Google has plenty to say about delivering the best search results possible.

It’s a common misunderstanding to think of SEO as being surrounded in a veil of secrecy that can’t be pierced – a black art practiced by shadowy figures and modern-day marketing leprechauns promising pots of gold. While Google doesn’t reveal everything about their algorithm, they’ve got plenty to say about SEO – the good and the bad.

Our site quality algorithms are aimed at helping people find ‘high-quality’ sites by reducing the rankings of low-quality content.”

–Amit Singhal, Google

Follow clear search engine guidelines and quality standards for avoiding the spammy content that deserves to get punished.

Google’s published thousands of pages information about its search engine algorithm. In the last few years, much of that documentation has surrounded their dramatic Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird updates. Google generally changes their algorithm about 500-600 times a year, and the recent changes have had unprecedented consequences for low-quality websites. What worked yesterday might get you banned tomorrow.

Google’s content quality guidelines: Know the red flags.

Quality content is hard to describe, but it’s easy to recognize. Rotten content is probably even easier to spot. In his post from Google Webmaster Central entitled “More guidance on building high quality sites,” Google’s Amit Singhal offers more than a score of questions that go straight to recognizing a quality site. Here are a few important ways Google judges quality website content:

  • “Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?”
  • “Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?”
  • “Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?”
  • “Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?”
  • “Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?”

High-quality search engine optimized content doesn’t happen by accident.

Strongly branded content that converts isn’t all that easy to create, otherwise Google wouldn’t be cracking down on millions of spam pages a day. The people who don’t want to follow Google’s quality guidelines are the people who don’t want to do the work of creating authentic content written for the benefit of the reader. They have one go-to tactic: trying to trick the Google search algorithm by creating fake links or content. Many of them can’t do the real work of writing quality optimized content for search engines and have no professional marketing experience. It’s disturbingly common for them not to be able to communicate fluently in English.

There’s no reason to let people play Google games with your business. It’s certainly not for the results.

The games may come in many unattractive forms – from linking schemes to guest blogging to article spinning – but they all lack a coherent strategy and the ability to deliver real results that can withstand a Google penalty. Cheap tactics aren’t much of a bargain when you get caught exploiting the system, and you have to waste more of your budget trying to clean up the damage than what you would have spent on real SEO in the first place.

Millions of useless web pages are created every day. Effective optimized content requires a more intelligent approach.

Great websites don’t get 1,000 automated directory links in one day; it’s unnatural. Google has made it clear they don’t like cheap no-brainers or things that can be done by a robot – these are hallmarks of spam content that Google has targeted for penalties in algorithms. The kinds of places people go to for trusted information, like Wikipedia or the Wall Street Journal, don’t spin obvious information that sounds careless and unsubstantial. Trusted sources also don’t have childlike grammar, regrettable spelling or the kind of Yoda-like syntax that demonstrates a clear lack of fluency in English.

If you look at the PageRank of a page — how reputable we think a particular page or site is — the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that. So, the reputable sites tend to spell better and the sites that are lower PageRank, or very low PageRank, tend not to spell as well.”

–Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team

Or else some SEO mistakes could come back to haunt you.

Once something is unleashed on the internet, it’s hard and sometimes even impossible to undo it. Undoing bad SEO is even more costly than doing the right thing in the first place. Too many business owners have created a secondary SEO campaign that’s separate from their “real content” because the content and places they’re linking to are so embarrassing that even they don’t want to be associated with them.

It’s time to stop sneaking around on your real content.

In the search engines, you’re only as good as the person who ranks under you. If all those quickie shortcuts really made it so easy to get to page 1, then everyone would already be there. The bottom line on all those fabulously cheap SEO shortcuts is: If everyone can do it, then it won’t get you ahead of anyone. High quality content and SEO optimization work better together than either one can alone, and don’t believe anyone who tells you to choose. You can have it all, and you’ll get the best results.


Recommended reading from Google:

Google Webmaster Tools Central Blog – “More guidance on building high-quality sites.”

Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide (download the PDF)

Keep up on the latest changes Google makes to its search engine ranking algorithm.