A man punches through his computer after seeing Google has ignored his black hat SEO tactics

Google has learned a lot since its early days as a young and naive search engine.

The results in those days were quite different. Looking for a plumber? Well, Google would proudly serve up websites that used the word plumber aggressively and frequently, to the detriment of the quality of the site’s content.

Well, Google has grown up. It has learned from the mistakes and assumptions it made in the early days. It has gained valuable life experience and wisdom.

Google has learned how to filter out the garbage.

The big problem is that many people doing SEO still make decisions as if Google hasn’t caught onto their facade. They build links to irrelevant websites and keyword stuff their pages.

In short, they make user experience a proper nightmare.

Figuring out what Search Engine Optimization actually is…

“Search Engine Optimization” is something of a blanket term. It covers an incredibly diverse set of tasks that range from content development to network building and everything in between. That’s why it’s difficult to classify the subject as a whole – there are too many moving parts.

Yes, SEO can mean ensuring that your page titles are relevant and that your site is properly visible to search crawlers is an essential part of running a site that has potential to rank. These are vital tasks that need to be done that indicate to Google and other search engines that your website is properly built and relevant to the search query.

The tricky part is that SEO can often be understood as a shortcut – a way to bypass the line of other websites in your niche and to skip to the head of the queue.

Well, Google doesn’t like shortcuts. Google likes natural and organic indicators that a certain website is preferred over its competition.

There’s nothing natural about a shortcut.

How to do everything wrong

The early days of SEO gave birth to the notion that buying 10,000 backlinks to sites with high PageRank was the surefire way to conquer the search rankings. And regardless of the number of articles written by industry experts in the past year or so, that mode of thinking still seems quite prevalent.

What ultimately happens is that a business owner who is not satisfied with their performance in the search engine rankings looks at SEO as a series of buttons that, once pushed, will launch his website into first place.

Like I said, there’s nothing natural about shortcuts.

Here’s the crux of the matter: If your SEO strategy revolves entirely around trying to “push the right buttons” without generating any real value for your website and brand, you might not find a friend in Google.

Google’s reputation hinges on showing the most helpful and relevant websites based on the user’s search query. Websites that have added value through interesting content, valuable services or useful tutorials and tips, should rightfully hold the top spots.

What does SEO mean to you? If it means swindling your way to the top through smoky, backroom techniques then you might not find a friend in Google. Consequently, you might find that coveted number one spot farther away than it was when you started.

On the other hand, if it means building content that provides actual value to your visitors, through compelling content on an easy-to-use interface, then you’re moving in the right direction.

Peering into the crystal ball to see the future

Google’s crawler algorithms are becoming better and better at recognizing the difference between a website that provides value and a website that is just hawking its wares. Your overall SEO goal should be to make sure you fit into the first category, while avoiding the second category like the plague.

In the end, the core of SEO is pretty simple: find what people want and give it to them. Sure, carrying it out can take some time, but working with an attitude to improve the user experience will get you a whole lot further in the long run than tricks and sleight-of-hand ever could.