Every year there’s a special gathering of SEO experts to discuss the latest and greatest in optimization techniques. The most recent one was in June titled “SMX Advanced 2013” and this year the keynote speaker was Google’s search expert Matt Cutts gave some interesting insight into what Google looks for in a website so that it will rank better in its search engine.

During past public appearances at SEO events, Cutts’s usual advice for webmasters looking to rank better in Google always was saying: provide compelling content and design your site for your visitors, not the search engines. However, when questioned further about what makes a great website, Cutts made three interesting recommendations;

  1. Make a great site.
    To this first and second points above, a great site is one that’s been optimized for the user experience. It’s fast; it’s got a good mobile version, it has useful info, it’s conversion optimized and easy to use. These were the themes repeated over and over again throughout the conference, and it’s the topic covered in detail in this month’s Back to Basics article SMX Advanced Non-Negotiables: Social Signals, Mobile Search and User Experience.
  2. Don’t take shortcuts.
    Google continues to test and roll out new algorithm signals to detect spam. One example, the “pay day loans” query space in the UK got a jolt the day of Cutts’s keynote as the Google web spam team deployed a means of detecting and demoting spam from pay day loan businesses in search results. Penguin (link spam) and Panda (low-quality content) updates continue to roll out, but don’t expect announcements of refreshes. It’s worth pointing out that Google doesn’t feel it necessary to announce every update to its algorithm anymore, or name updates, for that matter. During the keynote, Cutts said he wanted to avoid “update name inflation.” When updates and refreshes work toward the goal of elevating relevant, quality results and devaluing manipulative, low-quality results, does it really matter what algorithm tweaks are called?
  3. Pay attention to what Google tells you?
    During the keynote Cutts announced that Google now gives example URLs to webmasters notified of a manual action in Google Webmaster Tools. For several years now, Cutts has said that Google was making open communication a priority. In this case, those website owners that have had a manual action, those who have been hand-flagged for acts against Google guidelines, will be given a few examples of the bad behavior Google sees. In a Webmaster Help video, Updated messages for manual webspam actions, Cutts’s example suggests a page that has been hacked, perhaps with something like a link injection.
  4. Tell everyone
    Once you have a great site is one that users love, bookmark, tell their friends about, come to over and over again ? all the things that make a site compelling (Cutts’s favorite word for describing great content).

If you promote your business or personal website via the search engines, your most immediate marketing goal should be to work hard for your website users as a way to create compelling Web content. If you do this, then expect Google to be your ally in the pursuit of that goal by working hard alongside you to show your high-quality content to users.