One of the more annoying things on the Web, especially among Social Media types, is the cult of Search Engine Optimization.
Gotta work on my SEO! Gotta find tips on SEO! Gotta find somebody who can tell me the secrets of SEO!
It’s like SEO is some kind of silver bullet that will catapult your site from obscurity into massive success overnight if you can just find the secret, the one all the prominent sites found and won’t share with you, the bastards.
Before anybody works themselves into a lather, let me state upfront that SEO by itself is a necessary thing—you create content, you want people to find it, and SEO is the free way to make the search engines find you. All good. And Google has published guidelines exactly on how to do that. Read that page. Boom. Now you know what you need to know. Follow that advice and you’re good to go.1 Feel free to send me outlandishly large checks now. Really. Because that link will tell you everything you need to know.
Where things run off the rails for the cult members is that they follow the advice Google gives and still don’t rank high enough for their tastes. Which must mean there’s a secret handshake only they know. It simply can’t be that my site isn’t useful, no-no-no-la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you.
And this is where the most worrisome aspect of the cult of SEO rears its head—the cargo cult mentality and sheer amount of misinformation floating around in discussions similar to monks in the Dark Ages discussing the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin2 … guesswork and speculation, a frantic search for the capital-S secret coupled with a complete refusal to apply Occam’s Razor.
What Google’s search engine is trying to do is to match search queries with the most relevant information for that query. Really. That’s all it’s trying to do3. Why? Because Google’s entire business hinges on their search engine doing that. If their search engine leads people to garbage, people will stop using it, and that will dry up the tsunami of money that washes over Google from ad sales. Google needs those ad sales. Everything else they do is a means to get those ad sales. And it’s worked out pretty freaking well for them.
So instead of turning to snake oil salesmen and late-night Kremlinology about “what is the algorithm,” how about you turn the lens around and ask yourself: Why would somebody want to come to my site? What relevant content do I have? What benefit is there for somebody to read my stuff? That’s the question you need to ask yourself, not “what minutiae of the algorithm can I find out and use to tweak things?”
So, once you’ve done the basic SEO craft as outlined by Google itself, do yourself a favor and plow all the time and money you’re wasting on SEO right now into creating more useful Web sites.
The next brown-robed salesman that darkens your door offering you the one and only finger of St. John the Baptist? Throw the bum out.
If you’re interested in the mechanics of how Google ranks the Web, an excellent resource is the blog of Matt Cutts, head of the Google WebSpam team. In other words, he’s the guy in charge of making sure SEO trickery doesn’t work. And seems like a pretty cool guy, to boot.↩
You could literally end up tortured to death by the Inquisition for giving the wrong answer to that question back in the Dark Ages. Draw your own parallels.↩
Not that I’m a Google fan boy. There are real and serious issues with some aspects of the way the company does business (China, privacy, the Asperger-ish over-reliance on algorithms, etc.) but when it comes to their bread-and-butter search, there are no hidden agendas and no secret insider knowledge that will magically boost your site. Really.↩
Posted Wednesday, 24 March, 2010 by Nic Lindh
Another book roundup, including some stellar athletes and soldiers, what might be the most jaded, soul-weary protagonist ever, and some grimdark fantasy.
The Internet is getting creepy, and Nic is breaking out his tinfoil hat after newspaper paywalls push him over the edge.
Nic is tired of tech sites obsessing over Apple’s financials and business strategy. So very tired.
Nic reads a book about the processed food industry and is incensed.
Computers are complicated. This brings out the irrational in people.
Nic proposes the loan word Rechthaberei be incorporated into American English.
The Core Dump is back! Books were read during the hiatus. Includes The Coldest Winter, Oh, Myyy!, Tough Sh*t, The Revolution Was Televised, The Rook, Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, Gun Machine, Fortress Frontier, Standing in Another Man’s Grave, and The Memory of Light.
This site will return in February.
From a true patriot to a world-weary detective, a dead god, and a civilization about to sublime from the galaxy, this book roundup spans the gamut. Includes Where Men Win Glory, Wild, Inside the Box, The Black Box, Three Parts Dead, Red Country, and The Hydrogen Sonata.
Springsteen gives a concert in Phoenix. It’s fantastic.