Matt Cutts of Google says he wants to ‘level the playing field’. Well here’s a way they could do that with no one getting hurt.
Google is constantly amending their search algorithms in a bid to make the results more and more relevant – in theory anyway. In fact, these changes have been so frequent and powerful lately, that Cutts has recommended that you don’t try to follow the changes at all, but instead just follow their ‘direction’ by trying to produce quality content.
This sounds all good and well – of course Google should be trying to pair visitors up with quality content and they should be trying to give visitors the most relevant and interesting articles to read when they search for something. But there is a subtext here if you want to be cynical – and Google think they know what it is precisely that constitutes a quality website. By ensuring that you see only ‘quality’ results, Google basically is saying it knows what’s good for you and that it knows what you want. And that does start to sound a little bit like playing God.
The Direction of Google
The direction of Google has been to favor original content over spam and ‘over optimization’. However, this has also punished some websites that have been entirely conscientious and well meaning in their attempts to get to the top of the SERPs.
At the same time this has resulted in some rather dubious results making it to the top spot. While the new algorithms might be slightly better, the simple fact that so many websites have been de-indexed or ranked down has lead to some unusual ones making it to the top.
Each time this happens, it affects the livelihoods of real people. Every single one of those websites on the SERPs is someone’s baby, and someone has worked tirelessly to get it to the top only to see it slashed down with very little warning. Google has deemed their site as ‘unfit’ for whatever reason, and their techniques as spammy (even if they left their SEO in the hands of a third party service) and as a result they might have very well lost their largest source of traffic and therefore revenue. Surely there’s a better way?
An Alternative System
Well as it would happen, there just might be, and one interesting alternative could be to introduce an element of ‘random’ into the proceedings. We’ve all see websites that let you navigate their content at random, and we’ve all seen sites that let you land on random pages throughout the web. How about a search engine that was so flexible it would show slightly different results each time you typed in the same query?
Let’s imagine you searched for ‘Toronto Plumber’ – you’d have hundreds, if not thousands, of options coming up that all would provide essentially the same service for visitors. Now one might decide to spend a lot of money on SEO and build lots of inbound links, and in the past the one that worked the hardest and spent the most might make it to number one. However, there is no really ‘reliable’ way for them to do this now. Where do they turn? They could spend thousands building links only for Google to decide that their methods are no longer valid and then find themselves penalized or completely de-indexed. And why should a company like Google decide what plumber you use?
An alternative then would be to take these top fifty results, or even these top three hundred, and then show them in a random order each time? It would be just as fair and it would provide visitors with some variation in the sites they saw. They could do the same search again and find different things they were interested in, and Google would be taking a back step from interfering with, let’s face it, all businesses and allowing a more natural selection to take place once again.
So why aren’t they doing this? Well, one answer could be that it would take away their supreme authority over the web. Another could be that it would take away from their AdWords service – because after all, if SEO worked too well, and if there were one reliable system for getting to the top – then people wouldn’t need to shell out on advertising.
This post was guest blogged by Jitendra Agrawal of Get Links Pro.