Yesterday afternoon Google released it's official statement in the form of a couple blog posts titled "Another step to reward high-quality sites". Google released the official statement via their Inside Search and Webmaster Central Blogs.
Google has begun to phase in a new search algorithm in an attempt to improve the user experience and cut back on the "webspam".
In the post, Google defines "webspam" as:
The opposite of “white hat” SEO is something called “black hat webspam” (we say “webspam” to distinguish it from email spam). In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
The announcement comes on the heels of a week filled with industry buzz about the rumored roll out of an "Over optimization" update by Google. About a month ago Matt Cutts spoke at SXSW and confirmed Google was working on some type of penalty targeting "over optimization".
Last week the buzz was in full swing with stories of prominent SEOs having their sites banned and being outranked by competitors for brand keywords. On Friday, SEOmoz's Rand Fishkin released his video for his Whiteboard Friday series warning webmasters of the impending roll out.
According to Danny Sullivan and his post yesterday, Google is officially calling the update the 'webspam algorithm update'.
What does this mean for SEO?
Google seems to still encourage SEO's but the post clearly differentiates ethical 'white hat seo' and 'black hat webspam':
We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites. As always, we’ll keep our ears open for feedback on ways to iterate and improve our ranking algorithms toward that goal.
Search is changing
Search and search engine marketing are definitely changing. This latest algorithm update is further evidence that Google is getting more and more aggressive on cracking down on people who try and game their system to manipulate search results. According to Matt Cutts, an SEO's focus should be on promoting a quality user experience and content:
our advice for webmasters is to focus on creating high quality sites that create a good user experience and employ white hat SEO methods instead of engaging in aggressive webspam tactics.
Keep posted to our blog for more posts by our SEO team as the Google update rolls out. As always if you have any questions let us know!