Sucking Up To A Search Engine

While Stumbling new pages during the last couple of days, I have run across several sites bemoaning the recent Google page-rank downgrading of a number of previously highly-rated sites . I even read one in which a blogger had decided to give up on Google entirely. There is much wringing of hands, rending of clothing, and self-loathing, with confusion and self-pity waiting in the wings. If I may, I would like to render a proverb for these people:

If you live by sucking up to a search engine, so shall ye perish.

It is the job of the Google-place to search the Web for you and return relevant pages. They once did a better job of that that they do now, since they apparently decided in one of their all-night strategy sessions that it was better to return a lot of pages than just returning the right ones. So once you get past page two or three of a search for “adenoidal teenagers” you are looking at what appear to be random returns about horse thievery or first aid.

That’s okay, they still do a pretty good job on the first twenty or so items, and I’m not likely to look much past those anyway. If my answers are not in the first twenty returns, I assume that my search expression was malformed and I simply revise it or start over. So if you assume that searching the Web is still Job One at Google, they seem to be doing an adequate, if not stellar, job of it.

To a lot of people, though, Google’s Job One is to rate their that person’s own Web site as the very best of all time and to return their pages first, whether they are relevant or not. And there is a veritable army of “SEO experts” out there to help them. These people all try to divine Google’s rules out of thin air, without much substance to back them up. They hang on every word uttered by anyone that works at Google. If they can’t find anything to back up what they want to sell you, they just make it up.

I have an odd strategy. All that I really care about is putting up the best pages I can, whether they are static pages on sites, or blog posts, or magazine issues. I know that seems old-fashioned, but it’s all that I can do and still have any self-respect. I trust my own judgment about what is good, rather than relying on the thousands of self-styled SEO experts that clearly have no idea what they are talking about.

I understand fully that a lot of people won’t see what I do as quality anything. That’s okay, we all get an opinion. If you don’t like what I do, find some things you do like. Goodness knows there are enough different perspectives on the web that you should be able to find things that you like. If you don’t find what you like, please feel perfectly free to start a Web site or blog of your own.

So far, a surprising (to me) number of people have decided that what I put up is worth reading. I think that’s marvelous. I know that I run into a lot of things on the Web that I like and that I keep going back to those places for more. I like StumbleUpon because it helps me to find more sites that I like every day. I like them because they appeal to me. I don’t care if they are highly rated by Google, or by anyone else, or not.

In short, I refuse to suck up to a search engine. You should, too.


Sucking Up To A Search Engine — 4 Comments

  1. I completely agree with you here, I really get the feeling that Google try to get you to visit certain pages above others; dare I say it’s maybe for a cash incentive, outside of adwords? Who knows…

    I find it strange that Google lists wikipedia, which can be either 100% accurate or 100% inaccurate, as the top result for so many things. Surely it can do better, even I can search on wikipedia! What’s more is that if you down away from the wikipedia result, you get endless wikipedia pages in foreign languages!

    Stumbleupon is a fantastic creation, I’m completely addicted! If they could only get rid of all those duplicate pages…

    Love the site by the way and, shallow as it may sound, you’ve got a great picture at the top!

  2. Ben –

    The entire Google miasma is maddening. I can’t tell if it is Google being weird (your points are good ones) or if the furor is generated by all the acolytes that surround Google and get whipped into a froth every time someone there utters a word. All I’m sure of is that the entire scene is nuts.

    StumbleUpon is great. How else would I ever have found all of the great places they have taken me to? The duplicate pages are a pain, you’re exactly right, but overall it is an absolute hoot!

    Thanks for the compliments. I love the theme, too. If it doesn’t say Kansas + technology, nothing ever will.

  3. To me, SEOs trying to figure out Google’s ranking and return algorithms was like an accountant figuring out why the IRS audits people’s tax returns. The IRS never says why or how they determine an audit is necessary, but the accountants know that if you do x and/or y on your return, your chances of getting audited skyrocket. It’s a kind of backward engineering– not always entirely accurate, but close enough.

    I’m quite fond to the stumbleupon button, too. When I click on it, I kind of feel like a monkey pressing a button to smoke some more crack. It’s that addictive.

    For me, if I want some bit of specific information, I will try to figure out its possible tags and look for it on a service like delicious or stumbleupon. It cuts down on some of the clutter of Google returns.

  4. AJ –

    LOL! That’s very similar, indeed. It is like trying to figure out what the IRS (or I suppose the agricultural support bureau or any other government agency) is going to do next. Like you, I can find other ways to find what I want when Google is returning mostly fluff. I wonder what percentage of what Google returns has validity, and I wonder if I am dumb enough to spend the time to find out. ;o)

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