Oct 17, 2012
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Hi gang, long time no post (interact, log in, engage etc) my bad...

the first time I encountered the phrase "over optimization penalty" was in a thread on the Warrior Forum 5 years ago. the OP cited several instances where in g Places serps where one of the combatants ( I call competitors combatants.. might be due to my being of Scottish decent ) had way, WAY more citations, incoming links, content than the others in a 3 pack or 7 pack

this person observed what could be construed as a possible Over Optimization Penalty being levied by big G

Fast forward 5 years, in the google places forum a poweruser (I think it might have been mysqlperformance or Andrew something) suggested Google was a relational database, my take on that is this:

let's say there's 4 combatants vying for ranking in G places
and for the sake of argument, there's, say a total of 7 similar companies Google has identified as doing business in the same genre in the same location.

if all 7 have roughly 3 or 4 backliinks, and your client has 1867 backlinks...
and of the 4 attempting some sort of optimization, 3 have a Facebook and a yelp, but your client has 43 citations from the list on and (moz local now)... then your client would or could "stick out like a sore thumb"

what say you group?

is there such a thing, does anyone have any empirical or anecdotal evidence to support this as a "thing" ??

hmm, sig file...
David Bruce Jr
Frederick Maryland
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Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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Hi David,

Sure there are organic optimization penalties - those can kill your local ranking because you wont be at top of 7 pack unless you rank high in organic. (Can be backlink penalties or on-site penalties.)

Then separately there are Google Local over-optimization penalties and several things can trip a filter that knock you out of maps, which takes you out of the pack too.

RESULT: you may rank high in organic, may even be #1 but you'll be locked out of the pack and only rank in organic.

There are also what I call "Blend" penalties. This is one that throws folks cuz you can rank #1 in organic and #3 in maps so SHOULD be ranking high in the pack. But you don't. There's a penalty that prevents you from "blending" so you don't rank in the pack.

BUT there are other reasons you can be locked out of the pack like proximity, dupes and NAP confusion. So thorough analysis needs to be done to figure out if it's a penalty or something else.

Here is a good post: <a href="">Local Troubleshooting Best Practices</a>


Mar 14, 2013
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Anecdotally, there is without a doubt plenty of over-optimization issues you can encounter - not so much penalties in the "wow I got dropped from #3 to #300" penalty, but more like ranking becomes an uphill battle where it might not have otherwise.

I don't think that your example of a client with so many links sticking out to Google over others just because of those links is an issue though. Google's gotten ridiculously good at identifying "quality content." If you're content sucks and you somehow get it ranking, it's likely that it will tank eventually. If you get that many more links than your competition, I don't think it's unreasonable that Google can tell those links are either gamed or not-gamed. If they were gamed, you'll probably be in rough shape...if not, you'll be fine.

So yes, I think there are definitely over-optimization penalties, but if you get links naturally there most likely won't be a problem, even if you're talking a lot of links.
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