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.