Google is not a search engine

Shelly Palmer:

Google is not optimized to be the best search engine in the world; it is optimized to be the best tool for transforming the currency of intention into shareholder value. This means that its search capabilities only have to be good enough to keep you coming back to Google for search. Considering that Google’s only real competition is Bing, the bar is not very high.

This does leave Google in a unique position. It can subjugate search to advertising efficacy. In other words, Google can optimize for maximum revenue – which is exactly what it does.

Search results on Google are fast, but are they really what you are looking for? If Google revenue was derived directly from search, it would be the best search engine on earth. But Google doesn’t make money from search; it makes money by getting you to click on ads (which you would never need to see if search results gave you exactly what you were searching for). Oh, and if Google were optimized for search (as opposed to advertising revenue), it would go out of business (or have to charge a subscription fee).

Said differently, search is just the best clickbait Google can produce.

Source: Google: I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means – Shelly Palmer

Underscores, optimization & arms races

Eventually, people wanted to have the whole title of their article show up in the web address. Part of this was just because it looked cool, but some folks had started to suspect that having those words in the address might help a blog post rank higher on Google. (Google was still a smaller player in the overall web search market at the time, but it was already by far the most popular search engine amongst internet geeks.)

But here’s the thing: web addresses can’t have spaces in them. To include a full title with spaces in a web address for a blog, the spaces would either have to be removed (ugly!) or converted into something equivalent. Since we were one of the first to encounter this issue, our team designed to have our content management system use underscores, based on the rationale that underscores were the character that most closely resembled a blank space.

The end result? Anybody who used our tools could write a a blog post entitled “My Great Cookie Recipe” and it would live at an address that looked like example.com/2005/04/my_great_cookie_recipe.html. By contrast, the WordPress team thought that hyphens looked better, so blog posts published on their tool would look more like example.com/2005/04/my-great-cookie-recipe. Sure, these different tools made slightly different choices about which character to use, but such a subtle distinction couldn’t be meaningful, right?

As it would turn out, we’d stumbled across a harbinger of how the entire web was about to change.

Source: Underscores, Optimization & Arms Races – Humane Tech – Medium

How hyphens vs. underscores kickstarted the race to optimise for, and game the systems of, the web’s biggest players.

Why you shouldn’t move your company blog to Medium

Active Collab, who make project management software, have moved their blog (back) from Medium to their own domain. They list the reasons, with conflicts of interest affecting calls to action an important factor, along with SEO:

A blog should build company’s brand and authority, not Medium’s. As such, it should be a part of [the] activecollab.com [website]. We actively write good content and we should be the ones to get the SEO benefits.

The more quality content we have as part of our domain, the greater our domain authority is and the better we’ll rank in search results. We should be the ones to reap the benefits from our work, not someone else.

Rap Genius is back on Google

Rap Genius, the user-generated content site for interpretations of rap lyrics, recently got busted by Google for shady SEO practices:

In this post we give more details about our misguided SEO strategies and how we got there. We also explain our process and the tools we used to fix the problem and return to Google. Finally, we apologize to Google and our fans for being such morons.

They offered other sites promotion through Twitter and Facebook in exchange for linking to Rap Genius using keyword-stuffed anchor text.

As much as most SEO is just best practice and common sense, it does pay to have a strategy and a plan for improving your site’s performance in search engine results. If you don’t know where to start, just do the polar opposite of what the Rap Genius team did.