Winter, 2005, the massive Jagger update is happening at Google and here comes the Big Daddy database too. It was a big 3 months. A lot of spam got cleaned up. And something became apparent, Google had decided that a businesses “reputation,” that is, “what others say about a business” should carry more weight than what a Webmaster, designer or SEO can do or say on the page. In other words, Google had certainly gone past the 50% mark regarding what determined position in search results. And this was to be in favor of “off-page” factors, like link popularity, link reputation and most notably, some element involving peer review, over “on-page” factors like keyword density, frequency and prominence.
Ever since, I have paid close attention and I really think that “reputation” is the word of the decade for search marketing. I believe that Google and Yahoo and eventually MSN all have this in common, that is, organically, the businesses with the best reputation will idealistically appear at the top of the search results. This way the user is more likely remember the good experience that ultimately came from using that engine to search. This is ninja branding strategy also for the search market leadership. They all want to be the “go to” search engine and this starts with getting you to come back.
So, I would say that ever-present and at the forefront of every marketing campaign should be the goal of improving the reputation of your business. Do still optimize your content! But optimize your life while you are at it. I suppose that the Golden Rule comes into play here too.