Tim Short, the owner of WebRevelation, posts helpful articles for customer site administrators on the sign-in screen periodically. I always check out those posts, and have gleaned a lot of good information from them. The most recent is a post by Carl Hruza, of Connect Online Services, a web design and search engine optimization (SEO) business in Wisconsin. The article is a two-part series, called "Establishing Ownership of your Content." The first part The Rules are Changing, and the second is Are you Ready to Play the Game? There's some great information in both of those pieces, as well as a demonstration of a great technique for drawing blog readership: He published the first part on several different highly-ranked article directories, and linked to the second part on his own website.
In a nutshell, he's helping his clients sort out what the newest Google algorithm changes mean to them. This is also something we also do on a regular basis here at WebRev. Customers who are maintaining a website as a customer contact point and marketing effort locally are obviously going to have different priorities in regard to catering to the search engines than will businesses which exists solely online and maintain websites as their primary source of income, and this is something Mr. Hruza explains very well.
For local businesses, the changes to the recent Google algorithm will have minimal impact. Basically, these businesses need to keep on posting quality, original content of interst to their customers and potential clients. They need to maintain a user-friendly presence wherever their target demographic is likely to be, such as on the social networks like Facebook and Twitter. These also need to be easy to access online however their target demographic tends to use the web - which increasingly is including mobile technology.
So, if you're doing these things, just keep on keeping on.
For those really interested in SEO, however, the discussion is still open regarding how Google's ever-mysterious algorithm changes should change the way we preactice search engine optimization. Google is in the process (ostensibly) of trying to update its algorithm to detect duplicate content in order to minimize the value of sites that do nothing but "scrape" content from other sites (basically, spam sites that don't publish original content, but just plagiarize other sites in order to attract traffic to the ads on their own websites). Google explains, HERE.
The problem with this claim by Google is that if it wanted to really prioritize original content, it could easily do so by utilizing its cache. Google and the other search engines have been caching content for years. See our post from November, Need to recover a deleted or modified blog post? Try your search engine's cache.
All Google or any other search engine would need to do is to place a high value on the first incidence on any posted content, using its cache. No, it would not be able to rely on the "post date" (the timestamp on the post), because this date is often manipulated by webmasters for a variety of reasons, mostly innocent right now. If the post date ever became an important factor in search engine optimization, however, you could expect to see mosts from the 17th century suddenly becoming popular online, as people would be trying to make their content appear "first." No, that wouldnt' work; the search engines would need to use their cache to detect the earliest time that content was actually posted. In fact, Google already knows how to do this, because it has been incorporating the publishing time in its search options on its news search for a long time.
So, why hasn't this already been done? Well, the search engines have not lost sight of who their paying customers are - the advertisers. And thre is more money to be gained by tracking popularity and influence than there is in tracking accuracy and quality. Until someone figures out a way to monetize quality search, that is unlikely to change.