Google will punish "over-optimised" sites

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Search engine giant Google is set to change the game for search engine optimisation once again: by penalising sites that are too obviously optimised.

Recent changes to Google's algorithm have attempted to weed out sites which feature poor content, poor information and poor quality, but rank well because of their SEO measures.

Now, the engine is going a step further: it will downrank pages which are too obviously tweaked for SEO.

The changes should be a bonus for any site which features quality, pertinent content, and a death knell for spam sites set up to farm clicks.

Similarly, the move will also see amateur SEO efforts - which are often based on outdated information, black hat strategies or falsehoods - become less effective, whilst agency-experienced SEO will become more effective and more valuable.

Head of search at Google, Matt Cutts, told delegates at the South by Southwest conference: "The idea is to try to level the playing ground," he is reported to have said by Search Engine Land.

"We try to make the GoogleBot smarter, try to make our relevance more adaptive, so that if people don't do SEO, we handle that," he said. "And we are also looking at the people who abuse it, who put too many keywords on a page, exchange way too many links, or whatever else they are doing to go beyond what you normally expect."

The changes have been in the pipeline for some time, but are likely to go public sooner, rather than later, Cutts said.

The announcement comes after Google said it was refocusing its efforts on Semantic Search, to return better search results for mobile and voice queries.

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