We have spent a lot of time talking about websites and how to rank them on the internet. Covering everything from Search Engine Optimisation, Backlinks, Authority etc. We draw quite a grim picture of the attitude of Search Engines and leave one to question their motives for their particular treatment of websites and why. But is it all bad? All this talk of Search Engines and their increasing scrutiny of websites, could it instead not be seen as some kind of positive deed? One in which they are not the unforgiving gods of the internet, but rather the ones trying to save it? Lets discuss..
Search Engines and the Internet
If, like me, you were born in the 90s and grew up in the early 2000s – you don’t remember a time without Google. We waltzed into an era of easily accessible information and never think to question any of it. Search Engines today are by far the most fundamental part of out online experiences. Even social media, which you would think is different – a lot of the searches for those sites happen through Search Engines. Google brought about a new age, where an ever-growing internet can be instantaneously accessed and used to your heart’s content. No worries. No stress. Sounds idyllic right? Well, no. The problem comes in when the company in charge needs to feed the mouths that keep it running. And worse, when they get greedy.
When did this change?
When Google started to find ways to monetise its offering, the problems started to show. Google Search is free, but the average user was not the customer. The ones who wanted to be the number 1 result in the user’s search, they were the ones who had to pay. Effectively making the user the product (but lets not sour your day). Google introduced Google Adwords to the world and everything changed. Suddenly getting your website to show up on the first page of a search result, came with a new feature – a price tag. Google Adwords charged customers who wanted to be in the correct results a fee in order to be there, and this service only evolved from that point onward. Today, companies bid on certain keywords they want to feature on and then pay per click on top of that. Google has borderline perfected its strategy for milking the financial udder of everyone from huge corporations, all the way to Jessica and her Vegan Food Blog for cats.
What effect did this have?
Well, as you can imagine, people were not particularly happy about this new change to their precious internet. And as such, gave rise to the discipline of Search Engine Optimisation – the Martial Art of attempting to outsmart and outmaneuver a much larger and more powerful opponent. It is my personal opinion that if people want something that gets prohibited (be it alcohol, drugs etc.), they will find a way to get it. The same goes for SEOers. In a matter of a few years, these guys took that clumsy Martial Art, and created a multi million dollar industry out of it. And quite cheekily, use Google to attract customers. Today, there are thousands of public, private, freelance, agency, and corporate entities who are all offering SEO in some form. The people found a way to get what they want.
No, Google doesn’t like – at all. This is understandable as people were now eating into Google’s profits from AdWords. So what did they do? Well, Google decided to update its algorithms for search, and in the process gave the SEOers more information on how it works. See, if you try things, some will work and some will not. When that environment changes, so do your results. The end result is that you now have a multi-dimensional view of how this environment works. The SEOers used this new understanding to figure out which tricks worked and which were now obsolete.
Enter the Black Hatters
The infamous Black Hat SEO practitioners are the product of originally nefarious minds combined with the psychotic break caused by tightening marketing budgets. Okay, not really. But these guys did not make it easier for anyone. Of all the SEO practices out there, Black Hat is by far the most toxic of them all. Constant spamming of vulnerable websites, using automated software to borderline rob you of your ‘identity’ and using it for fake profiles – take your pick. Black hatters gave SEO a bad name, and gave Google the ammunition it needed to go even tighter on its criteria. It is now understood that google alone, has over 200 points of ranking factor criteria for search queries.
I have used this analogy before, but imagine those rubrics we got in school that laid out the marking structure for an assignment. Ranking factors should be seen in the exact same way. If you want your website to rank well – then this is what you have to do. Satisfying them is not impossible, but simply incredibly time consuming. You cant have certain file types on your domain server. Your copy has to be a certain number of words long. Your images have to have Alt text. etc. etc. To the average person, Google starts to sound like a high-maintenance significant other. But is that the case in the eyes of Web Developers?
I didn’t plan to write this article solely for Web Developers, so please keep reading!
Frying Pan vs. Fire
Now, Google may sound like its nagging, but to us Devs – its a bit of a welcome thing. A lot, A LOT of time goes into making your websites work well, look good, sound good, etc. etc. just to have them flooded with spam from all the Black Hatters trying to piggyback on everyone else’s authority. But you can’t help but wonder if this is not a bit like a snake eating its own tail. Basically, google created a product, people loved it and used it all the time, Google saw a chance to make money form it, some people didnt like that and began competing against it, now Google has to fight to keep them at bay. And the only ones who suffer are the ones who don’t subscribe to wither side. Poor souls.
So I guess Google is trying to save the internet, its internet. The one it had the responsibility to protect, but ultimately fell into chaos when greed got involved.