How Google ‘Handles’ SEO: My Beef With Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts PSAI’m sure that most of you know or have heard of Matt Cutts at Google. For those who don’t, Cutts is the head of the web Spam team at Google. That is to say, Cutts works diligently to ensure that Google’s search results are “good” and he polices efforts by folks who try to (overtly) manipulate Google’s results through overly aggressive search engine optimization (SEO) tactics.

I want to say upfront that Cutts is a nice guy. Sincerely. That’s not me trying to get in his “good graces.” Cutts helps, in many ways, to guide folks in the proper way to market their websites, and goes out of his way to provide helpful information.

Matt provides information via his blog, provides insight via the GoogleWebmasterHelp channel on YouTube, his Twitter feed, countless conferences, and too many other channels for me to list here. I have no freaking clue how this guy does all of this and manages to have a life.

But, somehow he does, and somehow he manages to be smiling, every…single…time…that I see him. So, kudos to him.

With that said, here comes my “beef”... At SXSW, Cutts was quoted as saying (emphasis mine):

...Normally we don’t sort of pre-announce changes, but there is something that we’ve been working on in the last few months. And hopefully, in the next couple months or so, in the coming weeks, we hope to release it. ... So all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site, we want to sort of make that playing field a little bit more level.

So that’s the sort of thing where we try to make the GoogleBot smarter, we try to make our relevance more adaptive so that people don’t do SEO—we handle that—and then we also start to look at the people who sort of abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on the page, or they exchange way too many links, or whatever they are doing to sort of go beyond what a normal person would expect in a particular area. So that is something where we continue to pay attention and we continue to work on it, and it is an active area where we’ve got several engineers on my team working on that right now.

Notice that bolded sentence? 

This may lead folks to begin the charge of “SEO is dead," once again. I really hope not, because this won't cause SEO to flatline.

Cutts also said that Google is trying to “level the playing field” from those who are excessive in their methods of trying to optimize their websites versus those websites who should be rewarded by creating quality content.

That’s my main point.

At the end of the day, companies need to produce quality content to have a presence in the search engines. Part of SEO is helping companies understand what kind of content needs to be produced and how that content needs to be promoted.

Often, this content needs to come in the form of actual pages on a company’s corporate website. If you provide certain services, you could make a pretty convincing argument that you should have a page on your site for each specific service that you provide, so that your website is seen as relevant for that keyword/service. Simple enough.

Sometimes, you may find keywords that your company would like to be associated with, but targeting these on a “service” page doesn’t make sense. Perhaps it’s a search query in which someone is seeking advice. Often, you can target these keywords via a blog. If you could write a post that provides resourceful information for your target audience, and showcases your thought-leadership, it’s a win-win. You’re providing information that is helpful to your audience, and you’re providing content which would be relevant for the search engines to rank.

It goes deeper than that, though.

Some “content” isn't textual. Sometimes you need to optimize image files. Sometimes, optimizing your videos can gain you a relatively quick presence in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Sometimes, SEO is a matter of helping companies do better with their local/map listings. Sometimes, companies need help with optimizing their shopping feeds. Sometimes PR (press release) efforts need strategic and tactical help, so that they gain as much presence as they can in the SERPs, as well as social channels (has anyone talked about how social is becoming more engrained in SEO efforts?).

SEO isn't dead. And Cutts may actually want to clarify his comment, in this instance, so that folks know. Google can’t replace SEO.

Google still needs SEO to push forward the message that companies need to produce quality content, make that content accessible, and promote that content, so that it can earn the right to have a presence in the major search engines.

About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.