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I was sent this incredibly funny Youtube video of Japanese Binocular Football. After picking myself up off the floor I suddenly realised how Binocular Football reminds me of present day SEO - especially since the Google Penguin updates.
The players in Binocular football can only see things far away and struggle to see the most important thing in the game - the football. Similarly, with SEO, by suddenly prioritising looking at those distant inbound links, we miss the fact that quality on page content still needs to be the main priority over off page links.
It may be that we will never be able to remove all those back links which Google considers "bad" and, until Google follows Bing's excellent move of introducing a Disavow tool for links, these types of links may still have a negative impact on a website’s search rankings.
Yes, we need to address the issue of what Google considers to be poorer quality (and often devalued / ignored) back links and their impact on search rankings, however on-page content still has the most important part to play in ranking a site. In addition, the introduction of Google’s over optimisation filter means that simply removing back links is not enough to improve rankings. We need to concentrate on page optimisation rather than prioritising off-page optimisation.
The Penguin updates may have made Search Engine Optimisation seem as though it's now a distant technique that can be hit and miss in terms of results. Truth is that the basics of SEO haven't changed at all as a result of any of these recent Google updates - all sites still need Titles and Meta Descriptions and semantic correctness and above all sites still need to have good, well written content.