Good words coming from someone with the term ‘marketing’ in their job title, eh? Let’s clarify: I don’t hate everything about SEM. In fact, I find the activity of it downright satisfying. Even though we all know it’s a bit of a lie, for the sake of the dramatic I’m going to go ahead and say that there’s nothing quite like the buzz of promoting a web site up the search engine ranks. It’s fun, for sure, and the gamification principle of tools like Google Analytics helps a lot. The big problem I have with it though is that the whole SEM industry is often so damn disingenuous.
Google agrees too and puts a lot of energy into trying to make search engine rankings fair and honest. They discourage and punish black hat SEO techniques and dishonest SEM practices. They are the ultimate Internet police, promoting justice and equality throughout the Net, constantly updating their metrics and algorithms in order to encourage quality and relevance above anything else. Whilst this is great in principle though, in practice it doesn’t quite work. Yet.
Ultimately, Google want the whole search engine system to be a meritocracy, however, in reality, it’s still just a pimped up popularity contest that marketeers exploit to their advantage. This is what I hate. The techniques invoked to promote a site are far too often disingenuous enough to the point of being detestable, no doubt carried out without the knowledge of the client. I don’t think many of them would be happy to hear that their site is being spammed across WordPress blogs in automated fake comments, for instance.
Google want the whole search engine system to be a meritocracy, however, in reality, it’s still just a pimped up popularity contest
Link wheels, phantom sites, purchased links, spam comments, all of these things prey on the principle of ‘more is good’, that the more inbound links to a site the better and the more value search engines will place on it. It’s based on the broken principle of popularity and that if a lot of people are linking to something from a reasonably relevant source then it must be worthy to promote in the result rankings. It’s utterly flawed though as no matter how bad a site is, no matter how poor the content is, popularity can easily be bought.
Fortunately though, the Sheriffs Of The Internet are on the case and their Panda updates are designed specifically to emphasis quality above everything else. Their approach is quite fascinating too and changing the face of SEO. Google are developing their AI tools to mimic the human ability to ascertain quality and want to ultimately rank sites based on quality of content, usefulness of content, trustworthiness, design and other important factors such as speed and usability.
It’s an amazing step in the right direction and may potentially have a huge impact on the SEO/SEM industry, changing the role completely. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when the most important aspects of ranking well in a search engine are content, design and usability – it’s going to reward proper, useful and genuine sites (along with the people who create them) over cheap, wasteful, disingenuous ones, forcing us to think about what we say and how we say it rather than just writing guff and promoting the hell out of it.
But we’re not quite there yet and, until we are, I’m going to kindle a burning hatred for a lot of aspects of SEM. I’m just melodramatic like that.