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Being of Social Significance

15 May 2005

Am I Important?

Generally no. Next Question. hehehe

That may seem a bit crass, but most of us tend to view ourselves as being more important than we really are. It's part of genetics, and how we are coded and raised.

Search engines are data mining businesses which view almost everyone as one additional unimportant person which helps them make money.

Search Spam

Anything that degrades the quality of search results which search engines do not profit from.

WordPress

WordPress hid tons of links to various high margin articles on their website, using them to bait clicks on high margin AdSense advertisements. They got caught using content spam and Google quickly removed their site from their search index.

WordPress also happens to be the most well known open source blog software provider. After their content spam was removed from their site they were quickly allowed back into the Google index.

If people searched for WordPress and could not find the official site name that would hurt Google's brand and Google did not want a bunch of angry bloggers creating and spreading hate toward the Google brand.

Syndic8

Similar to WordPress, Syndic8 also hosted content spam. Syndic8 was also mentioned on the same site. Google quickly removed Syndic8 from their search index.

He quickly removed the content spam, and so far it looks as though Google has not reincluded his site as quickly as they did with WordPress.

Unlike WordPress, Syndic8 did not hide any links, so it will be interesting to see if Google holds double standards on this front by punishing Syndic8 longer.

Link Renting: Faking Social Significance

Link rentals are advertisements. Advertisements run the world and are legal to place. Sometimes, though, one can go to far.

The problem with primarily being established with nothing but link rentals (and other ads which primarily drive results through search engines) is that it leaves your site hollow. It makes it easy for search engines to penalize your site for link spam and leave you in the cold.

From what I have seen SEO Inc. rented more links than any other SEO firm. For a while this drove them to have great rankings across all the major search engines. Recently Google removed SEO Inc. from the Google search index.

Selling SEO services, the lack of showing up for their own site name can eat into their brand and cause them to lose many contracts. While sites shift around often, it is not common that sites with millions of inbound links disappears.

Sympathy

I spoke with a good number of SEO firms about what happened to SEO Inc., and some of them were sympathetic. While most agreed there were amazingly aggressive in their link building, most did not want to see them get removed from the search results. Many large SEO firms know that at a whim Google could kill a large part of their business models as well.

Getting temporarily filtered or nuked out of the index is a common occurance when you try to rank for somewhat generic highly competitive terms using tons of links. In fact, not that long ago one of my sites (which ranks for "seo") was filtered out for a while.

Turning Sympathy into Crap

Web based businesses will have a ton of ups and downs. I don't remember how many times I heard this and who all told me this, but how you react to what happens is often more important than what happens.

Being absurdely self destructive for many years in the past I now see that line as a divine truth.

SEO Inc. being filtered out was notable because how well they ranked for such a long period of time. The fact that other people were discussing it gave SEO Inc. a chance to participate in the community and build more social relationships.

Instead of addressing the issue and building more bonds SEO Inc sent a cease a desist letter to one of the sites that mentioned the situation. That site took their comment down because they could not afford legal expenses, but also threw up a flag to other webmasters noting what had happened.

Many people syndicated that story. Danny Sullivan did not comment on the issue in the past because he did not feel it was noteworthy UNTIL they sent their cease and desist. Some of the most well known weblogs also posted about the story.

Now when you search for SEO Inc on Google you not only don't find their site, but also find search results full of negative comments about them.

Beyond Punishable

Some sites are simply beyond punishable. A few examples:

  • The Standford Daily - sells tons of off topic sitewide links to unrelated sites. They were mentioned multiple times on SearchEngineWatch for their off topic link selling. Google has not punished them like Syndic8 or WordPress. Why?
  • Clicktracks - one of the best web analytics programs hiding keyword rich links on their customers sites. (As a disclaimer, I bought their software and think it is pretty cool stuff.)
  • A company like Salesforce.com can place hard to see text in the footer with links in it. (As a disclaimer, currently I own a small bit of Salesforce stock, so I used them as an example so that people would see that I am not trying to get any particular company screwed, and am just pointing out how it is). Lots of other companies do far far worse.
  • Weblogs Inc - cross links their channels, even though most of them are not related. Some lucky hosting provider may be able to take advantage of that link popularity.
  • Open Source.org links to OSDir.com, Where to get Open Source News, and direct text link advertisements for Cuban Cigars.

I have donated to many open source sites. Some that gave links and some that did not. In the past I have also placed direct text link ads on Weblogs Inc. I am not saying that anything in particular is bad, just that some sites will never be punished for selling ads or doing things that would be wrong for new webmasters to do.

Selective Editing Search Results (Without Notification)

On top of letting some stuff slide while punishing other sites for some things, search engines usually do not even tell you when they censor the search results.

Some Ideas have No Social Currency: SEO Blogs

Google, Yahoo!, MSN, and Ask Jeeves all have blogs about their companies. They also have blogrolls which link out to various related blogs. They cross reference each other, and then mention some blogs covering search engine news.

In the past I spoke with a few workers from Yahoo! Search, and Jon Glick, the old Yahoo! Search manager, even gave me his email address. Matt Cutts, a well known Google engineer, told me that he loved my blog and read my blog regularly, even quoting comments from it. Matt also frequently leaves comments on DaveN's blog, and in the past even used some of DaveN's feedback to change how Google displays some search results.

If you look under Google's blogroll labeled What We are Reading you will notice that neither of our blogs are listed. Why?

Speculation is only that, but speculating on my own blog I would say the reasons are:

  • I am a bit unedited and perhaps too honest.
  • My site is branded to directly sell a product which competes with Google's AdWords product. Granted my ebook also gives tips on using that ad system, but the branding of my site is a bad thing.

SEO's are Worthless Shady Criminals. Many of the other blogs are branded as news about search, which is far easier to link to than how to manipulate search results.

I cover much of the same news as other blogs do, and despite the fact that a Yahoo! engineer spent the time on the phone to go through my ebook to tell me that he thought it was really good (and the parts I could make better), directly selling a competing product and using the tarnished word SEO makes it much harder to build linkage data from authoritative sources.

Hypocritical?

Search engines say that you should stay on topic, only linking out to related resources that your audience might find useful, but even at a quick glance, you can see some of the sites the search engines link to sell completely off topic ad space. By linking to them, it would appear they approve the practice?

In my last article I ranted about how some search engines fund spam (Google) and others rent tons of off topic links (Yahoo!).

I believe search engine guidance and relevancy is an issue of public perception. Some people work for search companies (MSN) and openly talk about abusing their sites power to manipulate search results.

Eventually lightbulbs will go on in a few heads, and people will realize that SEO is nothing worse than the deceptive marketing and lies search engines run on.

Not Whining Here

Before I get nasty comments about whining, my goal is not to whine. I would not expect the search engines to want to link at my site. My point is to state that some business models are more condusive to gathering linkage data.

Within the search and SEO space there are many other business models and brand ideas I could create that would be far more profitable and easier to market than my current brand.

If I gather some guts and after I talk to my mentor I may just try a few of them :)

Executive Summary Conclusion :-)

  • search engines are hypocritical
  • having relevancy guidelines which they themselves do not follow
  • the guidelines are selectively enforced in a somewhat arbitrary manner, primarily to control public perception and push the blame for the faults in the search business model onto others
  • if you think of the larger social picture and incorporate that into your business model then search guidelines mean less AND your site is easier to market.

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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