good-contentRecently during a SXSW (South by Southwest) panel, Matt Cutts, who is the head of Google’s search spam team (now there’s a one-of-a-kind job), spoke about Google’s new focus on websites that are “too optimized” for SEO. He explained that Google is working on an algorithm update that will penalize websites that “throw too many keywords on the page, exchange way too many links, whatever they’re doing to go beyond what a normal person would expect”.  Cutts also said that those sites site owners who will be penalized are “all those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site(s). We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it…”

For small business owners, the next quote by Cutts speaks to the frustration of many who are trying to get our websites found.  “Are you pretty much out of luck if you’re not optimizing your site but it has relevant content? If I’m a mom or pop and I’m trying to optimize a site by myself, I’m going to get beat by people paying thousands of dollars.”

“Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting.”

As an antidote, Cutts also said something that we business owners and leaders should note: “Make a compelling site. Make a site that’s useful. Make a site that’s interesting. Make a site that’s relevant to people’s interests… We’re always trying to best approximate if a user lands on a page if they are going to be annoyed… All of the changes we make are designed to approximate, if a user lands on your page, just how happy they are going to be with what they’re going to get.”

If you’re working with an SEO company and you’re not exactly sure what tactics they are using, ask them. What you don’t want is an SEO company that is stuffing your pages with keywords, building back-links aggressively and doing other “black hat” sorts of activities. SEO is still useful for making sure that your website is easily “crawlable” and that you do have good and targeted keywords on your site, among other things.  However, for most SMBs, I believe that an important takeaway from Mr. Cutts’ statements is that we need to create and post good content that we know our readers will want.

If your strategy lately has been to add interesting and relevant content to your site on a regular basis, then you’re probably ahead of a lot of your competitors.  If that hasn’t been your strategy, now is the time to start.