And Do You Really Want a Truly Natural Search World? Really?
Before I begin ranting (I really don’t see how I can avoid at least a bit of ranting), let’s start with a fun exercise with search syntax.
Ready? Here we go….
Paste the following snippet into your Google Search bar:
intext:”matt cutts” intext:artificial|unnatural -intelligence
It should look like this after you do the search
Now, click on “Search tools” and select Any time > Past year
What you’re seeing is the number of pages that have “Matt Cutts” in the text of the content, which also carry the words “artificial” or “unnatural” and which don’t have the phrase “artificial intelligence” (which is not relevant to this discussion, as you’ll see).
That’s a pretty specific set of parameters for a search and I get almost 9,000 relevant pages in my search results. (If I leave it set to “Any time” I get over half a million pages).
Can anyone guess why I want to start with a search like that?
It’s to illustrate the bombardment that Internet Marketers such as myself have been getting from the Voice of Google (aka Matt Cutts) about how much Google dislikes sites that do things “artificially” or “unnaturally.”
Oh, my goodness children, if you do anything artificial or unnatural you are very, very bad indeed. You will probably have all your candy, er, search engine traffic, taken away from you (if it hasn’t happened already).
Hey, that was fun. Let’s approach this from the other angle:
Change up your search. Use
intext:”matt cutts” intext:”great content”
If I look at the past year I get close on to 6,000 pages, and 441,000 relevant pages if I look at “Any time.” This shows us how much Google loves, adores, worships “great content.”
It all seems so perfectly logical, so perfectly benevolent. It’s based on the following story line:
- Google wants searchers to get high quality results
- Google thinks websites that carry content or links that are “unnatural” or “artificial” harm the effort to provide those quality results, and will punish them
- Google does want “great content,” and will reward those who provide it.
It makes perfect sense until you start thinking about it.
The Elephant in the Room
The elephant in the room is the question: Why must “artificial and unnatural” and “great content” be mutually exclusive? Why is this an “either-or”? Isn’t it a “both-and”? Can’t something be created for rankings, thus “artificial” in Google’s perfect world, and still be the best thing for a searcher’s needs? (Actually that’s 4 questions, but we’ll call it one big elephant). We all know the answer. (Hint: the answer to the last question is “yes!”) And “artificial” is behind a lot of great content.
Mozart was a Spammer
Google would probably have de-indexed Mozart (and tons of other great creative content producers). A lot of Mozart’s work was written to pay bills. He paid attention to what people wanted. Then he created auditory “content” that would induce someone to open their wallet. He always did it with brilliance, but that’s besides the point. And not all of what he did was commercially driven, but that’s besides the point as well. The point is that an “artificial” production by Mozart still made the world of music a better place; and at the same time a lot of other music that arose organically out of the muck deserved to be tossed right back into the garbage. Organic vs. artificial did not trump high quality vs. rubbish.
My question to Matt is, Why should Google care whether a link was created to increase search rankings? Why should they care whether content for a website was created by a guest author in search of links?
If the desire really is to satisfy the searching needs of the average Netizen, then why should not Google’s one, only, and ultimate goal be to determine what really is “great content” and forget all of the natural vs. unnatural propaganda?
But, as Deep Throat said in “All the President’s Men,” “follow the money.” Wiser words were never spoken.
What is the most artificial act in publishing? Isn’t it the paid advertisement? And what company has relentlessly increased the presence of ads on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), thereby also relentlessly increasing the screen real estate presence of quintessentially “artificial” content. Google.
Don’t misunderstand me: I think Google also does a great job of insuring that even the ads searchers see have an emphasis on relevancy and quality. But doesn’t that merely underscore my point that something can serve both ends, and not just one or the other. Why should the content, and yes, even the links, of webmasters be treated differently.
So what if actions were taken by a webmaster to “manipulate” rankings. That’s an insulting way to say that the content creator merely wants to be as visible as possible; and if that didn’t matter Google would be out of business in short order. (By the way, anytime I try to improve the Quality Score of my Adwords ads aren’t I also trying to “manipulate” rankings?)
When Google Loves Artificial
Natural does apparently make way for artificial, as long as it puts money in Google’s pocket.
I know that Google is a business. I see the need for them to make money. They are not a charity; I understand that completely. What they do, they do better than just about any organization on the planet. I respect what they do. I just don’t respect what they say or the practice of “punishing” (rather than simply ignoring) the sites that are seen as trying to manipulate rankings. C’mon Google; tell us the way it really plays out for you guys.
I warned you that this was going to be a rant. But I hope you’ll see that it’s a rant based on reason. I work in SEO and have since 2002, and I focus on helping clients produce “great content.” I work to get my clients as much visibility as possible, so sue me. And, I also help clients with paid search and help them to create revenue streams for Google…it’s part of the terrain and without profits for Google none of us would have Google to rant about.
Yet with each passing day I have less and less stomach for hearing Google’s stump speech on “great content.” How about you? Let me know in the comments whether you think I’m a rebel without a cause, a rant without a reason.