made by Google in an effort to improve the quality of its index; little over a month ago Google announced an algorithmic tweak that penalised pages with too many ads ‘above the fold’.

Despite numerous efforts, Google’s ability to detect ‘overly optimised’ sites has been less than impressive until now. Even post-Panda there are endless examples that highlight Google’s staggering inability to identify what can only be described as high-ranking webspam. How much “smarter” Google becomes after this update is yet to be seen.

There’s no doubt that this update will affect a proportion of sites in one way or another when it comes to rankings, but for everyone else its just another reminder to focus on making quality websites with quality content, and not trying to game Google.