September 2, 2013

Matt Cutts through the SEO BS

Matt Cutts through the SEO BS

Search engine optimization is in need of some serious changes if it wants to regain its importance, as we’ve rigorously documented here, but some of you may have thought we’re the only ones to think so. Nope, now we have Google on our side, too.

In a recent video, Matt Cutts, Google’s grand poobah of search spam, discussed the different and misguided methods SEO companies use to serve clients who want a fast and easy road to relevance. Now, there are those who believe that Mr. Cutts might not be the most nonpartisan voice in the world – he certainly wants people to continue to use Google now and forever, after all – but it is clear that both he and Google want their search engine to be useful and efficient for everyone, and the only way to achieve those goals is by churning the pool of information ever so often. By constructing and maintaining websites that are verifiably important to a broad spectrum of users, business owners are better able to stay relatively high in the rankings in spite of the frequent search engine modifications. If you rely on an SEO specialist’s ability to shove your website to the front of the rankings artificially, you are more likely to see those rankings plunge after the updates.

Algorithm Updates vs Data Refreshes

SEO firms promise to raise search engine rankings (namely Google) via complex and not-so-complex algorithm circumventing strategies. Unfortunately for the clients, these SEO companies don’t often recognize the difference between data refreshes and algorithm updates, which are basically (if we may call upon classic SAT question formatting) what oil and filter replacements are to supercharging the engine, if you get our automotive technology drift. One improves the car’s performance, while the other changes the way the car actually performs. Claro?

In other words, data refreshes are simply light and frequent resets on the data interpreted by the existing algorithm, while algorithm updates are changes to the algorithm itself. Algorithm updates change the way websites are ranked, while data refreshes do not. You’d think that big, fancy SEO companies would know this.

Google Just Wants to Make Money

Of course it does — don’t be an idiot. However, the refreshes and updates aren’t some villainous, mustache-twirling attempt to instantly and nefariously improve revenue at the expense of the public; the goal is to keep the results from stagnating. The only way Google or Bing or Yahoo! or Duck Duck Go can remain competitive and user-friendly is to come up with methodologies that cause search results to keep circulating and changing. If not, all of the sites that would appear after a search would be the entrenched results of algorithmic deciphering – some of which would be relevant, but many of which would not. If you knew that whatever you typed into Google would always yield the same handful of sites, you’d eventually stop using Google.

Link Building and Back Linking and Blah, Blah, Blah

All of the strategies that ignore improving user experience are a waste of time and money, since eventually they will fail to be significant. The only way to keep your website and services consistently germane is to focus on providing useful, original and interesting content. Period.

Social media is a far better tool for website promotion than any dry SEO solution. Let’s face it, people are less likely to visit a website directly and more likely to use Facebook or YouTube as a channel to a company’s services.

Oh, don’t get us wrong; there are certain rules you have to follow, just for insurance. Yes, by all means, throw in a handful of links and keywords just to make sure all of your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed, but don’t obsess over them, and certainly don’t force them. Give the public what it wants, and you will triumph. We have yet to meet a customer that was impressed by the ability to awkwardly stuff a series of keywords into a blog post.


by Kevin Smith
Managing partner at SmashBrand. We're a group of experienced brand owners, thinkers and world-class designers united by an obsession for creating category disrupting brand experiences.

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