More Google Transparency… A Googley Transparency

June 5, 2008

I loathe search engine optimization, the folks who sell snake oil to hapless souls desperate for traffic, and the media for covering this alleged discipline. But I’m 64 and schooled in Model T notions like consistent content, meaningful indexing, and regular additions to the information stock pile.

For the 99 percent of the people who love SEO, you will want to read this Googley post from super Googler Matt Cutts. He provides some candor, some new information, and some spin. The full post is here. The Web log post is “Improved SEO documentation galore!

The Googler writes:

Google just added a bunch of nice documentation in various places. We even did it in official places — much better than doing it on my personal blog.

Then in the comments, a person identifying himself / herself as “James” cut right through the Googzilla’s clouds of steam. “James” wrote:

What about a place a webmaster can go to communicate with Google about said penalties or changes? Check out webmaster central. It’s littered with webmasters who had great organic traffic one day.. and none the next. This has got to be the most frustrating thing for webmasters trying to do the right thing and follow all Google’s guidelines

Not long ago, a journalist with a nationally-syndicated column called me. The parent company had received some legal instruction to remove a certain article from the Google index. Why this person called me I don’t know. The caller–an ace reporter, mind you–could find the name, email, or phone number of a person at Google to discuss this issue. In fact, the ace reporter told me, “I called a dozen numbers. No one calls back.”

So that’s standard Googley procedure for people who aren’t Googley. The GOOG wants to vaporize Harrod’s Creek geese like me, and it has ignored my requests for comments, queries, and input for several years. But I do keep a collection of super-Googlers on my trusty Treo 650. I was a good person. I provided the ace reporter with some names of people who, in theory, might recall my name much in the way I remember that my barber’s name.

Well, one of my magic Googley names worked. The GOOG listened and allowed the ace reporter to dodge a coronary.

But until the average goose can access lines of communication that work, I’m skeptical. When I read a reassuring statement, I’m inclined to put my head under my wing. Here’s a snippet from Mr. Cutts’ essay:

We do appreciate getting suggestions and feedback from users, webmasters, and SEOs. I’m especially interested when people want to report spam, including paid text links….No search engine is perfect, and everyone will have different opinions about what a search engine should focus on. But I appreciate the feedback that we get from users, webmasters, and SEOs. I know that the suggestions that we get help to make Google a better search engine.

I’m not ready to believe that James’ rejoinder is not dead on and completely transparent. Does the GOOG talk to you? Can you get a Googler on the phone? Does your Google engineer call you back to explain why your Web site has been put in purgatory? Let me know in the comments section of this Web log.

Stephen Arnold, June 4, 2008


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