Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's about the content, not the algorithm

SEO. Search Engine Optimization.  For the past few years, no other term (other than Social Media) has owned the mindshare of marketers and business owners when it comes to the web.  It's almost a foregone assumption: if I build a website, I must perform SEO.  If I own a website, I must perform SEO.

The next big assumption is that performing SEO means either hiring an expensive "SEO Company", or getting a "SEO For Dummies" book and doing it yourself.  What exactly are you doing when you are "SEO'ing"?  Altering "alt" tags, meta data, headers, tagging images, keyword selection,'s almost as mind-boggling as trying to guess how many letters there are in a can of alphabet soup.  Why are we putting ourselves through this insanity?  It's because we desparately want to be at the top of Google's listings.  We want to meet, beat, and even fool Google's algorithm at it's own game. 

It's time to stop the insanity.  Sure, having as much of your content indexable as possible is worthwhile.  Sure, you want to have good keyword selection and contextual page titles.  But lets get one thing clear.  No matter the algorithm, if you don't have relevant content, and others don't think you're content is relevant, Google isn't going to care either.

Google cares the most about relevant content.  If your content is actually about what you claim your website or webpage is addressing, then your content is relevant, or contextual.  If you title your page "Dogs", but you present information about cats, then it is not relevant.  Google and it's genius engineers have figured out how to "crawl" your website, examine your content, and rate it's relevancy.  It grades everything on your page that it can search, or "index.

Not only must your content be relevant, but it must be updated frequently.  Google will index your site on a set schedule once it "finds" you for the first time.  How often you update your content, or create new content, will determine how often Google "decides" to visit your site.  If you create a site, and never update it, then Google will eventually "decide" to visit your site more infrequently, and as a result, it will lower you in relevant search results.  But if you continually update your site, and continue to create relevant content, Google will raise you in it's search results.  Old and stale = forgotten and unimportant.  Fresh and exciting = relevant and important.

Even if you write relevant content, and keep it fresh, unless others also think it is relevant, then Google will not raise you up the search ranking results.  How do others make you relevant?  Link backs.  The more people, in contextual situations, link back to you, then your content is relevant.  What is a contextual situation?  Link farms are NOT contextual situations.  In fact, Google has clamped down on this practice; recently altering its algorithms to remove link farms from the equation.  So many people were "playing" the system with link farms and dummy websites that Google re-worked it's code to severely discount the influence of link farms and dummy websites.

What Google did was increase the relevancy of a website, with content relevant to yours, linking back to you.  For example, a blog post talking about dog sweaters, mentioning your comments about them, and linking back to your site, is relevant.  A series of forum posts on a public community forum site about dog sweaters, with links back to you in those posts, are relevant.  A series of social media posts on Facebook or Twitter, mentioning content about dog sweaters and linking back to your site, are relevant.

Google cares about content that others care about, and if they care about you, then Google cares about you.  So go ahead and optimize those page headers.  Make your site's content match your keywords.  Make as much of your website able to be indexed as possible.  But if your content isn't relevant, and if others don't care about your content, then Google won't either.