Over the weekend I tried to buy a new dishwasher. Being the fine net-friendly fellow that I am, I began Google-ing for information. And Google-ing. and Google-ing. As I tweeted frustratedly at the tend of the failed exercise, “To a first approximation, the entire web is spam when it comes to appliance reviews”.
This is, of course, merely a personal example of the drive-by damage done by keyword-driven content — material created to be consumed like info-krill by Google’s algorithms. Find some popular keywords that lead to traffic and transactions, wrap some anodyne and regularly-changing content around the keywords so Google doesn’t kick you out of search results, and watch the dollars roll in as Google steers you life-support systems connected to wallets, i.e, idiot humans.
The result, however, is awful. Pages and pages of Google results that are just, for practical purposes, advertisements in the loose guise of articles, original or re-purposed. It hearkens back to the dark days of 1999, before Google arrived, when search had become largely useless, with results completely overwhelmed by spam and info-clutter.
As Search Engine Optimization techniques get better and more effective, will a web search revert back to looking like it did in 1999? Remember when search results were full of spammy sites? Whereas now we find sites like Wikipedia, Yelp, and Amazon ranking highest, all sites with great content.
The whole point of Google’s search algorithm is to find and return the best content for any given set of search terms. They use a number of factors to figure out what’s “best”. For example, the more times someone links to an article, the better that article probably is.
Whenever someone asks me about SEO and how they can improve their page rank, I always say one thing: create good content. If you post good stuff, people will talk about it, discuss it, link to it, and Google will eventually see that it’s good and present it to people.
Doing anything for SEO outside of just creating good content is just trying to trick Google into thinking your content is better than it is. In fact, if Google is doing their job right, they should make adjustments to counter these SEO tactics.
I was discussing this with a friend and he brought up an interesting point: searching for “dishwashers” brings up a bunch of junk, so why doesn’t Google fix their algorithm? Because it’s those junkie websites that drive clicks that result in ads sales. Maybe they aren’t trying to optimize for the best results, but for making the most money.
If you do believe that Google is in fact optimizing for revenue (I don’t necessarily believe that), then won’t search results get worse and worse? They will. Until a new player comes along. The next Google. And consumers will switch to this new search engine if they see better results there.
And then the cycle will begin again.
I’m not an SEO expert, but seems like SEO is something spam sites do. If you are trying to create a high quality destination site, just write good content and let Google do its job.
And now the SEO experts are going to slaughter me in the comments, I can feel it.
Note: These opinions are mine alone, and not those of Posterous, Inc.