What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry?

What are some misconceptions in the SEO industry? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Today’s question comes from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Computerklaus asks, “Hi, Matt. Which aspect of Google updates do you think the SEO industry simply won’t get? Where do you see many SEOs spending too much energy on when they could be taking care of other things?” OK, fantastic question, in fact, two really good questions. So I’ll take them each in turn. “Which aspect of Google updates do you think the SEO industry simply won’t get?” So there’s a lot of answers I could give. One is the difference between an algorithm update versus just a data refresh. When you’re changing your algorithm, the signals that you’re using and how you weight those signals are fundamentally changing. When you’re doing just a data refresh, then the way that you run the computer program stays the same, but you might have different incoming data. You might refresh the data that the algorithm is using. That’s something that a lot of people just don’t seem to necessarily get. But a bigger one that they don’t seem to get is I’ve seen a lot of accusations after Panda and Penguin that Google is just trying to increase its revenue. And let me just confront that head on. Panda, if you go back and look at Google’s quarterly statements, they actually mention that Panda decreased our revenue. So a lot of people have this conspiracy theory that Google is like, oh, they’re making these changes to make more money. And not only do we not think that way in the search quality team, we are more than happy to make changes which are better for the long-term loyalty of our users, the user experience, and all that sort of stuff. And then if that’s a short-term revenue hit, then that might be OK. Because people are going to be coming back to Google long term. It’s a regular conspiracy theory. Google did this ranking change because they want people to buy more ads. And that’s certainly not the case with Panda. It’s certainly not the case with Penguin. And so it’s kind of funny to see that as a meme within the industry. And it’s just something that I wanted to debunk that misconception. Panda and Penguin, we just went ahead and made those changes. And we’re not going to worry about whether we lose money, we make money, whatever. We just want to return the best users results we can. And the mental model you should have is we want to have the long-term loyalty of our users. We don’t want to lock users in. So we have data liberation. People can always get their own data back out of Google. And if we just choose short-term revenue, that might make some money in the short term. But historically, we’ve had the long-term view. If you make users happy, they’ll come back. They’ll do more searches. They’ll like Google. They’ll trust Google more. And that, in our opinion, is worth more than just some short-term sort of revenue. So if you look at the history of the decisions that Google has made, I think you see that over and over again. And Panda and Penguin are no exception to that. Great question. So the other question is, “Where do you see many SEOs spending too much energy on,” or where do you see the SEOs spending too much time or energy, “when they could be taking care of other things?” So I think a good proxy for that is link building. A lot of people think about, how do I build more links? And they don’t think about the grander, global picture of how do I make something compelling and then how do I make sure that I market it well? You get too focused on search engines, and then you, for example, would entirely miss social media and social media marketing. And that’s a great way to get out in front of people. So specifically, I would think, just like Google does, about the user experience of your site. What makes it compelling? What makes it interesting? What makes it fun? Because if you look at the history of sites that have done relatively well, or businesses that are doing well now, you can take anywhere from Instagram, to Path, even Twitter. There’s a cool app called Yardsale. And what those guys try to do is they make design a fundamental piece of why their site is advantageous to go to. It’s a great experience. People enjoy that. So you could not just pay attention to design, you could pay attention to speed, or other parts of the user experience. But if you really get that sweet spot of something compelling where the design is really good, or the user experience just flows, you’d be amazed how much growth, and traffic, and traction you can get as a result. And it’s kind of funny. You can think about a site like Craigslist, which is a fantastic site. A lot of people use it. It’s been around forever. And a lot of people find it incredibly useful. But for a long time, their user interface, their experience, has been relatively static. And what you see is new generations of startups who are saying, OK, well, if Craigslist is going to have that static interface, here’s one way I might try to make it better. Or here’s one area that Craigslist doesn’t tackle that I can make look really nice. And it’s kind of interesting. If you and your website is not moving forward in thinking about how to improve the user experience, other websites will be thinking about how can I do that better? And they might surprise you. So great questions. There’s a lot of people on web forums, or Black Hat web forums, do have the conspiracy of like Google’s making this change because they want to make money or they want to sell more ads. That’s definitely not the case. And then where do you see people spending too much energy? People do focus a little on search engines and specifically link building, when I would focus more on the user experience, especially the design and then the broader sort of marketing effort. So sorry it’s such a long video. But that was a lot of really interesting stuff packed into a couple questions. And just wanted to tackle that.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


Original video: