What Google says and what Google does are not always equivalent. This is the reason that black hat SEO exists alongside white hat SEO. But make no mistake about it – white hat SEO is more durable. That’s why I always say that you should be creating the very best web site in your niche, to ensure rankings over the long term.
Google’s intention is to evaluate sites the way a human user would. But Google is software.
What Google says, is, build great sites for users! Do NOT build your site for the search engines. What Google DOES, is different, because it’s NOT a human, it’s an algorithm. Their goal is to continuously improve the algorithm so it discounts attempts to fool it, and appreciates sites with real value.
Long Term SEO Value
So if you listen to what Google is saying, you will aim for long term value, with real and compelling content, the kind that will pull in links from other great sites. On the other hand, if you are chasing the algorithm, looking only for short cuts and loopholes, you may win sometimes, but the results will be short-lived, and as some retailers have learned the hard way, the fall from grace may be painful and fast.
Here Matt Cutts, a Distinguished Google Engineer, describes the dilemma:
In the pursuit of higher rankings or traffic, a few sites use techniques that don’t benefit users, where the intent is to look for shortcuts or loopholes [emphasis mine] that would rank pages higher than they deserve to be ranked. We see all sorts of webspam techniques every day, from keyword stuffing to link schemes that attempt to propel sites higher in rankings.
Google’s success is entirely dependent on returning the best possible results for any particular search in the shortest amount of time, with the fewest possible clicks. If it consistently fails to do that, people will click away or stop using Google altogether.
Matt Cutts, in the above article, could not be any clearer or louder. He says, “We want people doing white hat search engine optimization (or even no search engine optimization at all) to be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites. As always, we’ll keep our ears open for feedback on ways to iterate and improve our ranking algorithms toward that goal.”
Google will forever try to improve the algorithm so as to eliminate webspam, return better and better results, and behave more like a person would in selecting the best web sites. So, once again, I repeat, your goal for your site, should be, to build the best web site you can.
YES, you need inbound links!
Links to your site is surely an indicator of popularity and effectiveness. And the Google algorithm sees them that way. But those links are best when natural and given voluntarily from a relevant, related site, or at least, in a context that makes them relevant — as in say, a blogger who is writing about personal interests or discoveries, for example.
So should you pay attention to the algorithm and to all the algorithm updates? Well they are particularly important if you have mostly built your SEO strategy around algorithm loopholes. If that’s the Google you’ve been listening to, you may have a problem and it’s time to hear what the other Google is telling you – the Google made up of actual humans who monitor their success and tweak their algorithms, Matt Cutts and his team, among others, who say time and again:
- Provide real value with your site
- Build inbound links around that value proposition.
- Make your site easily accessible to users and to Google
- Take time to build a logical, usable navigation scheme
- Make important content easy to find
There are many guidelines and best practices you can find in Google Webmaster Tools. And you might want to download our SEO Cheat Sheet for more ideas. And if you need further guidance or feedback, give us a shout.