Giant anchor chain with two sailorsI was at a workshop yesterday and met some folks (not shown here) who have been developing websites for 12 years. “Old hands” like them know a lot about the Web, and they are very skeptical about the value of Search Engine Optimization. My developer associate Chris seems to feel pretty much the same way. Unless you are a truly Internet-driven business (a la Ebay or Zappos — and even then) it’s nowhere near as important to your site’s success as creating great content. And doing SEO well is an art form that not many people have the skill, the patience or the budget to practice.

What’s more, if you overdo your SEO, you can end up with text-heavy, unreadable copy —  a site that’s so dense with search-friendly keywords that nobody will want to read it. Visitors might show up, but they will leave just as quickly to find a site that’s more usable. That’s not what you want.

In addition, many so-called SEO “experts” use techniques that are manipulative and shady. But now it seems that Google is onto them. Again.

Google’s whole focus (in addition to making money hand over fist) is in generating real, useful results for your searches. They have legions of very smart people who do nothing but find ways to undermine and sabotage the SEO scam artists. They want to give users results that are actually useful. So if you have a bunch of stupid, auto-generated links to your site from blogs that have been mined by robots, your website traffic is about to crash and burn.

Eugene Ware, the CEO of Noble Samurai software. has written a pretty clear explanation of this latest development on his company’s blog. Check it out if you want to know more. (Note: I tried to link you directly to the article, but Ware seems to have moved it around. So I linked to the home page of his blog instead. Look for the article called “Google Changes SEO Forever with its Disavow Link Tool – What You Need to Do Right Now…”)

Meanwhile, my expert buddies suggest you focus on making your site useful and informative. If you do, Google will love you. And so will your customers.