The search landscape continues to change and companies that fail to keep up with users expectations will have a hard time beating innovative sites.

Marketers who diligently tracked SEO updates and learned best practices throughout the past decade might falsely assume their brand content is safely in a strong search position. However, ranking signals are not steady and smaller players that are smarter and more agile with their strategies can overtake long-time leaders. Brafton recently reported about a site fell off the face of results pages after catching the attention of Google’s Webspam team and rebounded as quickly.

In a recent Google Webmaster Help Channel video, Search Engineer Matt Cutts advises legacy site owners – those that have been around for a decade plus – to take a fresh look at their websites as if they were internet users browsing search results for answers. View it like a random page found in SERPs and evaluate the look and experience.

Cutts said this new perspective will often reveal domains that look stale, with templates hailing from the web 2.0 era. Users might not be as happy with these results as they are with sites from newer companies that are more focused on user experience and have built responsive pages with better navigation.

“I wouldn’t just coast on your laurels,” Cutts added. “Sites with better UX can grow and eclipse you.”

SEOs need to remember that content may be king, but users are the judge and jury. 

What serves as a warning to marketers still holding onto old SEO tactics is promising for brands that are willing to take risks to increase their visibility online. Website appearance is extremely important. Reports have shown that nearly half of all internet users assess a site’s credibility and authority by the look of its design, including the layout, color schemes, images and typography.

SEOs need to remember that content may be king, but users are the judge and jury. Google has made it clear that sites won’t be search leaders if they optimize only for search crawlers, they need to innovate and update to continuously provide visitors with better experiences.

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.