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    Is Google Slowly Killing Itself?


    So my first post on this forum is a theoretical one, apologies.

    Bear with me for a second with intro: Algorithms were first designed to stop spamming on page “SEO” – meta tags, keyword stuffing, hidden text, etc. Since then it has gone on in 2005 to allow webmasters to put on nofollow on just about everything. Originally to keep pages private, but now it allows us to not lose link juice – and to stop rampant spamming of useless comments which give other sites page rank.

    So you all know this. But then where is it going? While blogging has a slight increase in YOY bloggers (I have heard 7%, marketingprofs:/charts/2010/3402/teens-prefer-social-networking-to-blogging), social media has an exponential increase. From all the research I have read, teens can’t be bothered being limited to anything shorter than 140, and at the same time can’t be bothered writing more longer than 140 (not sure how this works – but research shows teens are not universally in love with Twitter), and even older populations are moving towards social media (istrategylabs:/2010/01/facebook-demographics-and-statistics-report-2010-145-growth-in-1-year/, kenburbary:2010/01/dispelling-the-youth-myth-five-useful-facebook-demographic-statistics/, quantcast:/facebook.com).

    But then there are nofollows on everything in any social media websites which matter (inc. FB, Twitter and this forum).

    I can see that there is a bit of a movement on some sites to maintain a “dofollow network”, but I assume Google will just calculate out those websites eventually, just like a link exchange.

    Which means that with a lessening of blog posts which will pass backlinks, forums with nofollows, an increase of sites which won’t allow link juice outside of its system (FB will be its own “metaverse”, owning its own FB-Flickr, FB-YouTube, etc. … gasp, combined with a real search someday), keyword stuffing all but gone – at what point will anything but page age be useful to Google? Google is also experimenting with this, which is why the new algorithms will jump a new page/page change to a page up high at first, and then drop it back down again after some period of time.

    So will the next race be to see who can update a page more frequently?

    I mean, something like Facebook or Digg would be perfect to see what is really worth showing – the more mentions, the stronger it should be? But of course, Google is shunning FB right now because of the threat they pose, and would be too proud to canvas Digg (+ non-tech dominated sites to even things out) for their results.

    At what point does Google simply make itself useless? Or is their plan to make paid search more important, and get back to bidding wars? Once they have leveled out the playing field in everything that we can do to improve a page, where will it find out what the important pages are? Obviously we are all getting a lot of traffic from Google now, so this is far too early, but like I said when I started, just theory.

    I know many of you have a lot more experience than me on SEM. Thoughts are appreciated.

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    • distinctseo agrees : welcome
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    Originally Posted by goodpush
    At what point does Google simply make itself useless?
    When their market share slips significantly month to month. Which doesn't appear to be anytime soon:

    http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Press_Releases/2010/2/comScore_Releases_January_2010_U.S._Search_Engine_ Rankings
    Last edited by europa; Feb 18th, 2010 at 12:51 PM.
    "It is better to confess ignorance than provide it" - Homer Hickman

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    I think once links became "currency", the premise upon which Google built their engine fell apart.

    With "nofollows" everywhere and sites unwilling to link out as readily, there is no more natural "web". It's all artificial.

    Personally, I feel all a search engine can go off of is content, freshness, and visitor behavior.

    Links used to be a "vote" for a web site. I don't think that's a reliable indicator any more. If the goal of a search engine is to deliver relevant results, the visitor is the primary vote that matters.

    That's why there is so much emphasis on content. Give 'em what they want and get those conversions. And if someone wants to link to you, great.

    The focus I have for my e-commerce site is to provide the right products and lots of information so the visitor can make an informed decision. Link building is not even in the top 10 of the most important things I focus on.

    I have a competitor that stared his site about the same time I started mine (2001). It was obvious from the stats that his big push was getting links. He has far more than me. My big push has been site development, and as a bonus received a couple of really nice one-way links.

    About a year ago it appears Google devalued his links and he has slipped to page 3 of the results. I'm on page one and climbing.

    So, to answer your question, I think Google will decide who the important sites are based on user behavior, i.e. the stuff in your analytics.

    Ed

    Comments on this post

    • EGOL agrees
    • SEO_AM agrees
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    Apologies in advance for another long post.

    With "nofollows" everywhere and sites unwilling to link out as readily, there is no more natural "web". It's all artificial.
    That is exactly my original idea, but worded better. In fact, if blogging is on the decline, and links come from content (without nofollow), then this will create an artificial environment of SEO people blogging to support themselves and others. Which will lead to that "link exchange" idea again, but within content, rather than on a separate link page.

    Even now, if you are promoting your marketing/SEO company, there are so many places to put/get links. I work in medical, and believe me when I say it is very hard to put/get links, especially for longtail keywords on my deep pages.

    @europa: True. In this case you have equated popularity with usefulness. I definitely won't deny their success. I guess I am looking for where they will get their quality from with all the nofollows.

    Back @eddyf: The Analytics case would be interesting, and also a way to keep us focused on Google Analytics rather than making FB Pages (which currently suck, but that could change). We need to have analytics code on all sites for Google to rank us well, not just to find out about traffic. Your comment on site development was interesting, not sure if you would want to expand ...

    I think I made a mistake with where the title of my original post was trying to go. I don't want to predict the death of Google right now.

    With every move that we make to optimize, Google finds a way to marginalize it - until what is left to optimize?

    So what do we envision us optimizing for in the future? Without good backlink sources where does this go? Could it be:

    1. Page update frequency - pages become reliant on timely updates, like each page is a Twitter feed. Maybe even having a twitter-like feed at the top of each page (rather than a sidebar "see us on twitter" on a home page)
    2. Your traffic will actually come from nofollow sources like FB, but once they get to your site ...
    3. Drive site visitors to the pages you want optimized, as Google will be looking at your analytics (for traffic #'s and for pages views/avg.time on page/bounce) rather than your links.

    Possible?

    Given that as a catagory, Facebook visitors are a decent source of traffic to my site, but their time on site far is lower than other traffic sources, that is a bit scary.
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    Originally Posted by goodpush
    Apologies in advance for another long post.
    No need to apologise here members write much longer posts.


    That is exactly my original idea, but worded better. In fact, if blogging is on the decline, and links come from content (without nofollow), then this will create an artificial environment of SEO people blogging to support themselves and others. Which will lead to that "link exchange" idea again, but within content, rather than on a separate link page.
    Blogging is not on decline, in fact it is evolving into more mature form. People and companies take blogs more seriously now. It is now considered as a very powerful tool to build authority. SEOmoz is a brand only because of its blog.

    Even now, if you are promoting your marketing/SEO company, there are so many places to put/get links. I work in medical, and believe me when I say it is very hard to put/get links, especially for longtail keywords on my deep pages.
    I work in medical field too. And i say its not hard at all. Publish a research paper and submit it to research sites. Use your personal network, leverage your partnership opportunities, make people in your meet-up groups and other niche groups aware about your recent work. off course if you don't have a network, link worthy contents then it can be a nightmare to get a link.



    With every move that we make to optimize, Google finds a way to marginalize it - until what is left to optimize?

    So what do we envision us optimizing for in the future? Without good backlink sources where does this go? Could it be:

    1. Page update frequency - pages become reliant on timely updates, like each page is a Twitter feed. Maybe even having a twitter-like feed at the top of each page (rather than a sidebar "see us on twitter" on a home page)
    2. Your traffic will actually come from nofollow sources like FB, but once they get to your site ...
    3. Drive site visitors to the pages you want optimized, as Google will be looking at your analytics (for traffic #'s and for pages views/avg.time on page/bounce) rather than your links.

    Possible?
    We will be left to optimize conversion rates and it is a full time job in itself. Consequently, future is bright for CROs (conversion rate optimizers), web analysts and usability professionals. In a way all these are specialized fields of SEO. So seo is just evolving.

    Given that as a catagory, Facebook visitors are a decent source of traffic to my site, but their time on site far is lower than other traffic sources, that is a bit scary.
    Why you expect facebook visitors to spend decent time on your website? They love facebook and would like to spend more time there. So it makes sense to promote yourself there on the facebook (through fan pages, groups etc) and use your site only as point of purchase, for getting orders and leads etc. Did you get me? Establish yourself as an authority in your niche on facebook, linkedin and other similar sites and encourage your target audience to visit your site just to make a purchase or for other goal conversion. If you use social media this way, you can get lot of conversions even with low traffic and virtually no rankings on Google and other search engines. There are hundreds of industry specific groups on linkedin with membership base of 40K -50k. Theses 40-50K people in your niche may bring 500-1000 orders for your site.

    Comments on this post

    • KernelPanic agrees : thank you for taking the time to create such an insightful post
    • europa agrees : Internet marketing.....good advice!
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    Originally Posted by goodpush
    With every move that we make to optimize, Google finds a way to marginalize it - until what is left to optimize?
    I don't think Google is trying to marginalize, but they do of course implement counter-measures to fight spam and manipulation.

    What is left to optimize? Well, the first thing is optimize that which you have control over - your content.

    Not saying links are unimportant, but if you want sustained growth and viability, you have to deliver on what the visitor is looking for.

    Ever visit a shopping mall and see a new shop that just opened in a high traffic area? Ever go back in three months and see the shop is now shut down? Why? Well, they had the traffic (visitors). They had signs everywhere and fliers and ads (links). But not the products the customer wanted to see (content). Same on the web.

    Ed
    Last edited by eddyf; Feb 19th, 2010 at 11:54 AM.
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    In short... NO.
    Google most certainly is not killing itself. It is still by far the best search engine available.
    The problem here is that you are looking at things from the point of view of an 'seo' trying to get links. That isn't how Google is looking at the issue. They simply want to supply the person searching with the most relevant results.
    So in the grand scheme of things you may see a decrease in links that are not marked as 'nofollow' but that doesn't mean Google has no links left to look at. They are operating on orders of magnitude above what you are looking at.
    Furthermore links are far from the only thing they can take into account. The algorithms Google employ have gotten progressively better at filtering out sophisticated spam while identifying solid pages.
    They can likely algorithmically guess that in certain 'groups' (like an industry or keyword grouping) 'freshness' is not important. And that in others it is paramount.
    They can look at the entire page and entire site that links to you. Don't expect much from that 'resources' page. But get a link embedded in an article on widgets for your widget site... and bang now you have something.
    In addition they can always alter the way nofollow works in the future.

    I see no evidence that Google is shooting themselves in the foot. They seem to be doing quite well, and a lot better than the alternatives.
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    I think it's not a matter of Google taking away everything you can optimize so much as them trying to get you to stop thinking in terms of optimization per se. The ideal that they strive for is to understand every page in the way that a human would, and rank them by relevance as a human would, according to the keywords used in a particular search.

    Here's the problem: Google the search engine is not human; it's software in a machine (okay, a bunch of machines). It can't read with understanding the way a human can. So it looks for things that "signal" relevance and plays an elaborate matching game. Humans can outsmart it temporarily by figuring out what things it rates highly as signals of relevance. But that's only temporary, because once the signal stops working, Google changes.

    Google the search engine can do that because there really ARE human brains behind it. And it can reach all sorts of levels of complication, to the point where it becomes almost too difficult for the optimizers to keep up with.

    I think that may in fact be Google's goal: get the folks who are optimizing merely to rank to throw up their hands and decide that it's easier to just build good content to take care of their visitors than try to outsmart Google. Many if not most of the best SEOs figured that out quite some time ago, unless I miss my guess.

    (Apologies if this post is a little rambly and unclear. It *is* Friday after all ;-) ).

    Comments on this post

    • realityhack agrees : Well said. Google wants to provide good results not results from whomever spent the most time on SEO.
    Last edited by terriwells; Feb 19th, 2010 at 01:50 PM. Reason: forgot a word
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    I agree with both posts above. I sure am not going to try to outsmart an army of PhD's by employing little faddish tricks picked up on a forum. You can only spend so much time trying to optimize things you have little or no control over.

    All you have to do is read Google's mission statement. No, not the one about no evil. The one about what they strive to do with search. It's all there. Just do it and be patient. And for anyone who does not have patience, there is always PPC.

    No money for PPC? Sorry, it takes time and money to start a business. The day's of "build it and they will come" are over.

    So, review your business plan. Check your competition. Ask yourself what is special and unique about your offering. Make sure your page rewards the user with the info and/or products they are searching for.

    If you are doing well now, as you say, and worried about the future, then you are in the same position as any company trying to stay alive. Most companies need to keep up with trends and technology, and introduce new products to sustain sales. That alone will keep your site fresh and rewarding for searchers.

    I have a competitor who has not changed his site in 9 years. Still has that dated solid grey background. I don't think he even knows what CSS is. Anyway, his products have not changed in 9 years either. I know his site is up and accessible by typing in the URL, but I can't find him using any search term. Poor guy is probably still looking for that magic SEO trick that will propel him to page one.

    Ed
    Last edited by eddyf; Feb 19th, 2010 at 07:35 PM.
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    Originally Posted by eddyf
    ...
    So, review your business plan. Check your competition. Ask yourself...
    Sometimes I think 'What is your business plan' is the best response to 50% of first time posts here.
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    I congratulate goodpush for some excellent and thought provoking posts. I always thought it was crazy for Google to put emphasis on links to a site. That policy encouraged all sorts of bad practices in the past, such as links for sale, link exchange regardless of suitability, etc. The same policy of emphasis on "links to" has inevitably brought on the current trend of "no follows", etc.

    Our site has lots of links to Normandy tourist attractions and we haven't suffered too much. We resolutely refuse to use no-follows. If a link is worth giving, it deserves to be followed. It's part of the spirit of any site that wants to help people, not just sell! Well, that's I think, anyway!
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    Originally Posted by LPC
    ...I always thought it was crazy for Google to put emphasis on links to a site. That policy encouraged all sorts of bad practices in the past, such as links for sale, link exchange regardless of suitability, etc....
    On what grounds? Sure you look at the way you *think* the algorithm could be manipulated and say 'gee this sounds bad' but that algorithm is how Google served up the most relevant useful results and became the dominant SE.
    And it isn't like they never put any emphasis on the page contents.
    Given the vastly superior results of their algorithm over a period of years I think it is a little silly to question what they included etc. Especially when we do not know what factors are used to modify the values of links, on page content, etc.
    The only thing we can look at with Google for certain is the results, and compared to the competition they ROCK. And I am not talking market share.
    The 'bad practices' you refer to never worked as well as some people thought they did. And even the ones that did have been systematically addressed.
    Google isn't perfect but I don't think you have nearly enough theoretical backup to question their entire search algorithm structure/theory.
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    Originally Posted by realityhack
    Google isn't perfect but I don't think you have nearly enough theoretical backup to question their entire search algorithm structure/theory.
    No, of course I don't have that sort of theoretical backup. Seeing as Google keeps its algorithms secret (sort of), then no-one can say for sure. You think Google rocks (as you put it); so do many others on this forum. However, that doesn't mean that all have to agree with this common view. I certainly question whether Google will forever keep its market dominant position, as the starter of this thread also seems to question as well.
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    Originally Posted by LPC
    You think Google rocks (as you put it); so do many others on this forum. However, that doesn't mean that all have to agree with this common view.
    Do you in fact disagree? If so on what grounds? Do you think their search results are sub-par? Obviously you can not contest their market share / appeal to the public.
    So do you in fact think Google actually currently sub-par. And if so in what specific way.


    Originally Posted by LPC
    I certainly question whether Google will forever keep its market dominant position, as the starter of this thread also seems to question as well.
    If you are under the impression that anyone here does not question Google keeping it's dominant position FOREVER then you are laboring under some very severe misconceptions.
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    No Google is getting better and better as time goes on. They are learning so much about everything with Google Analytics.

    "Google" has become a verb. That's a brand manager's dream!

    I don't understand why Microsoft continues to try and be a player in the search market. Google has already won. Game, set, match.
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