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The SEO Tragedy of the Commons

December 3, 2004

The Tragedy of the Commons is...

An amazing read which is exceptionally thought provoking. It talks about how a lack of control in the name of freedom will lead to our own self destruction.

If we do not control the birth rate and place the rights of humans over resources in a finite world eventually the resources become depleted and mass misery will ensue.

Enjoyment requires that we spend extra energy. Anything we do beyond self sustaining (1600 Kilocalories on average) depletes additional energy.

Some people will say that population is self controlling and the growing population is a sign of prosperity, but why then does some of the highest population growth rates occur in some of the poorest countries in the world?

Its probably a few years down the road, but The Tragedy of the Commons is still worth reading for and planning for ahead of time.

The Web Commons:

The web escapes the borders of the real world. Before today this page never existed. The occurrence of this page probably does not pull too many resources away from other pages. They can co-exist.

The problem is that the web does have some boundaries and at some points it has to interface with real people in the real world.

  • Currently some countries and people are too poor to access the web (less than a decade ago I was too poor to own a computer).
  • Email is free. Email gets spammed to death. It wastes a portion of our lives to filter through the garbage. The garbage may also cost us again when we accidentally throw away important information.
  • Blog comments are free. Bots scour the web and spam blogs to death. Leaving the comments there only encourages more bots to spam our blog and email. Removing email notification requires us to lose some of the important feedback which may otherwise help us grow and learn. Deleting the bogus comments wastes a portion of our lives.
  • Scumbags (and I can use no other word) create spyware which slows down and eventually destroys many computers. Along with them destroying many lives... 'ing scumbags.

If you create something that is free and universally accessible it will fill with litter. Thus we are forced to rely on hubs and powerful networks to help guide us through the sea of information.

Among the Sea of Information:

Most websites rarely get much traffic. People who gain a small voice may feel important, but most messages do not spread all that far and most "important" people are not as important as they think they are. Despite how much time or effort I may put into this article probably only a few dozen people will ever read it.

Powerful Networks:

Those who access the web need to find a way to find your content. Some people will subscribe (using sites like Bloglines or My Yahoo!), but most people randomly roam and only look for information when they need it.

Many people only become concerned with many issues after they are personally affected by them. It is a large part of what allows unjust destructive systems to remain unchallenged as they grow increasingly unfair.

Search Engines:

Search engines such as Google and other large hubs control the bulk of the web traffic. They give people the power to access important information when they want it. It is important to rank well in search engines so that:

  • people can find your site;
  • people can learn from your site;
  • you can profit from your site (selling stuff or speaking your voice); and
  • people can link to your site. Link popularity builds upon itself. It takes exceptional time and monetary investment to overcome a linking deficit.

The Importance of Reputation:

Doing search engine optimization will help you show up for more search queries. Buying ads can also help drive traffic, but if you are going to be successful long term on the world's largest social network you will need to build your reputation and link popularity, as it is what will help you escape the Tragedy of the Commons.

SEO can help you extend your reach and start building your reputation. Contrary to most beliefs most SEO techniques are not secret.

Most SEO Techniques are Not Secrets:

Most SEO techniques are not secrets. The bulk of SEO work is just common sense.

  • Do keyword research to find out what people are searching for.
  • Use descriptive file paths, page titles, and link anchor text.
  • Write content for people. Organize your sites information in a way that would be exceptionally useable and useful to people.
  • Organize information in a way that it would make sense to algorithms (using keyword rich page titles, headers and subheaders).
  • Stay on topic throughout most of the site.
  • Create logical business partnerships and friendships.
  • Participate in community discussion related to your business.
  • Link to related resources.
  • Ask related resources to link to you.
  • Use descriptive link text whenever possible.

Most SEO is based upon finding out what users and search engines want and giving exactly that to them.

Free For All & Random Reciprocal Links:

Some people game the search algorithms using techniques which are widely and cheaply available. Some links that cost next to nothing to acquire may still boost your relevancy scores, but if they are cheap and easy for your competitors to acquire then they do not build value.

There are places in the world where people will work for less than a dollar an hour. If your competitors can easily and cheaply gain all the reciprocal links you acquire then the links do not build any long term competitive advantage.

Advanced SEO:

If you aim to rank for queries like "online casino" or "viagra" there is a bit more at play than the common sense SEO tactics. Most sites do not need to do much trickery to rank well though. The problem is that tricky SEO information does not scale.

Why Advanced SEO Does Not Scale:

Extremely advanced SEO techniques are based upon finding holes in information organization systems. While Google and Yahoo! and other companies like to cast the image of being all powerful companies many outside forces can influence their indexes.

The problem is that SEO secrets do not scale. You may know a secret which can take out a competitors site or boost your own rankings, but as soon as a bunch of people know about it then the search engineers learn about it and the hole in the database is fixed.

Even if the secrets you know are small and simple secrets you can't give all the specifics without devaluing the information. Lets pretend I know how to sign up to get a free PR7 .EDU link. If I show that link to a bunch of people then suddenly that page will be flooded with links and have no value.

I have read single sentences of text that were worth at least 5 figures, but if I shared them with everyone I would never again be told them and they would become worthless.

Most good information is readily available in public forums, but most of the best tricks and specific examples of them take hours of research to discover are not readily available until they are outdated. If they became part of the commons then they would quickly have no value...and that is the SEO Tragedy of the Commons. :-)

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

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This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.


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