Google has made some minor changes to its Webmaster guidelines, which appear to be aimed at clarifying policies rather than substantially changing them. The changes, as spotted by Philipp Lenssen, include a change in emphasis on the result of violating quality guidelines from removal from Google's index to a site's removal or being "otherwise penalized." Another change adds language to clarify that links are not the only element of PageRank, and removal of a phrase saying ranking of sites is completely automated.
In the comments on Lenssen's post, Google's Matt Cutts weighs in with a personal opinion that this is the result of a clean-up: "I wouldn't characterize this as a policy change. Some folks (including me) have been taking a fresh look at our web documentation to see if anything can be misunderstood. We'd like to minimize the chance for misinterpretation of any help documentation. I wouldn't be surprised to see similar small changes throughout our documentation to clarify various points," Cutts wrote.
In addition, Google spokesperson Victoria Grand told SEW: "Our policies are the same today as they were yesterday and before we made this change. We are just clarifying our documentation to prevent potential misunderstandings."