Alex Butzbach

Modern SEO is a complex system that requires keeping multiple plates spinning at once. Content has to be kept on-topic, social networks need to be managed and email should be used to unify entire campaigns. So there’s an obvious and understandable tendency among brands to micromanage each aspect of a search strategy in order to wring out every last visitor, conversion and dollar. But according to Matt Cutts of Google’s Webspam team, it’s possible to go too far.

SEO is about the big picture

A recent Webmaster Help video addressed a question about a very specific aspect of PageRank: Whether there is search benefit to having more than one link, each with unique anchor text, pointing to the same.  Cutts gamely answered, but he was quick to point out that he was doing so more to fulfill the audience’s curiosity, than to provide actionable advice.

‘How many users actually making it through my funnel?’ and ‘Are they finding good stuff that they really enjoy?’ ‘What is the design of my homepage, and do I need to refresh it because it’s starting to look a little stale after a few years?’ All those kinds of things that are generally good for users, that’s probably worth a lot more of your time and attention than thinking about the amount of PageRank or the anchor text that will flow from multiple links on a page. 

User experience doesn’t trump SEO – it is SEO

Press release distribution sites have taken a big hit in the wake of Panda 4.0.

Cutts’ answer speaks to the essence of user experience (UX) – a pleasant and informative online encounter will do much more for a brand’s content marketing strategy than making the smallest tweaks to linking structure or keyword selection. Google openly acknowledges this, and is constantly updating its algorithms to move in this direction..

For example, take the case of press releases. According to a study by Search Engine Land, press release distribution sites have taken a big hit in the wake of Panda 4.0. It’s possible that the search engine found that these weren’t providing useful information to searchers, even if well optimized for SEO.

Brands need to answer one simple question to gauge their performance: Will searchers find my website useful and interesting? As the semantic web becomes more sophisticated, webmasters won’t have to struggle to micromanage a system that is intended to gauge search value – they can simply provide value to customers. As far as Matt Cutts and the rest of Google is concerned, focusing on SEO minutiae isn’t a wise time or resource investment for any site.

Want to learn more about user experience? Download our UX eBook