On the price we all pay for SEO

SEO is an attempt to influence an algorithm for ranking and displaying data entered into search systems. Google and other search engines perform many calculations to try to return “meaningful” results. Well, they use a particular definition of meaningful. One that involves what they considered to be a consensus … if a page has lots of links to it from many other pages, then it must have meaning.

This may have been true once. I don’t think it can be said to be true now. Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences has reared its ugly head relative to this definition. In the form of search engine optimization.

A.k.a. gaming other peoples systems.

Yeah, I know. This isn’t going to make me many friends. But gaming the algorithms is precisely what SEO is attempting to do. To influence the outcome of where a page displays. To decouple meaningful measures of value from where it is displayed.

The cost I am talking about?

Simple. Look at a recent post of mine on this site. Now look at the first comment. It is a trackback. To another site. www.pt.trainingdog-behavior.com to be precise. What is this site about?

Selling advertisement. And collecting links with particular phrases. Because a trackback is a link. And the link points to the other page.

Which lets them place that page higher in the google and other search engine ranks.

Which lets them have more advertisement exposures.

Which allows them to also show higher up if you happen to google for their key phrase.

For laughs, google their key phrase “bad credit loans”. Then randomly select any of the entries below. You get pages just like the one that tracked back to them.

These days, if you try googling various phrases, you get many sites like this.

I consider this noise. SEO efforts have decreased the value of search as a tool by increasing the noise. Part of the fault of this lies with Google and its algorithms, as well as the others with their similar algorithms. Part of the fault lies with the SEO companies that are willing to decrease the value of a formerly valuable service, by increasing the noise in that service, on the hope that their pages will get accidentally clicked.

So what happens when SEO results dominate real data? This happens sufficiently often these days that I find it less easy to use search engines … you have to pre-filter the crap before you read. And there are enough SEO organizations out there that elevate the crap … its automated these days.

No, we really don’t want or need SEOs. If this is how you are getting attention, your business model is fundamentally broken.

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7 thoughts on “On the price we all pay for SEO

  1. the first two comments to this post are wonderfully ironic. I don’t think Google will ever fix this, though if these trackback sites are profitable you could possibly sue them for copyright infringement.

  2. @Amir

    Yeah … its humorous. Sort of like when you look at your spam page on gmail, and find ads for …

    … spam recipes …

    SEOs decrease S/N. At some point, regular users will give up using search engines because of it. Or we will have to develop search engine proxies, so that we can filter the search spam out.

    I am sorry, but this is simply nuts.

  3. Well, all the search engines used to maintain their algorithm very secret. However, there are guys who had got success with some methods, can do some experiment on the same way and get what the secret is…Am I right?

  4. Generally if you can provide input and measure output, you don’t need specific details of the algorithm to notice trends. You can build an empirical model of the thing. And you can refine this model. Once you are able to get a causal relationship going between actions and impacts, you may be able use that to achieve specific goals relative to desired impact.

    The problem I was alluding to is that if you get so much … effectively engineering … of search engine output, this diminishes the value of search engines for general use, and may drive users elsewhere.

    I am sure this is unintended.

  5. Hi,
    Headings in HTML, H1, H2, H3… offer important clues to the search engines . Since headlines often contain important clues to the content of the webpage, search engines take note of any keywords found in headings.

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