Google, We Need To Talk

Google Plays the Popularity Game

Google Just finished reading an excellent article by Owen Powis on the site. He basically bemoans how Google, with its new algorithms for determining page rank, has quite frankly gotten a lot of things wrong. In case you’re new to SEO (if you’re really new, that stands for search engine optimization), Google uses a complex set of rules to determine the search results when a user searches for a term. While no one knows the exact set of rules that go into play (Google ain’t sayin’), most SEO experts agree that the right combination of keywords and links plays a significant role. Lately, social media is contributing heavily into the equation. In short, to rank well, you need to be popular!

Is Popularity the Right Yardstick?

So what’s so wrong with being popular? Barbie and Ken types would say absolutely nothing! However, in the real world, sometimes you just need to find information and, more often than not, the information you seek is buried so deep in the page rankings that you could never hope to find it. There is a ton of content out there in the World Wide Web, but the only content that gets found is content that is marketed well. SEM (search engine marketing) has become big business. To rank well these days, you need to do proper keyword term research; pepper your article with these terms in your title tags, alt tags, headers and body copy; blast your article out to the social media world (especially the big four: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+); and encourage others to link to your article or blog post and add comments. Good luck, there’s a lot of competition out there! It would help, too, if you had a mailing list and RSS feed with lots of subscribers so you could have an audience to which you could send your articles and posts. If you’re really serious, you could use Google AdWords and purchase a higher ranking.

As you can see, this is an awful lot of work. Of course, the payoff is high, but there are a few problems with this scenario. Owen makes a good point when he did a search for “an apple”. He did get Wikipedia as his first result, which actually did have an article about the fruit. But the following results for the entire first page were all about Apple, the company. Obviously, anyone searching for “an apple” isn’t going to want search results about the company called Apple. Why did he get all these search results for the company instead of the fruit? The company Apple is very popular and gets linked to in myriad ways. That’s great if you are looking for a phone, tablet, music player or computer, but not so great if you’re looking for something to eat!

Next we need to think about a level playing field. Not everyone is going to agree, but it can’t hurt to discuss. When you look at what needs to be done to rank well, you can see that the bigger budget wins. Yes, this is the nature of competition and the point here is not to put down success. However, if you’re a one-person shop or service, do you have the time to do all that is required to rank well by yourself? Do you have the budget to hire a firm to do it for you? For the searcher, if all you need is a simple service that can be done better and quicker by a one-person shop, what are your odds of finding that service provider online these days? Popularity isn’t always the right indicator.

Google, Hear Our Cry!

While Google is certainly trying to make their search engine as relevant as possible, and it is a herculean task, some work still needs to be done. It would be great to reward actual content as opposed to the most popular content. Here’s hoping that Google hears our cry and gets it right. Now pardon me while I send this out to my social media outlets!

Do you agree or disagree? Leave your comments below so that this article becomes hugely popular and ranks well! 🙂


photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photo pin cc

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About Keith Koger

Keith Koger is the owner-operator extraordinaire of Koger Creative. Although one heck of a graphic designer and copywriter, he has yet to learn that Star Trek, Star Wars and Monty Python references are the quickest ways to drive away women.

6 thoughts on “Google, We Need To Talk

  1. The problem is, for every approach to this … there’s a hacker exploit for it … in the Meta data days … webpages would be crammed with them .. e.g., keywords = “lawnmowers, lawn equipment, landscaping, BRITNEY SPEARS, leafblowers, hedge trimmers, TOM CRUISE NAKED,” .. etc etc .. then it was links .. and the dawn of blind links .. even when based on content .. the use of “invisible text” is often used by the cyberscum. Content probably is the best way .. but the AI needs to be pretty sophisticated .. and of course that leads us to the SkyNet and Terminator paradigm .. but that’s a whole other topic …

    • You’re absolutely right, Tom. The scum have also managed to infiltrate social media to the extent that you rarely ever want to click on a link (even though I use that one all the time with Twitter, etc.). I know Google is pretty good at catching invisible text these days and other forms of black hat SEO, but I don’t envy them the task of sorting out the good content from the bad. I’m just not crazy about the popularity contest idea that seems to be the rave these days.

  2. Great article Ken. I have to agree with both comments. It’s called the “seo dance.”

    Search engines, more specifically Google “try” to make search user-friendly and valuable, while tricksters continuously try to figure out and game the system. It keeps the algorithms changing and the black hat artists scamming. But where does that leave the rest of us?

    In theory, it looks like Google operates with the searcher’s best interest at heart by providing relevant content search results through location, browsing, search history and other online behavior.

    At the same time, you can clearly see who is winning in a popularity contest and with the biggest wallet. The catch 22 is a tough one.

    Just keep creating useful, compelling, optimized content the best way you can and share. As long as it’s good, slowly but surely the word will get out as long as you’re consistent. It will take longer, but the longer you stand your ground and grow your content assets, the more Google and other search engines can appreciate you.

    • Hi Megan,

      Agreed! Consistency does pay off but you still need to optimize for search engines and write for people… not a talent the average shopkeeper is likely to have. This definitely keeps them at a disadvantage. I guess it is ironic that the original article was written by a man who works for Wordtracker, a company that sells keyword and linking services and then by me, someone who uses SEO to help his clients!

  3. Hi Keith,

    Great article! I think the hard part is figuring out what will be popular and when. Some of my articles get retweeted and shared many times. Others get completely ignored.

    It seems “popular content” changes based on the time of day, day of the week, weather, your audience’s mood, current events, and a million other things. 🙂 It’s a challenging game to continuously improve and create content that will be popular.


    • Hello Christina,

      Good point. It does seem to help if you promote them on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. But it doesn’t always work! And when you try to promote clients who have boring subject matter, forget it! 🙂

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