Why Google is full of baloney
First off, see if you can spot the difference in the two messages below, both from Google, both from the “same page” on its website. The first is from the Wayback Machine:
In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages. For more information about improving your site’s visibility in the Google search results, we recommend reviewing our Webmaster Guidelines. They outline core concepts for maintaining a Google-friendly website.
Now, the current version:
In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by creating high-quality sites that users will want to use and share. For more information about improving your site’s visibility in the Google search results, we recommend visiting Webmaster Academy which outlines core concepts for maintaining a Google-friendly website.
I took the liberty of highlighting the differences for you (I know, I took all the fun out of it). See the change? On the surface, it looks fairly innocuous and it makes sense. After all, Google has been telling us for years that content reigns supreme.
The problem with this, though, is that the proof is in the SERP pudding and we’ve seen crappy, spammy sites rank pretty high (#1 anybody?) on Google before…so it’s not the content that gets you ranked.
It’s what other people do with your content that gets it ranked. Or at least how Google interprets what people do with your content that gets it ranked.
See? Google’s kind of in the same boat as we are, except that they’re in an ocean and we’re in the bath tub. They don’t yet know how to read and assimilate the content on your page to determine if it’s better than the other content out there on the same topic. So what they do is look for signals, evidence.
Basically, Google looks for mentions of your website on other websites. Back in the day, this meant backlinks, or links from other websites back to yours. Now that includes “social signals” (who liked, +1, retweeted, etc. your content), citations, and even press releases that have been picked up by internet news sources.
All of the above can and is manipulated today and will be as long as some giant search engine is looking at these things.
Google may want your content to be high quality that users will want to use and share, but what they really do is back into this by looking at what users actually do use and share as a proxy for whether your content is “high quality.”
Bottom line: If nobody’s linking to your site or talking about you, your content doesn’t matter. Only after it appears to Google that people are using and sharing your content will your search rankings increase. Of course, if your content sucks, nobody’s going to share it or link to it.
That’s a fact, Jack!