This is absolutely NOT anything to be afraid of... unless you've been going overboard with your "SEO."
There's a lot of unnecessary panic going around over this. Matt Cutts (and others) have made it clear there's nothing wrong with SEO in and of itself. Real
SEO is all about making a site better for both human and searchbot visitors. Google wants
you to make your site better.
I mean, that's what "optimization" means! To make something "optimal" -- that is, the best it can be.
The problem is there are a lot of things going on out there that are called
"SEO" but have nothing to do with making a site better. (Creating boatloads of crappy content just to stuff in a few extra keywords, stuffing site footers with huge paragraphs of keyworded links, phony link-trading networks, etc.) It's when this kind of so-called "SEO" (which has nothing to do with actually "optimizing" a site) takes precedence over creating a great site that Google has now decided there's a problem.
This is actually something that many "good guy" SEOs have been complaining about for years
. There are some of us who think the change can't come fast enough!
Here are some quotes from Matt from the SXSW talk where Matt announced the "over-optimization algorithm" change:
The idea is basically to try and level the playing around a little bit. So all those people who have sort 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...
...What we're mindful of is when someone says, "We're White Hat. We continue to do the right thing, and we see the Black Hats who are over optimizing or going too far, and they seem to be doing too well." So we've been working on changes to try to make sure that if you are a White Hat or if you've been doing very little SEO that you are going to not be affected by this change.
Former Googler Vanessa Fox has written a blog post
, which Matt himself gave props on Twitter as being an especially good write up.
If you don't feel like watching an hour of video, Rob Snell has posted a written transcript
of the session so you can read for yourself exactly what Matt had to say. (Much better than panicking because some SEOs are mindlessly running around like their hair's on fire over this issue.
Bottom line, if you've been focused on making your sites better, you probably don't have anything to worry about. If you've been doing a lot of stuff strictly "for SEO purposes" that doen't do anything to improve your site for human visitors, you may need to re-think that strategy.
In any case, though, we won't know the real impact until the new algo launches. But since making your site better is the right thing to do anyway, it certainly wouldn't hurt to focus on improving your site's quality, the sooner the better.