If you want to know what really matters when it comes to SEO and what areas you should be focusing on in the development of your website, who better to ask than the search engines themselves?

Google and Bing are generally quite tight-lipped about the exact specifications of their algorithms, but they do from time to time give webmasters, online copywriters and others in the SEO game a few helpful pointers. This month there were two such pointers, which while they may not be revelations for anyone in the know, reveal a little of the thinking behind the current strategies of the search engines, and where they might go in the future.

Google envisages a world without backlinks

Matt Cutts (Google’s head of Web Spam) frequently posts videos on the GoogleWebmasterHelp YouTube channel in response to questions posed to him by webmasters and online marketers. In his most recent video Cutts responds to the question, ‘Does [Google] have a version of the search engine that totally excludes any backlink relevance?’

In his response he reveals that while Google doesn’t have such a version for public use, it has in the past run internal ‘experiments’ along these lines. He goes on to say that when they did so, “the quality [of the search results] looks much, much worse.” He goes on to say that, “back links, even though there’s some noise and certainly a lot of spam, for the most part they are still a really, really big win in terms of quality for search results.”

So despite the growing importance of alternative ranking factors, such as social signals, it appears that Google still puts a lot of stock on the number, quality and relevance of the links that you have to and from other sites. However, some marketers may read into the wording of Cutts’ final phrase – “at least for now, backlink relevance still really helps in terms of making sure that we return the best, most relevant, most topical set of search results.”

Bing concentrates on quality of online copy

Also this month, Bing’s Senior Product Manager, Duane Forrester, muses on the importance of quality content both in terms of humans reading it and search engines evaluating and ranking it. Forrester specifically focuses on errors that can arise, “like grammatical errors, spelling errors, but also sometimes bigger stuff like mistakes around facts, or the wrong image in an article.”

As he points out, people make judgements of your website and your company based on the quality of content they see, and, “just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours.”

As a happy coincidence, both of these factors considered by the two major search engines feed into each other – the number and quality of your backlinks will in large part be determined by the quality of your content. So from a webmaster’s perspective, all you need to do to satisfy both of these aspects is to create high quality, error-free content. If you need a little help doing just that, take a look at our web copywriting page.

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