Posted on March 22, 2012 by Webfor According to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, the search engine plans on introducing a ranking penalty for sites that are “overly-optimized,” or have too much SEO going on. Cutts announced the pending change earlier this month at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas at an open panel. The idea is to “level the playing field,” according to Cutts, giving websites that have relevant and quality content a better chance to rank higher than sites that have lesser content, but man they do a heck of a job optimizing it! Cutts’ Statement on Pending Penalties “Normally we don’t preannounce 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.” As one might expect, he doesn’t go through an itemized list of what will factor into the penalty. However, he did touch on some basic factors, with the first being too many keywords, or keyword stuffing, on a page. Secondly, he said there would be a penalty for exchanging way too many links. Should You Worry About Too Much SEO? The short answer is probably not. If your SEO company or in-house SEO has been using link exchanges as their primary method to build links, where you link to a site and that site links back to you, it could hit you. One speculation I would make is that Google will put more emphasis on a more natural looking link profile where too much exact match anchor text can start to have a negative effect. This is already part of Google’s algorithm, but it hasn’t included a penalty, at least not that they’ve expressed. As always, it’s kind of like listening to the Fed speak. Matt Cutts often says things as to how Google would like things to be. It’s the professional SEO’s job to understand and disseminate this information and couple it with what actually works and make the best choices that will work now while keeping in mind what will work in the future. My question is this: aside from the too many links being exchanged bit, wasn’t keyword stuffing already considered a negative ranking factor? As usual, it’s a fun cat and mouse game between Google and SEO professionals.