Do you listen to Matt Cutts?
Before launching into this article, it might make more sense to begin by asking: do you know who Matt Cutts is?
He’s the head of Google’s webspam team and is increasingly seen as the public face of Google, when it comes to providing information about SEO. His blog contains notes on what you should be doing, as well as techniques that should be avoided.
As a result, he regularly issues guidance on a broad range of issues. There’s been much talk today, for example, about his recommendation that you should use nofollow when creating links on widgets.
Firstly, it’s probably worth saying that plenty of people who run websites won’t know what nofollow is. If you’re in that particular boat, then you may well be running to Google right now to find out what nofollow is and why it’s important to you.
For those who already have an understanding of the issue, should there be a rush to go out and do as Matt says? If he’s a representative of Google and he’s issuing instructions, then surely you should follow suit?
It seems to me that Google are in a bit of a muddle that’s largely of their own making. There would be no need, after all, to use nofollow at, if it weren’t for the fact that the search engine’s algorithm is so dependent on following and evaluating links. The latter part of that equation, some might well argue, doesn’t seem to be working particularly well.
If Google did a great job of evaluating links, then they might not need so much help from others to point out whether link juice should be passed. Indeed, the importance of links has caused a multitude of secondary issues, including the expansion of an entire industry of people selling links.
You’ll increasingly see talk of SEO companies using “white hat” techniques. There was a time when this largely meant that providers would avoid excessively stuffing a page with keywords, or looking to provide content consisting of black text on a black background.
Today, some would suggest that it’s increasingly hard to define “white hat” techniques. As the goal posts have been moved over the years, some techniques that were acceptable 5 years ago will now lead to penalties.
So how much notice should you take of what Matt has to say? There clearly has to be a balance here, particularly since you primarily operate a website for the benefit of your business.
Although Google may well have an important part to play, in terms of providing a proportion of visitors, how much time should you spend making changes to ensure that you are in line with the latest guidelines that are issued by the search engine giant?
The primary concern for your business is likely to be creating content, information and services that appeal to your customers. You’ll want to provide a website that meets their needs.
If you’re successful in doing that, then it seems reasonable to imagine that you should attract attention and rank well within the search engine results. Marking widget links as nofollow? That’s unlikely to be a great use of your time.
Of course, you may decide to implement every single change that Google recommend. That might be a decision that you’re happy with, but there always needs to be an appreciation that there’s a resource overhead associated with taking that route.
Read what Matt Cutts has to say, but make your own decisions on what will really benefit your business.
by Keith Barrett
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