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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Matt Cutts to SEOs: It's the content, stupid!

Matt is too nice a guy (or too professional) to be insulting and derisive in his blog or other online/public comments to the SEO community. But he has dealt the self-deluding SEO community a long-needed intellectual bloody nose by showing them that one doesn't need to rely upon links to rank well for expressions in Google.

In his August 21, 2006 blog post offering SEO advice, Matt demonstrated how one can easily rank for a popular expression ("SEO") while explaining how he used a previous blog entry to target a longer expression.

Delivering a 1-2 punch to the generally ignorant SEO community on the power of content hasn't gone unnoticed. In comments posted as followups to his blog, and on numerous blogs elsewhere, SEOs have been rationalizing how Matt is bending his own rules and suddenly revealing that "content ranks again" (tip: it always ranked, except where it was overwhelmed by massive numbers of links).

Just because SEOs have trained themselves only to rank by endlessly (and generally needlessly) building links upon links has never meant that Google was scoring only by links, mainly by links, or wantonly by links. In fact, the overemphasis on linkage has long been a self-defeating strategy for many SEOs, who have devoted much of the past three years complaining about how it's becoming more difficult to garner high rankings quickly through linkage.

This is the power of momentum in ideology: once nonsense takes on the authority of fact, the fiction outweighs all sensibility and reason. It's highly doubtful that Matt's SEO 101 lesson (develop content that is relevant to a query first and worry about linkage later) will part the waters, but it should at least make a splash that is heard around the world for a brief moment in time.

The momentity of the task is made more clear by the naive comments posted by Greg Boser (aka "Webguerilla") in his Amish Gokarts and Mini Bike Furniture post on August 23, 2006. Within a day, dozens if not hundreds of SEO blogs around the world have picked up Boser's inaccurate analysis and hailed it as another marvel of great SEO reverse engineering. Boser's conclusion that a host serving two domains from the same IP address is responsible for a Go Kart site ranking well for "Amish furniture" fails to take into consideration two links that Boser clearly didn't know how to find.

When one of the A-listers of SEOdom fails to pinpoint two or three obvious and easy-to-find links that clearly demonstrate why the Google algorithm would mistake a site for being relevant to "Amish furniture", it's time to ask if these people are really worth the money they are being paid by good businesses for their advice and consulting services.

Search engine optimization is still very much a smudgy art. Hopefully, search engineers like Matt Cutts will continue to emphasize the importance of looking at all the factors that have been openly documented for at least 8 years.

The SEO world has blathered on about inbound links and PageRank, completely blinding itself to the importance of outbound links and on-page content. Frankly, this lesson has come about five years too late.

Let's hope it doesn't take five more years for the next lesson to rattle the cages and foundations of the myths that SEOs have built their reputations on.


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