I’ve long been suspicious of SEO. Oh, I do think it’s valuable: there are basic “hygiene factors” on your page markup you should be getting right, and really good SEOs can help you think about the sort of content you should be creating (and how you should create it) to attract and keep the right community around your product. But that’s my limit of comfort with it. When you’re using SEO to help poor or rushed content to rank higher than really good pages, you’re doing something disruptive to the value of the web, and which makes life worse for everyone but you.

Too much SEO “optimisation” seemed to pander to the big company idea that you can buy your way to success. Spend enough on SEO, and the right people will turn up on your site. And that’s probably been the case for a number of years now. The number of e-mails I get from SEO companies looking to place content or reciprocal links on my blog every day suggests that it works. (They’re all filtered into a folder I only browse through once in a blue moon, BTW, but from which the odd, really interesting and well-written or designed thing does get linked or published.) And every time you endure an article which repeats the same word and phrase five times in the first couple of paragraphs, you’re suffering at the hands of an algorithm-gaming SEO.

When the big Panda update hit last year, targeting the content farms, it crossed my mind to wonder if overly-SEOed content would be next on the block. After all, Google is only trying to be an incredible fast, efficient human: to make judgements on the quality of a piece of content based on how the human searcher would do so. The more you play a particular form of SEO game, the more you’re pandering to quirks of an algorithm rather than the interests of the human typing the search query.

Well, it looks like <a href=”http://searchengineland.com/too-much-seo-google’s-working-on-an-” over-optimization”-penalty-for-that-115627?utm_source=”feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=feed-main"”>reducing the impact of over-optimisation is exactly what’s next on Google’s agenda:

Matt Cutts said the new over optimization penalty will be introduced into the search results in the upcoming month or next few weeks. The purpose is to “level the playing field,” Cutts said. To give sites that have great content a better shot at ranking above sites that have content that is not as great but do a better job with SEO.

And I can’t see this as anything but good news for professional content creators. Google seems to be trying to reinforce the message that the best way to build search ranking is to create good content, reliably, over long periods of time. There’s no quick fix or magic fairy dust you can sprinkle over your site to make it rank better – and, if there is, you’d better be aware that the efficacy of the SEO fairy dust might disappear overnight, as many of the “content farms” discovered when the panda came visiting…

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