Matt Cutts of Google Comments on "-950 Penalty" as "Over Optimization Penalty"

May 14, 2007 • 8:15 am | comments (11) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

There is currently a lot of discussion taking place in two forums about comments left by Matt Cutts of Google in a post here named Google Attacked Over Webmaster Relations. Now, Matt responded to some question left by a comment here. Let me pull out Matt's comments:

Adam's already doing a great job on that thread, but it is frustrating that I don't have a chance to do everything I'd like to do. If I've only got limited time, I could spend that discussing something or a forum, or try to write on a new topic (malware, Stephen Colbert, robots.txt crawl-delay and why we don't support it).

annej, regarding the -950 thing, I'd watch this video I made: Starting around 1:42 into the video is where I talk about this.

Then a guy named Mark asked for feedback on his site and Matt gave it to him:

Mark, I wish I had time to chat with each webmaster and give personalized advice, but I really don't. That's part of the idea of the webmaster help group -- to let peers give suggestions.

That peer group can be really helpful. For example, suppose that in April you had a bunch of links at the bottom of your page that looked like "Online Loan | Santa Cruz Hotels | Xbox Mod Chip | Home Loan | Mobile Phones " or "Bad Credit Mortgages | Afvallen | Problem Remortgage | Mortgage | Myspace Layouts". Linking to bad neighborhoods or spammy sites can affect your site's reputation. So the webmaster help group might look at your site and say "Hey, why not remove that link co-op stuff and then do a reinclusion request that says 'In case this was a factor, I'm no longer participating in this co-op link exchange and linking sites like this from my root page.' That might do it."

It's a helpful group, and you can often get actionable advice from it.

To make a long story short, his site was reincluded within a day or so, after some appeals.

But what do we learn from this exchange of Webmaster communication, between Google and SEOs?

A WebmasterWorld thread and Google Groups thread discusses that.

In Matt's comment, he relates the -950 penalty discussion to a video where he explained "over optimization."

WebmasterWorld administrator, Tedster explains;

So this algo element has been in place for a year and a half (at the time the video was made - that lines up with reports here) and it's designed to penalize for "over-optimization". I watched this video before but I missed the connection to the -950 that Matt just highlighted.

In the Google Groups thread, a member explains the video in his own words:

-It's an algo update push. -overly seo'd sites -don't listen to what SEO forums say -don't optimize quite as much

I am not sure if Matt said don't listen to SEO Forums, but he did say, don't pay too much attention to them, in the sense of don't obsess over it.

Some nice old theories are coming up. This is what forum discussion is all about.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld and Google Groups; also don't forget to check all the comments in Google Attacked Over Webmaster Relations.

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05/14/2007 01:26 pm

Heh... people are wondering why Matt didn't post an explicit connection to a supposed "-950" penalty? Probably because there isn't one. He simply pointed out reasons that could send a site to the crapper.

Barry Schwartz

05/14/2007 01:43 pm

Thanks for adding that link, lots of good discussion there also.


05/14/2007 03:57 pm

That's interesting, do you know if the penatly for over on-page optimisation affects an individual page or the whole website?

John Jacobs

05/15/2007 02:44 am

Let the idiot spammers at webmaster world de-optimize now. Funny how Marcia over there thinks she knows what she is saying yet her own portfolio is in the -950 itself. I still do not understand how a "hobby site" can find itself into this penalty. Sounds more like MFA sites to me.

Sohail A. Rahim

05/20/2007 12:25 am

Is there a concrete way to find out if your site has been penalised?

No Name

04/02/2008 03:12 pm

Wow i think i have this penalty as well ! to bad ! how can you fix it in a short term ?

Gavin Doolan

07/02/2008 04:30 pm

I see loads of sites that overload their content with keyword stuffing and spammy textual content. I think this is a welcome change. Afterall how does stuffing keywords in your pages help your users? Especially when its not naturally flowing text on the page.


08/04/2008 02:44 pm

I still do not understand how a "hobby site" can find itself into this penalty. Sounds more like MFA sites

No Name

11/24/2008 03:37 pm

How comes it penalized? strange...


05/14/2009 01:11 am

It was high time indeed that search algorithms were adjusted for black hat. However, I am afraid that they might not be fully aware of the fact that using SYNONYMS in keywords META tags etc. would be helpful. If Google doesn't recognise a synonym it might mistake it for spamming. While it uses synonyms to an extent there are many words that are synonymical only to the initiated in a special field and I doubt any search engine is wise enough to distinguish.


10/09/2011 09:16 pm

Is that considered OVER-OPTIMIZATION, ie spam? A "celebrity" navigation drop-down on all the pages of each of 600 independent celebrity web site. Each site has thousands of news pages, ie drop-down "links" from thousand of pages to each of the 600 web sites. Would Google consider these drop-down "links" as "too many" links? Even though these drop-downs are meant to ease navigation from one celebrity site to the others , ie, not spam at all. Thanks for any feedback, guidance.

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