Posts Tagged ‘Search Algorithm’

Jill rants on Google – I have some thoughts of my own

I love Jill Whalen’s newsletter; sometimes it gets me thinking. This article, in particular, got me thinking today. If you want to understand what I say below, please pause for a moment and read Jill’s article, then come back to this one.

I don’t have any reason or evidence with which to really disagree with Jill. I’m also not sure that I do, in fact, agree with what she said, and I want to propose another thought.

Jill’s premise is that Google may be keeping their page 1 search results informational so that the commercial search results have to be bought. I.E. Jill is arguing that Google keeps their search results inaccurate in order to sell more AdWords. Again, I’m not saying this is true or false. ┬áHere’s what I do know:

Google has little motivation to improve their results at this time. Why? Because they’re already the most popular search engine! They’ve already won your business. If Yahoo and Bing really make a comeback, then OK, there’s a reason to accelerate improvement. Some folks might even say Bing has done or is doing just that, taking Google’s market share. Perhaps ┬áthis will motivate Google to start presenting ‘better’ results. For now, Google is getting billions of searches and even more page views, and lots of clicks which are paying them billions of dollars. Why change?

It’s a well documented sociological reality that if you want to know how someone is likely to act, you need to understand their motivations and incentives. Something would have to motivate Google to make big changes to their algorithm. Obviously, they haven’t had that motivation.

Now, Jill might be right in arguing that Google’s incentive (paid clicks) is driving them to produce a poorer algorithm. I would argue that I don’t think Google is actually trying to make a bad algorithm. I don’t think they’re trying to mislead us. I think they’ve got something that’s pretty good and it’s making them billionaires. So, why fix it?

Lastly, I’d love Jill to come up with a fix. I mean a real fix. She does present a 1 line suggestion. It’s not a bad suggestion, but I think the complexity of search engines is quite deep and to make changes to an application like Google ain’t no small task. it’s just not that easy. They have a lot of money and very good developers, but it’s very costly to build a better mousetrap. Google knows this and they’re probably trying to make their capital investment – or all past dev work into their search – stretch out into the future.

One more thing. Do you remember the web before Google? Trying to find stuff was next to impossible. Google came along and they made it possible to quickly search and find what you need. Then they made AdWords and PPC took off and a market for SEO was born, and now search is a huge paid medium for both ad buy and SEO services. All of this tells me that the world wants to be able to search the web – we want it to be fast, easy, accurate, and vastly comprehensive. We want portability and personalization, and we use these tools all the time. Google will continue to provide a quality system to do all of this – and most of us will keep using Google for a long time.

Rethinking SEO – Are you following the right metrics?

Many people out there may have a hard time thinking of SEO as anything other than being the business of ranking. For years that was the measure by which you assessed the strength of your online marketing presence. Well, at this point you’ve probably heard it before…ranking is not the be-all and end-all it once was.

Search engine algorithms are (the formula by which search engines like Google, MSN and Yahoo! qualify and display relevant search results – by the way algorithms vary from search engine to search engine – it’s like grandma’s secret sauce!) ever changing. While at one point it may have been enough to only add and occasionally update “meta data”, there are many more factors that take the stage these days. Some are more obvious than others, and then again some are debatable. (Little secret: if you are not already, you should be following Google Guru, now Head of Webspam, Matt Cutts.)

SEO

A few key items that come into play: page meta title and description, SERP friendly URLs, H1 and H2 tags, quality/relevant content, keyword usage and variation (on and off page), a good internal linking structure, proper HTML coding, your domain age (strength lies in older domains), number of quality inbound links, user data (number of visits, time spent on page etc), and overall good housekeeping aka. keeping the site alive and current (or “fresh” as I like to call it).

SEO involves ongoing work, tweaking, and sharing, and once you’ve done that – you do it again. All of this time and work, though I’m not saying it’s guess work just because search algorithms are not publicly shared, will play out and make your site and its content highly relevant for both search engines and searchers, which means more traffic.

Measuring success…

It’s not to say that successful search marketing doesn’t help a site gain top positioning for relevant words and phrases. It does. We know that. However, rankings alone do not equal traffic. While a search engine presence is essential in order to generate user traffic, a successful SEO campaign is measured by the increase in search engine traffic and the rate at which that traffic performs the desired actions on your site (i.e. sales leads, purchases, sign-ups etc). My advice to you (whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or a SEO professional) measure and track your site’s increase in traffic over time, follow where traffic is coming from and where its going, and make sure you track conversions/leads. That’s the goal!

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