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SEO DOs and DONTs According To Google: Mixed Signals?

Google: Don’t over-optimize, but here’s all the algorithm changes we’re making

Google is talking a lot about SEO these days. In a recent webmaster discussion at SXSW, Google’s Matt Cutts spoke about some changes Google is working on that would seem to make SEO 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. The whole thing appears to be more about Google getting better at not helping sites just because they employ a lot of grey hat/borderline black hat tactics. Google has always tried to do this, but based on what Cutts said, it sounds like they’re about to get better at it.

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. Obviously great content is a positive, but at the same time, Google is showing us each month all of the changes it is making, and all the while, providing tips about how to do certain SEO things better. Is Google sending mixed signals? Just how much should webmasters worry about optimization?

Google Changes To Come

WebProNews spoke with former Googler and Google Webmaster Central creator Vanessa Fox about it, after she wrote her own blog post, sharing her thoughts about Google’s approach to SEO. In her post, she wrote, “Some are worried that Google will begin to penalize sites that have implemented search engine optimization techniques. My thoughts? I think that some site owners should worry. But whether or not you should depends on what you mean by search engine optimization.”

“Matt talked about finding ways to surface smaller sites that may be poorly optimized, if, in fact, those sites have the very best content,” she said in the post. “This is not anything new from Google. They’ve always had a goal to rank the very best content, regardless of how well optimized or not it may be. And I think that’s the key. If a page is the very best result for a searcher, Google wants to rank it even if the site owner has never heard of title tags. And Google wants to rank it if the site owner has crafted the very best title tag possible. The importance there is that it’s the very best result.”

There has been a lot of discussion about it in the SEO community, and there will no doubt be plenty around SES New York this week. Some of the talk has been blown out of proportion, and Cutts appears to feel that the press has contributed to this. For the record, when we first reported on it, we linked to the full audio from the panel, as Cutts provided, and since then, he’s linked to the full transcript for those who don’t have time to listen to an hour’s worth of audio. We’ve also pointed to this in previous coverage.

Following is a snippet from our previous article, discussing the Google changes with Fox, because it’s highly relevant to the larger story:

If you’ve listened to or read what was said, you’ll notice that the whole thing was in response to a question about mom and pops, which might make you wonder if brand is a significant part of what’s at play.

“I don’t think it’s about just mom and pop vs. big brands,” Fox tells WebProNews. “Lots of big brands don’t know the first thing about SEO. I think (total guess on my part) the sites that will be negatively impacted are those that focus on algorithms and build content/sites based on the things what they think the algorithms are looking for. The kind of sites where someone didn’t say ‘I want this page to rank for query X. How can this page best answer what the searcher is asking about X’ but instead said ‘I want this page to rank for query X. How many times should I repeat X in my title, heading, content on the page, internal links…”

“I think it’s still useful (and not negative) to make sure the words that searchers are using are on the page, but some sites go well beyond this and get so caught up in what they think the algorithms are doing that they forget to make sure the content is useful,” she adds.

About the Author:

Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow WebProNews on Facebook or Twitter.

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