Marketers were wise to pay attention to Matt Cutt's warnings about SEO shifts, as Google recently updated guidance on search rankings.

To secure top positions in SERPs, marketers are going to need to do more than get reputable sources to link to their online content. Search Engine Land‘s Barry Schwartz recently noticed that Google updated the Ranking section of its Webmaster Tools Help page. Now, the guidance suggests user experience is more important to SEO than backlinks – a change that could force brands to bring their SEO campaigns back to the drawing board.

The page now reads, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share,” where it once stated, “In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages.”

According to Schwartz, this change took place on May 27,¬†2013, but Google didn’t release a formal announcement about the update.

The update doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has payed attention to Search Engineer Matt Cutts’ recent Webmaster Help Channel videos. Cutts warned SEOs against focusing so much on link building that they get tunnel vision and forget who they are actually publishing branded content for – internet users.

“In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share.”

Companies that produce custom content for their websites and social media profiles will be happy to hear about the new guidance¬†because it means their efforts will pay off with better web visibility, clickthrough rates and website conversions. It’s important for marketers to remember that Google has its sights trained on user experience even though it uses (increasingly intelligent) algorithms to police the web. The moral of the story: create content for readers, not Googlebots.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.