We have been guilty of not practising what we preach and haven’t updated our blog for a few weeks now (clients always come first!) but we are determined to make the time as we are always telling people how important it is to add more quality content to your site.

This message is echoed in a recent video by Matt Cutts (should need no introduction – follow him @mattcutts) where he answers a question that will ring bells with many business owners:

How can a website compete for high rankings using only white hat techniques in industries that are dominated by spammers if Google takes months to react to spam reports and by that time new black hat sites are ranking?

This is indeed a very good question and one that we find ourselves facing on a very regular basis. SEO is very competitive, but ridiculously competitive in particular industries (think finance, travel, gambling, etc.) and websites will do anything to grab those valuable top slots in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages).

We have always (and will always) maintained an ethical approach to search engine marketing and believe strongly in the long term objectives of establishing visibility across the major search engines but it can be very  frustrating to see spammy sites outranking our client sites when it is clear that black hat techniques are contributing to the ranking success.

We were therefore interested to see what the official party line is from Google, as per Matt’s video:

No real surprises to be honest and no real answers to headaches that you can feel in the SEO game but anyone who has real experience of SEO knows that there are no magic formulas / secrets that will propel you to the top of Google.

The biggest challenge is knowing what to do when almost all the top ranking sites are engaging in ‘illegal’ activity (primarily buying links) as it can appear to be impossible to muscle in on those elusive top slots without playing on a level playing field.

Whilst filing spam reports may help, there can be no guarantee that Google will do much about it (Matt encourages you to contact him via twitter – we can only imagine how many of those he must get…) nor is there any guarantee about how long it may take – this can hurt when time not ranking is most definitely money lost.

What is clear to us, however, is that the long term winners of the SEO competition will be the sites that can build authority – expect this to be the buzz word for the forseeable future in the world of SEO.

How do you build authority? Create an industry leading site and engage with contextually relevant sites. Back to the old addage of ‘content is king’…

Matt encourages webmasters to do exactly this and asks us to have faith in Google’s ability to improve spam filters over time. A big ask, but one that we have to accept. In the short term, you have to look at your site and ask yourself if you are confident that it (in Matt’s words) ‘stands the test of time‘.