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Don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after what users want

Last week I attended BrightonSEO. Usually I just follow it on Twitter, but this year decided that I had to be there as so much has developed in the SEO and Analytics industry over the past 12 months. Search engine updates, coding enhancements through to how users have changed their behaviour online. Fascinating stuff. This for me was an opportunity to hear and speak to experts in the industry and get their perspective on how search is changing and is expected to change over the next few years.

The biggest point I took away from the conference was this, even if you decide to not read the rest of this post then the least you, as a marketer, can do is take this thought away with you:

“Don’t chase after Google’s algorithm, chase after your best interpretation of what users want because that is what Google’s chasing after” Matt Cuts – Feb 2011

This quote was plastered on a slide which Stefan Hull, from Propellernet, was presenting and it really made me think and ask a few questions of what I do as a Marketer. Is what I am doing in terms of SEO correct and ethical for my clients? It bloody well sure is. Stefan spoke about one of Google’s latest updates codenamed ‘Panda’ and how SEO’s and marketers should be focusing on giving users what they want rather than spending time beating (or gaming) Google. I completely agree with this. We at Pauley Creative believe in writing quality content which is written to add value, shared and linked to ethically which in turn will get us high rankings. We don’t write copy and then pay for bad links to gain short term success. We’re in it for the long term. He also asked for any marketer who uses paid links to game Google “Does your CEO know about this?”. A survey conducted by Propellernet found that 60% of SEO respondents paid for links, 67% say paid links work and 10% said their boss did not know what they were doing. Blimey! Wait till things go wrong.

The flip side to this is that ethical SEO is hard work. Understanding what users want and then writing good content, gets shared and which adds value does take time. Time is sometimes what clients don’t have, they have deadlines in which to show success. This is where the marketer shy’s away in my opinion. Do marketers want short term success or long term success? Longer term means more work, you earn your success. Short term success means less work, you can basically buy your success.

The next big question is “Will social signals replace links?”. I’m not personally in a situation yet to answer that with a direct yes or no, but it’s certainly fair to say that its social influence is growing as a ranking factor for search engines. Both Pierre Far (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) and Dave Coplin (Bing) stated that the number of followers is just one of many signals used which also include the speed of sharing and the reach of sharing. Wow! This is big. What does this mean then for the marketing department? Create ridiculously good content which get’s shared…and gets shared fast! Social Rank?

Which then nicely brings me onto my final key take-away which is ‘Authorship’. As we move online there is lots of ‘anonymous’ content around and there are also lots of bad links around. The one differentiation is ‘trust’. Do people trust what you’ve written?

Not sites linking to each other, but authors linking to each other

How will Google or any other search engine know this link carries trust? Answer = Authorship.

Who wrote it? Who linked to it? Who shared it? = How should it rank.

Very nicely put by James Carson who I had met during the day.

I have been experimenting over the last few months with ‘Authorship’ of content and those of you who may have searched Google for various construction or marketing search terms may have seen this within search engine results pages in Google:

Authorship of your own content in search results pages

I think it’s a bit too early to say for me as to whether it’s been a success or not but it certainly has increased click throughs to posts which I have written. However, am I a trusted source? A huge opportunity for the PR and Journalism industry here to strengthen your own personal brand as well as the content you write and who you write it for.

Here’s what it looks like when you search for something in Google:

Content Authorship provides a signal of trust

Ok, I have a bazillion notes which I need to re-read and if I do find any other key points I shall blog about them soon but in summary here are my key points frmo the conference:

  • Write and produce awesome content, nobody links to or shares mediocre content
  • Get social, if not your company then at least you, it’s already one ranking factor
  • Remember, all SEO’s are NOT qualified. There are no degrees or accredited qualifications. (yet).
  • SEO is not a checklist activity, it takes time to build up a brand and employees as trusted sources
  • Don’t let your content go stale – keep it updated and revisit regularly
  • Content is still waiting to be discovered by your users
  • All of the above points are all about QUALITY CONTENT!

Hope this gives you some food for thought about how you approach SEO and content writing. I do hope marketers in the industry focus on quality content rather than chasing Google.

P.S – Apparently we are not too far away from your wine cupboard tweeting you are out of red wine. Web 3.0.