Google's war on SEO

SEO? What's that?

SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimisation, which is what one does if one wants one's website to get returned in a more prominent position when someone does a search on Google. This is not about how one does SEO. Let's just say the most important part is getting people to link to one's site.

In Google's shoes

Let's look at things from Google's perspective. They want to return the most relevant results to keep searchers coming back to them. The most relevant result is a link to the site with the content the searcher is searching for. In the old days, search engines used the meta tags (tags about the page on which they're found) to tell the search engine what the page was about and which search terms were the ones relevant to the page, as well as the text content of the page. Of course, it's very easy to lie in these meta tags and stuff the text content of the page with search terms which don't add anything to the semantic content of the page. When Google started up, they used a different way to determine the relevance of a page when it comes to certain search terms - they looked for links from other sites using more or less the search term as link text . Of course, they also looked at the text on the linked to page, headings and so forth, but the weight was with the number of links coming in, the sites they came from and the text used in the links. And this worked. Google became the number one search engine in the World. Site owners now wanted their sites to rank well in Google searches, and the race to get links was on.

Soon, there were all kinds of businesses on the web promising site owners links by the ton and a prominent place in Google search results. Of course, Google couldn't stand idly by and watch their ranking algorithm manipulated by unscrupulous shysters. And you'd better believe me, in the Internet hucksters have found a natural home. Google had to do something. They cracked down on link farms - sites consisting mainly of links - and other obvious ways of manipulation of their ranking algorithm. The shysters just got smarter. Google had to up the ante. And so it goes, one step at a time. Now Google is accused of waging a war on SEO.

No surprises

If one steps back and look at all this calmly, one will see that all this was inevitable. Site owners will want their sites to rank high on the most widely used search engine. They will try to find out what makes a site rank high on this search engine. They will then use this knowledge to gain an advantage, unfair or just, for their sites. The owners of this search engine will then take steps to thwart hucksters. Some innocent site owners will be caught in the cross fire. And so it escalates.

At the bottom of all this...

The root cause of the problem is that sites are ranked by computer programs. The reason is obvious - with so many sites out there it's just impossible to have humans rank them all, even if you are Google. To add to that problem, humans ranking sites will have to be knowledgeable about the topic of the page to form a valid opinion about the value of the page. One can overcome problems of pages of about equal value on a topic by giving them the same weight and shuffling the order in which pages of the same weight are returned with every search.

As computer programs are based on a certain logic, anyone wanting the influence the results returned by the program in question has to find out which logic the particular program operates on and use this knowledge to adjust what goes into the program - an integer representing number of links to a page, keywords on the page, etc. This is exactly what is happening and always will happen while computers decide the order of returned search results. And with the number of pages on the Internet, I see no alternative.

Google is not perfect

Google by no means returns perfect results - big organisations with lots of Internet presence as well as government sites are favoured. Often one will find a result that will link to the page of a site on a site like Hotfrog, but not a result that links to the site itself directly. So, one needs two clicks to get to the site with the content one is interested in. That doesn't make sense. And often good pages, with what one is looking for, are not returned near the top, while rubbish is, even if one use various search terms, some of them accurately describing what one is looking for.

A possible alternative

So, is there any light at the end of the tunnel? Well, maybe a small one. I've noticed that there are sites where one can put up links to tutorials. Of course, there are also thousands of web directories on the Internet. What about topical directories to which web masters submit links, which are then checked by humans (better than they are at the moment - one finds links in totally the wrong category in many directories) and overarching search engines not crawling the web, but only searching these directories? The searcher may also search these directories directly. When using an overarching search engine, the searcher must indicate a category or categories to search. I know, this is also not perfect, but it may be better than what we have at the moment. Pages will have to be in a bigger way confined to one topic and web masters will have to decide which pages to submit and which not. Those not submitted won't be reachable through an Internet search. These directories then in turn submit themselves to overarching search engines. This will bring many more humans into play, from web masters, employees of web directories through to employees of overarching search engines. Of course, this won't be achieved without work and will upset many who benefit from the status quo and lose that benefit under such a system.

And, in closing...

Anyone with a website wishing to promote that website will either have had to do some SEO himself or had to pay someone to do it. In either case, he will have come into contact with those offering SEO services, from the DIY kind like submitting one's site to the literally thoudands of directories out there to the SEO services promising to get your site at or near the top of Google search results for a fee. If he used his email address, for example in submitting his site to directories, he will soon be overwhelmed by offers to work wonders with his site when it comes to search results.

This brings me to what I'm getting at: how many people are there out there occupying themselves by offering SEO services? I'm sure there are thousands. Hundreds of thousands? Possibly. What will they all do if search engine weighting algorithms change to something they can't manupilate, away from the present incoming links? Makes one wonder.

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Well, that's my bit.