Search Metrics: One Cannot Do Anything Unless One Finds the Info

May 2, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The search engine optimization crowd bamboozled people with tales of getting to be number one on Google. The SEO experts themselves were tricked. The only way to appear on the first page of search results is to buy an ad. This is the pay-to-play approach to being found online. Now a person cannot do anything, including getting in the building to start one’s first job without searching. The company sent the future wizard an email with the access code. If the new hire cannot locate the access code, she cannot work without going through hoops. Most work or fun is similar. Without an ability to locate specific information online, a person is going to be locked out or just lost in space.


The new employee cannot search her email to locate the access code. No job for her. Thanks, MSFT Copilot, a so-so image without the crazy Grandma says, “You can’t get that image, fatso.”

I read a chunk of content marketing called “Predicted 25% Drop In Search Volume Remains Unclear.” The main idea (I think) is that with generative smart software, a person no longer has to check with Googzilla to get information. In some magical world, a person with a mobile phone will listen as the smart software tells a user what information is needed. Will Apple embrace Microsoft AI or Google AI? Will it matter to the user? Will the number of online queries decrease for Google if Apple decides it loves Redmond types more than Googley types? Nope.

The total number of online queries will continue to go up until the giant search purveyors collapse due to overburdened code, regulatory hassles, or their own ineptitude. But what about the estimates of mid tier consulting firms like Gartner? Hello, do you know that Gartner is essentially a collection of individuals who do the bidding of some work-from-home, self-anointed experts?

Face facts. There is one alleged monopoly controlling search. That is Google. It will take time for an upstart to siphon significant traffic from the constellation of Google services. Even Google’s own incredibly weird approach to managing the company will not be able to prevent people from using the service. Every email search is a search. Every direction in Waze is a search. Every click on a suggested YouTube TikTok knock off is a search. Every click on anything Google is a search. To tidy up the operation, assorted mechanisms for analyzing user behavior provide a fingerprint of users. Advertisers, even if they know they are being given a bit of a casino frippery, have to decide among Amazon, Meta, or, or … Sorry. I can’t think of another non-Google option.

If you want traffic, you can try to pull off a Black Swan event as OpenAI did. But for most organizations, if you want traffic, you pay Google. What about SEO? If the SEO outfit is a Google partner, you are on the Information Highway to Google’s version of Madison Avenue.

But what about the fancy charts and graphs which show Google’s vulnerability? Google’s biggest enemy is Google’s approach to managing its staff, its finances, and its technology. Bing or any other search competitor is going to find itself struggling to survive. Don’t believe me? Just ask the founder of Search2, Neeva, or any other search vendor crushed under Googzilla’s big paw. Unclear? Are you kidding me? Search volume is going to go up until something catastrophic happens. For now, buy Google advertising for traffic. Spend some money with Meta. Use Amazon if you sell fungible things. Google owns most of the traffic. Adjust and quit yapping about some fantasy cooked up by so-called experts.

Stephen E Arnold, May 2, 2024

Want Clicks: Do Sad, Really, Really Sorrowful

March 13, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The US is a hotbed of negative news. It’s what drives the media and perpetuates the culture of fear that (arguably) has plagued the country since colonial times. US citizens and now the rest of the world are so addicted to bad news that a research team got the brilliant idea to study what words people click. Nieman Lab wrote about the study in, “Negative Words In News Headlines Generate More Clicks-But Sad Words Are More Effective Than Angry Or Scary Ones.”


Thanks, MSFT Copilot. One of Redmond’s security professionals I surmise?

Negative words are prevalent in headlines because they sell clicks. The Nature Human Behavior(u)r journal published a study called “Negativity Drives Online News Consumption.” The study analyzed the effect of negative and emotional words on news consumption and the research team discovered that negativity increased clickability. These findings also confirm the well-documented behavior of humans seeking negativity in all information-seeking.

It coincides with humanity’s instinct to be vigilant of any danger and avoid it. While humans instinctually gravitate towards negative headlines, certain negative words are more popular than others. Humans apparently are driven to click on sad-related synonyms, avoid anything resembling joy or fear, and angry words don’t have any effect. It all goes back to survival:

“And if we are to believe “Bad is stronger than good” derives from evolutionary psychology — that it arose as a useful heuristic to detect threats in our environment — why would fear-related words reduce likelihood to click? (The authors hypothesize that fear and anger might be more important in generating sharing behavior — which is public-facing — than clicks, which are private.)

In any event, this study puts some hard numbers to what, in most newsrooms, has been more of an editorial hunch: Readers are more drawn to negativity than to positivity. But thankfully, the effect size is small — and I’d wager that it’d be even smaller for any outlet that decided to lean too far in one direction or the other.”

It could also be a strict diet of danger-filled media too.

Whitney Grace, March 13, 2024

It Works for SEO and Narcotics… and Academics

February 14, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

Academic research papers that have been cited often are probably credible, right? These days, not so much. Science reports, “Citation Cartels Help Some Mathematicians – and their Universities – Climb the Rankings.” Referring to an analysis by University of Vigo’s Domingo Docampo, writer Michele Catanzaro tells us:

“Cliques of mathematicians at institutions in China, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere have been artificially boosting their colleagues’ citation counts by churning out low-quality papers that repeatedly reference their work, according to an unpublished analysis seen by Science. As a result, their universities—some of which do not appear to have math departments—now produce a greater number of highly cited math papers each year than schools with a strong track record in the field, such as Stanford and Princeton universities. These so-called ‘citation cartels’ appear to be trying to improve their universities’ rankings, according to experts in publication practices. ‘The stakes are high—movements in the rankings can cost or make universities tens of millions of dollars,’ says Cameron Neylon, a professor of research communication at Curtin University. ‘It is inevitable that people will bend and break the rules to improve their standing.’ In response to such practices, the publishing analytics company Clarivate has excluded the entire field of math from the most recent edition of its influential list of authors of highly cited papers, released in November 2023.”


Thanks MSFT Copilot Bing thing. You are mostly working today. Actually well enough for good enough art.

Researchers say this manipulation occurs across disciplines, but the relatively low number of published math papers makes it more obvious in that field. When Docampo noticed the trend, the mathematician analyzed 15 years’ worth of Clarivate’s data to determine which universities were publishing highly cited math papers and who was citing them. Back in 2008 – 2010, legitimately heavy-hitters like UCLA and Princeton were at the top of the cited list. But in the last few years those were surpassed by institutions not exactly known for their mathematics prowess. Many were based in China, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. And, yes, those citations were coming from inside the writers’ own schools. Sneaky. But not sneaky enough.

There may again come a time when citations can be used as a metric for reliability. Docampo is working on a system to weigh citations according to the quality of the citing journals and institutions. Until then, everyone should take citation counts with a grain of salt.

Cynthia Murrell, February 14, 2024

AI and SEO: If This Does Not Kill Relevance, Nothing Will

February 1, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

The integration of AI into search engines may help consumers better find what they are looking for and reduce or eliminate creepy intrusive ads. More importantly, for readers of Adweek anyway, that dynamic is an opportunity for advertisers. Now they can more finely target ads while charming potential customers with friendly algorithmic rapport. That is the gist of write-up, “3 Major Ways Generative AI Is Redefining Search.” Under the subheadings “Dialogue over monologue,” “Offers not ads,” and “Subjective data over objective data,” writer Christian J. Ward details how marketers can leverage the human-esque qualities of AI interactions to entice consumers. For example, under the first of these “pivotal shifts,” Ward writes:

“With conversational AI as the interface, consumers can share exactly what they want to share, and brands can focus on great responses instead of suboptimal guesses. … When a consumer freely offers details on what they seek and why, the brand can leverage that zero-party data to personalize their experience. Trust is built through dialogues, not infinite monologues algorithmically ranked in search engine results. Most importantly, these AI-driven dialogues open unprecedented opportunities for brands to engage each person individually.”

Yes, trust is built through dialogues. But is that still the case when one party is a fake person? Probably, for many consumers. Ward goes on to describe ways companies can capitalize on these “conversations:”

“Conversations like these build trust and enable the brand to customize an offer that meets the needs of that individual customer. This is the future of offer-based interactions, directly controlled by a dialogue with the customer. Moving from privacy-invasive ad models to trust-centric dialogue models will take time. But for objective questions—which often directly precede conversion and purchase decisions—brands will utilize gen AI aggressively to take back the consumer dialogue from centralized search systems that seek to monetize ad spend.”

Reduce one’s ad budget while using salary-free AI to build lucrative customer rapport? Sounds great. Unless one’s interest is in truly relevant search results, not marketing ploys. Welcome to the next iteration of SEO.

Cynthia Murrell, February 1, 2024

SEO for 2022: Why Not Buy Google Ads and Skip the Baloney

December 17, 2021

There is one game in the US for search. Yeah, I know DuckDuckGo is wonderful. There’s even Bing. And you can still navigate to and enter a search. Same for I am not going to repeat what I have been saying for decades. Primary search does the crawl, the indexing, the query processing, and the results serving. There are a few outfits in this business, but none is known; for example,,,, and a few others.

This article “Why Your Website Must Have an SEO Strategy for 2022” strikes me as pretty darned crazy. If someone repeats a process over and over again and fails, what’s that say about the approach or the person? In my view, crazy seems close to the mark.

The write up says:

The aim of SEO is simple: high SEO ranking brings more traffic and more revenue.

More accurately, SEO produces work for search engine optimization experts. Many of the certified outfits are Google partners. When a temporary boost expires, these professionals will sell Google ads.

There you go.

Why not just buy Google ads and forget the futility of trying to outwit the Google. In case you haven’t notice, the Google along with Facebook are in a prime position to determine who and what gets eyeballs.

Buy ads. Simpler, faster, and cheaper. People with degrees in art history and business communications are no match for Googzilla’s decades of “refinement”.

Stephen E Arnold, December 17, 2021

SEO Tips and Tricks Persist

December 10, 2021

SEO pros are working hard to keep the field relevant, despite the reality that buying Google ads is becoming the only productive solution. Search Engine Journal airily proscribes “5 Essential Enterprise SEO Trends to Watch in 2022.” Oddly, purchasing Google ads is not among the recommendations. Writer Lemuel Park explains:

“In 2022, [enterprise SEO strategy] will involve:

* Improving cross-channel and broader departmental collaboration.

* Advancing workflow and reporting processes and systems.

* Utilizing data and insights in real-time.

* Embracing and working with AI technology and automation.

Challenges in enterprise SEO can vary from organization to organization. However, the commonality is found in areas such as executive buy-in, internal collaboration, and wider digital integration (showcasing impact). With last year’s challenge comes next year’s opportunity – and with that in mind, let’s dig into the 5 key areas of focus to consider as you plan your enterprise SEO strategy for the year ahead.”

Here are the five suggestions: keep pace with search updates/ algorithms and best practices; take advantage of automation; squeeze insights from data; align SEO and Pay Per Click teams; and integrate SEO into all departments. Curious readers can see the write-up for details on each consideration. Some of these, especially the last point, seem like a lot of work. It would be much easier to give in to the Googlers’ machinations. Google Search is their platform, after all; it is no surprise when they tilt it toward their own pockets.

Cynthia Murrell December 10, 2021

Battle of the Experts? Snowden Versus Sullivan, Wowza

November 19, 2021

This is a hoot: “Edward Snowden Dunks on Search Gurus in Hilarious Twitter Clapback.” Mr. Snowden is an individual who signed a secrecy agreement and elected to ignore it. Mr. Sullivan is a search engine optimization journalist, who is now laboring in the vineyards of Google.

The write up makes clear that Mr. Snowden finds the Google Web search experience problematic. (I wanted to write lousy, but I wish to keep maintain some level of polite discourse.)

Mr. Sullivan points out that Mr. Snowden was talking about “site search.” For those not privy to Google Dorks, a site search requires the names of a site like preceded by the Google operator site: At least, that’s the theory.

The write up concludes with a reference to search engine optimization or SEO. That’s Mr. Sullivan’s core competency. Mr. Snowden’s response is not in the article or it could be snagged in the services monitored by the Federal service for supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) in everyone favorite satellite destroying country.

Quite a battle. The Snowden Sullivan slugfest. No, think this is emblematic of what has happened to those who ignore secrecy agreements and individuals who have worked hard to make relevance secondary to Google pay to play business processes.

Stephen E Arnold, November 19, 2021

University of Washington: Struggling with Ethics 101

October 18, 2021

Like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some professionals at these esteemed institutions are struggling with Ethics 101. A typical syllabus includes such questions as these from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point Introduction to Ethics course:

  • What theoretical principles guide our moral behavior?
  • What makes an action right or wrong?
  • What factors (theoretical and practical) ground moral disputes?
  • Is there hope that we will resolve moral disputes?

The syllabus includes this statement:

If you commit any acts of academic dishonesty (such as plagiarism on written work or cheating on an exam) you will earn a zero for that work (and possibly other disciplinary actions).

Well, this is a basic class. How well did the University of Washington do? (We already know that MIT accepted some Jeffrey Epstein goodness and participated in the digital hair shirt ritual.)

Navigate to “University of Washington Settles DOJ Claims of Grant Fraud.” You will learn that one of those who appears to have flunked Introduction to Ethics engaged in some search engine optimization. I learned from the article:

The University of Washington has agreed to pay more than $800,000 to settle Justice Department allegations that a professor submitted false documentation relating to a highly competitive grant. The grant documents were submitted to the National Science Foundation by Mehmet Sarikaya, a professor in the university’s Materials Science and Engineering Department…

Keep in mind that some academics engage in citation exchanges and other crafty techniques to burnish their reputation as big time thinkers.

If the Department of Justice is correct, the get out of jail card cost the university providing Amazon-type and Google-type graduates a mere $800,000.

A PR-savvy university professional is quoted as saying“The UW takes very seriously the responsibility of stewarding public funding of scientific research,” university spokesman Victor Balta said in an email. “We are grateful this issue was brought to light and pleased to have it resolved.”

Abso-fricking-lutely. “Grateful.”

The issue is one that St. Thomas Aquinas might have enjoyed pondering. Why fool around with Aristotelian ethics when one can do what’s necessary to be a winner. The text of these thoughts might be called Macho invento and authored by a group of recent University of Washington graduates who volunteer their time to advance ethical thought.

Stephen E Arnold, October 18, 2021

Progress: Marketing Triumphs, Innovating Becomes SEO

October 11, 2021

I read “Slowed Canonical Progress in Large Fields of Science.” My take on the write up is different from what the authors intended. The notion of “science” I bring ignores physics, medicine, mathematics, and computational chemistry.

The write up is about marketing, good old-fashioned salesmanship. Don’t take my comment as that of a person annoyed at academics or big thinkers. I believe that the authors have articulated an important idea. I simply view their insight as an example of a a particular manifestation of generating buzz, closing a deal, making a sale, or believing the assertions so common in advertising.

The write up states:

Rather than causing faster turnover of field paradigms, a deluge of new publications entrenches top-cited papers, precluding new work from rising into the most-cited, commonly known canon of the field.

Isn’t this “more is better” similar to generating clicks to a Web page — whether the content of the Web page is germane to a topic or not? I do.

I call this the SEO-ization of knowledge.  Dr. Gene Garfield, the father of citation analysis, did not anticipate search engine optimization becoming the objective of his approach to determining importance in a scientific field.

The write up makes clear that:

As fields get larger, the most-cited papers become durably dominant, entrenched atop the citation distribution. New papers, in contrast, suffer diminished probability of ever becoming very highly cited and cannot gradually accumulate attention over time. Published papers tend to develop existing ideas more than disrupt them, and rarely launch disruptive new streams of research.

The effect of this “entrenchment” is little more than finding a way to get attention in a setting which resists change.

I think that the data presented in the paper provide an insight useful to understanding the vapidity of so-called corporate white papers to the interesting expressions of business ideas on LinkedIn and much more.

Advertising and search engine optimization are the defining characteristics of the last 10 years. The fact that it permeates scientific and technical work is evidence that intellectual endeavors are little more than key word stuffing.

Who “regulates” the behavior? A government agency? The reviewers of a technical paper? The publishers of journals dependent on commercial enterprises for survival? The young researcher who follows the well-worn path?

Search engine optimization-type thinking has been absorbed into the intellectual foundations of scientific and technical disciplines.

Now it’s marketing which is much easier than innovating and discovering. Even Google advertises in the Wall Street Journal. Google!

Stephen E Arnold, October 11, 2021

SEO Relevance Destroyers and Semantic Search

August 18, 2021

Search Engine Journal describes to SEO professionals how the game has changed since early days, when it was all about keywords and backlinks, in “Semantic Search: What it Is & Why it Matters.” Writer Aleh Barysevich emphasizes:

“Now, you need to understand what those keywords mean, provide rich information that contextualizes those keywords, and firmly understand user intent. These things are vital for SEO in an age of semantic search, where machine learning and natural language processing are helping search engines understand context and consumers better. In this piece, you’ll learn what semantic search is, why it’s essential for SEO, and how to optimize your content for it.”

Semantic search strives to comprehend each searcher’s intent, a query’s context, and the relationships between words. The increased use of voice search adds another level of complexity. Barysevich traces Google’s semantic search evolution from 2012’s Knowledge Graph to 2019’s BERT. SEO advice follows, including tips like these: focus on topics instead of keywords, optimize site structure, and continue to offer authoritative backlinks. The write-up concludes:

“Understanding how Google understands intent in intelligent ways is essential to SEO. Semantic search should be top of mind when creating content. In conjunction, do not forget about how this works with Google E-A-T principles. Mediocre content offerings and old-school SEO tricks simply won’t cut it anymore, especially as search engines get better at understanding context, the relationships between concepts, and user intent. Content should be relevant and high-quality, but it should also zero in on searcher intent and be technically optimized for indexing and ranking. If you manage to strike that balance, then you’re on the right track.”

Or one could simply purchase Google ads. That’s where traffic really comes from, right?

Cynthia Murrell, August 17, 2021

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