SEO: quality is the key

By Nick Holmes on June 7, 2007
Comments Off on SEO: quality is the key
Filed under SEO

Google Keeps Tweaking Its Search Engine in the New York Times gives a rare view inside one of the key departments at Googleplex. Amit Singhal, for some reason quaintly referred to as “Mr. Singhal” throughout, is the master of Google’s ranking algorithm, the complex program that calculates the relevance of a particular page to a particular query. He and his search quality team consider 100 or so reports per day on deficiencies and anomalies in Google results and make about a half-dozen changes a week to the page ranking formulae – everything from penalising particular types of spam sites that are ranking highly to promoting local traders who are not ranking high enough for very relevant local queries.

The article is short on analysis, but you clearly get the picture that this is a truly determined ongoing effort to improve search quality: first to review in a myriad of narrow contexts what is relevant and then through changes to the algorithm to promote the deserving, demote the undeserving and avoid upsetting the apple cart for the rest.

It follows that the only way to longer term success in the page rankings is to provide copious pages of quality, in-depth information relevant to all possible issues your prospective clients might want to address. In doing so you should also consider and apply basic optimisation rules, but the most important can be summarised on a few pages and implemented at little cost. Most other techniques employed by self-proclaimed SEO experts are simply costly shortcuts to short-term success, as Seth Godin comments:

In the SEO arms race, shortcuts have a shorter shelf-life than ever before. [Google’s search quality team] is obsessed with them, and they outnumber whoever you might hire to beat the system. Organic success, on the other hand, is a clear path. If you want to be on the front page of matches for “White Plains Lawyer”, then the best choice is to build a series of pages (on your site, on social sites, etc.) that give people really useful information. Not just boilerplate information you stole from a legal website, but really useful stuff about you, the local courts, the forms people need … the things you’d want to find if you were doing that search.

Once you’ve done everything you can … once you’ve built a web of information and once you’ve given the ability to do this to your best clients and your partners and colleagues, then by all means apply the best SEO thinking in the world to your efforts. Hire the best consultants and use the resources you’ve got left to be sure you’re playing by the right rules.

(Hat tip: Kevin O’Keefe)