Thursday, March 22, 2012

SEO Takes a Back Seat Over Content

The current Head of Webspam Team within the Search Quality Group of Google, Matt Cutts, announced that SEO is going to matter less in that sites with good, quality content that don’t do a lot of SEO could potentially rank just as well, or better than a bigger site with a bigger SEO budget and a lot of SEO tactics implemented. Changes to Google’s algorithm have the ability to make or break businesses. Google is sending out the signal that you should worry less about the current SEO trends, and more about producing great content, and that they’re “leveling the playing field” for sites that don’t pay as much attention to SEO.

The disclosure came earlier this month at the South By Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas during an open panel — entitled “Dear Google & Bing: Help Me Rank Better!” — with Google’s and Bing’s webmaster and web spam representatives.

Cutts stated; “All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimisation or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect."

No one but Google knows what, exactly, is "over-optimization." However, Cutts did mention that Google is looking at sites by “people who sort of abuse it whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or whether they exchange way too many links, or whatever they're doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area.” It’s widely believed that keyword stuffing and link exchanges are already spam signals in Google’s algorithm, so either Google intends to ratchet up the amount of penalty or dampening that those spam signals merit algorithmically or they have new over-optimization signals in mind as well.

This algorithm change coupled with the earlier launch of ‘Search Plus Your World’ – a change that makes search result a combination of content that has been shared with you privately through social media  along with the matches from the public web means a site can jump from #30 to #3 in the SERPs just because someone in your Google+ circles shared the link. Getting an RT from The Huffington Post can jump your blog post from #8 to #1. It’s a brave new world of social SEO – and it’s one that no SEO can afford to ignore.

LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD
Under traditional SEO practices, a modern startup would have no chance at ranking for highly competitive keywords. The other sites have been down in the trenches too long; it’d be nearly impossible to knock them off their SERP pedestal without years of campaigning.

Social SEO makes it easier for smaller fish to compete with the big guys. A tweet that receives a viral-size number of retweets can mean as much as a link from a top-ranking site; a +1 from a friend can send your site to the top of the social SERPs for that friend’s entire network.

Social media should already be a part of your business strategy. Now it’s time to harness the power of those social media accounts for your SEO strategy – or risk falling behind while your competitors cash in on their social chips.