At last week's SMX West conference, Google insiders and search experts shared insight on link building and ranking.

At last week’s SMX West conference, content marketing was a popular topic of debate. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to internet marketers, in light of Google’s recent algorithmic update, which Brafton reported rewards sites for high-quality content. At the conference, Google insiders and search experts shared insight on link building and ranking.

One of the points SMX West experts touched on was the need for article length variety. Search Engine Land reports that Bruce Clay identified sites with the same word count across content pages as some of the biggest losers in the algorithmic update. Clay says this data necessitates a move away from standard length articles and a movement toward a variety of article lengths.

At the same time, marketers should understand that the need for content length variety stems from the need for content to be created with users in mind. Investing in solid editorial content from professional writers can ensure a site gives an appropriate word count to individual landing pages based on the subject matter at hand.

Indeed, Search Engine Land reminds marketers the takeaway from Clay’s point should be to focus less on hitting a specific word count and to instead prioritize making sure “each page of content [is] useful.”

Ensuring that site content is useful to site visitors is also essential to link building. Cutts told conference attendees that focusing less on product info and more on “becoming an authority” will be key to catching the kind of links rewarded by Google. He also indicated that links included in press releases won’t help (or harm) a site, which suggests original, on-site content that catches links is a must.

Another strategy advocated by SMX West attendees is social content marketing. Though Google may not give preferential ranking to pages that have been tweeted versus those that have not, social data will enhance search results to promote clicks and pages may appear higher for individual searchers, thanks to Google’s social search updates.

Ultimately, the message Matt Cutts sent to conference attendees was that SEO strategies shouldn’t change if marketers have been adhering to best-practices all along. Search Engine Land quotes Cutts as saying, “What I said five years ago is still true: Don't chase algorithm, try to make sites users love.”

Katherine Griwert is Brafton's Marketing Director. She's practiced content marketing, SEO and social marketing for over five years, and her enthusiasm for new media has even deeper roots. Katherine holds a degree in American Studies from Boston College, and her writing is featured in a number of web publications.