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More Changes to Google Search; TLD Not Part of the Mix

Google shows little sign of letting up on its changes to search—or its war against sites that try to game the system. At a SXSW panel called "Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better," Google’s Matt Cutts said that Google is working on a search ranking penalty for sites that are "over-optimized" or "overly SEO'ed."

Good Content Versus (Too) Good SEO

In his comments, captured by Search Engine Land, Cutts said this penalty will be introduced in the upcoming month or next few weeks. Its purpose is to "level the playing field," between sites with great content and sites that have okay content but do a better job with SEO.

Part of the Semantic Search Push?

One reasonable assumption to make about this over-optimization penalty is that it will roll out as Google makes changes described last week in the Wall Street Journal to revamp its search engine.  Google is reportedly planning to shift its search methodology to a semantic focus, blending its current system with a new semantic-search technology. The goal is to better recognize the value of information on websites and select which data to show in search results.

The focus on keywords—so essential to current search strategies—will be de-emphasized in favor of a larger approach in which a page is crawled in search of identifying information about specific entities.

Already Happening?

However, Search Engine Roundtable says it is possible that Google has already started rolling out its over-optimization penalty, or perhaps is testing it now.  On Friday it reported on chatter in various search forums about significant changes to the Google search results. Google confirmed to Search Engine Roundtable that there had been no new Panda update, nor a data refresh.

Later, after the Cutts clip went viral the weekend, Search Engine Roundtable wondered if Google was testing the change.

TLD a No Go

Separately, Cutts said that obtaining a top level domain from ICANN will not help boost a company's search ranking, according to The Register.  "Google will attempt to rank new TLDs appropriately, but I don't expect a new TLD to get any kind of initial preference over .com," he wrote on his Google+ page  "and I wouldn't bet on that happening in the long term either."

Cutts was responding to an opinion piece written by Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, who maintained that a new TLD web address would be favored by Google over the .com equivalent.

"If you want to register an entirely new TLD for other reasons, that's your choice, but you shouldn't register a TLD in the mistaken belief that you'll get some sort of boost in search engine rankings," Cutts concluded.

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