What Does Google Mean By A Level Playing Field?

What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now. MATT CUTTS – GOOGLE (SER).

If I have my seo hat on I think seo (or rather, link building) levels the playing field. I also often think Google is throwing us a kansas city shuffle. We can all see CLEARLY the way Google has set up a strategy for IT to win online, which lets big brands dominate organic listings in many (if not all) niches.

But I recognise, if Google didn’t change, our particular seo industry would not exist. If Google didn’t change, industrial seo players would leave no room for most of the industry – me and you included.

If I put my ‘start-up’ hat on, it’s a different scenario.

For instance, say a website launches with the real quality content. It could, should, rank for some nice terms, but it doesn’t. It’s below a myriad of substandard ‘just good enough’ content, built upon a mountain of article marketing, directories and paid links, built up over time that even editorial links can’t help you with – just because you can do that, because of the way Google, and most search engines, work by counting back links as votes.

Is it fair to rank high in Google natural listings (by that I mean under the fold, below Google and Wikipedia and big media sites, of course) using this manipulation – just because you can? In a perfect world, which we don’t live in, it certainly sounds a fairer system.

Whatever you and I think (which is usually based on what you are making money from) – Google says no to low quality seo, and Google calls the shots in seoland.

Google Is Making The Organic Listings It Wants

Google has always said no, but now it’s CLEARLY saying no, and backing this up with some aggressive punishment. It doesn’t matter if you think Google should be better at attributing quality. It’s far easier for Google to take this route. It’s easier to penalise low quality manipulation – the type A LOT of sites had to use to compete for rankings.

This, of course, will all have the effect of lifting corporations and big trusted brands into the top of the natural serps, and any critic of Google will tell you that. I don’t know – but I am a bit tired of the ‘I hate Google rhetoric coming out of the seo industry. For sure, A LOT of this criticism is warranted, but it’s cool to rebel isn’t it. Cool – but usually a pointless waste of time. I prefer to spend my time on stuff that that see me through these changes, and moaning about Google just doesn’t do it for me anymore: too much energy for too little reward.

A Defensible Link Strategy

Google now has an army of unpaid website reviewers working for it. A link that can’t pass a manual review, or is on a site that wouldn’t exist if Google didn’t count links – is not defensible any more. Well, lots of them are not. It’s easier, and cheaper, to get a competitor (who is outright breaking the rules) penalised than beat them at their own game – though this, as everything to do with Google, takes time.

When grey-hat becomes black-hat, you’re better off leaving that stuff to the people who know what they are doing, and what to expect from it. It’s too easy for your activity to be reported to Google these days – it doesn’t matter if it ‘works’ to change your rankings if you don’t have a long term plan to deal with the fallout.

Google is siding with the “user” in a classic move where Google can’t lose. A sensible move for seo is to do the same, whether you like it or not.

Google guidelines are (effectively) laws for ranking in Google now, where once, they were just a list of things that you could use to rank in Google. Google is more than happy to crack down on them now. Since 1998, it wanted us to live under rules that were not policed properly and so, by definition, unfair. These rules are so ‘unfair, even Google can’t play by them. But Google is certainly policing them more effectively today.

Nonetheless, the message is slightly different to seo today than it was back then, before industrial seo. Google WANTS its SERPS a certain way, rightly or wrongly, and now ADMITS freely it’s algo is not always up to the job – it’s happy to manually edit listings, manually penalise sites, to get what it WANTS.

It’s all part of a great move on Google’s part, for Google’s long term benefit.

The message is clear – stay away from low quality link building tactics. Most of these short cuts are EASILY DETECTABLE and will only hurt you. Linkbuilding isn’t dead, it can’t die, only change. Low quality stuff IS dead.

Google IS ‘levelling’ the playing field and it’s probably best for small businesses to stay out of Google’s way at the moment.

Fair? It all depends on who you are talking to.

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