Did 2012 Mark the Beginning of the End for the Google?

February 24, 2020

A colleague sent me a link to “Google’s Best Days Are Behind Them.” I don’t have much hope for a write up with a grammatical error in the headline. The viewpoint is that of a search engine optimization professional. For a member of this elite and relevance destroying group, Google is good if it returns a specific Web page in response to a user’s query. In my experience, the query matters less than putting a particular page at the top of a first page of result. To achieve this, gamesmanship, deceptive practices, and social engineering are the norm.

The write up pegs 2012 as the beginning of the end of Google. I prefer to think of Google beginning a stroll toward sundowning, not death, and not for a long time. The write up asserts:

Google first started making major changes in its long-existing algorithm in 2012, when it came up with the Penguin update. With each subsequent algorithm update, the company focused on key areas like building links, improving content, or technical SEO aspects.

What’s happening is that SEO experts find themselves with less room to fiddle and fool Mother Google. In reality, Google has taken the fooling around into its own hands. The write up touches upon one example:

But recently, Google has started paying more attention to the way it displays its search results, i.e., the UI/UX. And this sole factor has cost multiple websites the entirety of their business, if not more.

Instead of a list, Google has experimented with making the pages into showcases, digital fruit salads, and odd mixes of content from its silos of indexes. But that disguised a core problem for the Google: The rise of the mobile phone and the shift from desktop search to small form factor search. The article identifies one consequence of this shift:

While Google had a 20% volume of advertisements on its SERPS before, Google-owned features now tend to occupy almost 80% of the page. In most search results, the first fold is completely taken over by features like Google ads, a Google Maps pack, or Google Shopping ads.

For the author, this means that getting a site to appear at the top of a results list is a difficult task. For certain types of content, the SEO efforts – usually a hit and miss effort – became outright failure.

The write up does point out that Google made more than 3,000 changes to its search algorithm in 2019. That’s sort of right. The plumbing is still in place at the Google. The fixes take place in the layers upon layers of wrappers which enhance search with the advertising revenue objective. What Google’s algorithm is now resembles a giant tar ball with leaves, sticks, plastic water bottles, and other detritus embedded in its surface. Changes require changes. Revenue objectives require changes. Users doing something Google did not predict requires changes. To make matters more interesting, the changes follow the sun; that is, search engineers make changes around the world, across time zones. DarkCyber is not sure there is a single person working at Google who knows what is generating a particular search result. That’s not going to change.

When did this situation begin? Was 2012 the Golden Year?

No. That’s like pinpointing the specific date of the Stone Age.

Google’s transformation began the day the Yahoo litigation was resolved. For those unaware that Google was accused of improper use of Yahoo owned systems and methods, you can get up to speed at this paywalled (of course) story in the New York Times by the ever sharp Saul Hansell: “Google and Yahoo Settle Dispute Over Search Patent.”

Search is expensive. Google’s approach to business is expensive. Google’s assumptions about Android advertising are expensive. In short, no matter how much money Google sucks in and carves out for profit there will never be enough. As a result, Google has to reduce costs and increase revenue.

The changes Google has been implementing since 2004 are not visible to even the least aware SEO professional. To those who have used Web search systems since before the inception of Google, the changes in the quality, timeliness, relevance, precision, and recall in Google search results have been deteriorating for — let’s do the math 2020 – 2004 = 16 years — yes, more than 15 years.

There’s nothing like an SEO expert who is on top of search, what’s been going on for 180 months.

DarkCyber’s key insight into search: Run those queries across available systems. Relying on one is going to produce results that may deceive, mislead, and disappoint.

That’s work. Yep, so is understanding that information retrieval is a serious business. Advertising is a money business. SEO is a deception business.

And Google is consistent and sundowning. No matter how flawed the service, it is a monopoly. Monopolies take a long time to go away.

Stephen E Arnold, February 24, 2020

A DarkCyber Tip: Stay On Google’s Good Side

September 20, 2019

If your Web site does not appear in Google, it might as well not exist. Being in the top Google search results is key to your Web site’s success or failure, but how do you get in the top search results? The answer is: being on Google’s good side. Bit Rebels explains how to be on good terms with Google in the article, “How Important Is Getting On Google’s Good Side.”

You want to focus on getting in Google’s top search results, because 73% of all online searches are conducted via it. Google is the big guns when it comes to online search and if you get to the top of Google, then you will get to the top of the remaining search engines.

Being on the second, third, and fourth pages might appear to be an accomplishment, but humans have short attention spans and do not want to browse. Humans want instantaneous results, so that action involves a once over of the first page and clicking on a link.

Do not forget that SEO is an important part of high rankings:

“At this point, you probably have an idea what search engine optimization, SEO, is. In case you don’t, though, it’s the process of making your website more attractive to a search engine. When the popular search engine that is Google arranges results, it does so using specific criteria; relevance of the domain name to the search keywords, website speed and reliability, relevance of web content, popularity and several other factors.

We also noted:

What’s more, Google also takes into consideration how many clicks does your website often get. So, if it is a frequently visited website, it would automatically get bumped up the results page. Having said that, get ready to scoop the leftovers of your mind off the floor because we’re about to blow it to bit.”

To get on Google’s good side the formula is simple: create good content, concentrate on SEO, gets hits, and maybe invest in some online advertising?

Whitney Grace, September 20, 2019

SEO: The Relevance Killer

August 26, 2019

The maker of the AWS-based email platform Send With SES vents some frustration in the post, “The Internet Is An SEO Landfill.” We could not agree more. The entrepreneur describes the advice they have received from SEO consultants, who suggest paying to flood the internet with thousands of unnecessary words about their simple and well-documented product. All to trick Google’s algorithm into elevating their site in search results because, of course, that is how one gets ahead in competitive fields these days. The author is as vexed as we are about this state of affairs; they write:

“Search Engines need some kind of validation to decide what’s popular. What better validation than gossip. And that’s what the internet has become. Full of gossip, junk content, paid posts, con articles, click bait links, sock-puppetry, spam, regurgitated spam, free e-books, self-aggrandizement, fake followers, fake news, – all designed to achieve one thing – con the Search Engine – and you.

We found this interesting as well:

“Don’t the makers of Search Engines know this? Of course they do. It’s just not in their interest to bring clarity. SEO Consultants are an unpaid [by search engines] army of evangelists who channel billions of dollars in ad revenue to Search Engines. Why would a Search Engine want to disown the evangelists when so much money is at stake!

We also noted this statement:

“SEO is easy money. It attracts the bottom feeders of the tech world. It’s easy to make a livelihood off of SEO. Why? Because it requires little skill. The startup costs are little. There’s a huge and easy market … lots of entrepreneurs who will grab at any straw of hope that promises to make their product more visible.”

Ouch! We are guessing the writer did not bite on any of their would-be SEO consultants’ pitches. If only every business would adopt this attitude, we could relegate junk content to the archives of history.

Cynthia Murrell, August 26, 2019

Google: Help the GOOG Find Your Business with the Help of Search Engine Optimization

July 11, 2019

One can buy Google ads. That may help.  But if you just want to create a listing for your business, you may have to do a bit of work. If your business does not come up in a Google query, that business may be missing out on sales. That’s called leaving money on the table. Not much fun DarkCyber thinks.

Well, there’s a fix. Just point your browser to this write up:

What do you do if Google My Business doesn’t understand your business? Pop-up shops, mobile by design, are legitimate businesses but Google has no easy way to help you find them.

No kidding. That an SEO friendly title.

The write up points out this easy fix:

Fortunately, Google has been helpful in working with us to find a solution, which shows that Google is flexible and willing to evolve. As more companies adopt business models shorn of permanent locations, the bigger question is how will Google adapt over time? If you are one such business, you may need an advocate to work with Google – but it’s worth trying. Google, to its credit, watches for patterns of behavior among its users and adapts. It behooves Google to provide the best experience to its users, and if more of its users are struggling to find businesses, Google will adapt rather than lose them to another ecosystem.

Yep, Google is helpful. But not as helpful as hiring an SEO expert. There’s nothing like a “real” news story with substantive information. Fascinating. As Google’s results become less and less relevant to a user’s query, the SEO crowd wants to ensure that your business can be found even if the query is not relevant to your business. That’s just “good” business in SEO land.

Stephen E Arnold, July 11, 2019

Google Produces YouTube Series on SEO Myths

May 16, 2019

It seems Google has a new angle for its public relations. Search Engine Journal announces, “Google Steps Up Its Content Game with New YouTube Series on SEO Myths.” Writer Matt Southern tells us:

“Google is preparing to launch a new video series about SEO myths which is drastically different from its previous videos. The ‘SEO Mythbusting’ series will be hosted by Google’s Martin Splitt and published on the Google Webmasters YouTube channel. Splitt recently wrapped up a video series on JavaScript SEO, so he’s wasting no time moving on to the next thing. Judging from the trailer, Google has seriously upped the production value of its video content. … It’s best described as an insightful, engaging SEO talk show produced by Google.”

Southern has gleaned several probable episode topics from the trailer: Googlebot, JavaScript frameworks, and communication between developers and SEOs for example. Apparently, each episode will include a segment discussing SEO misconceptions with folks from the developer and/or SEO communities. The write-up embeds the 1.5 minute trailer, so curious readers should check it out.

Cynthia Murrell, May 16, 2019

Google: SEO Like a True Google Human Actor

April 18, 2019

We know Google’s search algorithm comprehends text, at least enough to produce relevant search results (though, alas, apparently not enough to detect improper comments in kiddie videos on YouTube). The mechanisms, though, remain murky. Yoast ponders, “How Does Google Understand Text?” Writer Jesse van de Hulsbeek observes Google keeps the particulars close to the vest, but points to some clues, like patents Google has filed. “Word embeddings,” or assessing closely related words, and related entities are two examples. Writing for his SEO audience, van de Hulsbeek advises:

If Google understands context in some way or another, it’s likely to assess and judge context as well. The better your copy matches Google’s notion of the context, the better its chances. So thin copy with limited scope is going to be at a disadvantage. You’ll need to cover your topics exhaustively. And on a larger scale, covering related concepts and presenting a full body of work on your site will reinforce your authority on the topic you specialize in.

We also noted:

Easier texts which clearly reflect relationships between concepts don’t just benefit your readers, they help Google as well. Difficult, inconsistent and poorly structured writing is more difficult to understand for both humans and machines. You can help the search engine understand your texts by focusing on: Good readability (that is to say, making your text as easy-to-read as possible without compromising your message)…Good structure (that is to say, adding clear subheadings and transitions)…Good context (that is to say, adding clear explanations that show how what you’re saying relates to what is already known about a topic).

The article does point out that including key phrases is still important. Google is trying to be more like a human reader, we’re reminded, so text that is good for the humans is good for the SEO ranking. Relevance? Not so much.

Cynthia Murrell, April 18, 2019

Semantic SEO: A Frothy Romp

November 6, 2018

Someone spent a long, long time assembling the information included in “Using Topic Modelling to Win Big with NLP and Semantic Search.” [The original spells “modelling” with two Ls. I have changed the spelling in my write up.] I am not exactly sure what “semantic search” means. I have a glimmer of understanding about natural language processing. Whether it works as one assumes is, of course, another thing entirely. The idea of “topic modeling” is new. “Models” I get. Topic modeling, not so much. My thought is that the phrase means indexing and categorization. But?

The slide deck covers quite a bit of ground in the Microsoft / LinkedIn / Slideshare document. The lingo in the document includes a bountiful gathering of buzzwords.Also, there’s an equation, although, I am not certain it clarifies. Could it be that its inclusion is intended to add some mathiness to the confection?

Here you go. Channel your inner Leibnitz with an intuitive view:


Remarkable what SEO experts can assemble.

Stephen E Arnold, November 6, 2018


Up Your Irrelevance Game. Sorry, SEO Game

October 8, 2018

Can your business save money by doing SEO itself? It’s the question that so many business owners have asked but may have been too afraid to act upon. However, it might be time to give it a shot, if you are willing to work on a steep learning curve. That was the confidence we walked away with after reading the recent Search Engine Journal story “What to Do When Things Go Wrong in SEO.”

Two tips that stood out to us revolved around what to do when your SEO isn’t working. Here are good places to consider:

  • Paid Links: Any form of payment is considered a problem by Google. If you’re buying ads and getting links to your site in return, the best policy is to implement a “nofollow” attribute on those links so Google won’t think you’re trying to spam their search results.
  • Web Directories: These are sites that organize websites into hierarchical directories, and these are largely useless today.

Seems simple, right?

While you might have to struggle through some trial and error to get a footing, it’s not out of anyone’s reach. In fact, lots of people are taking the reins of their own marketing and SEO. We vote that you should try. The worst thing that can happen is that it doesn’t work; Google penalizes you; you lose revenue; and you hire an expert or buy Google ads. Efficient.

Patrick Roland, October  8, 2018

Musicians And Small Business Can Influence Google Search

June 8, 2018

One of the problems with being a musicians is building and growing a fan base. The only way to grow a fan base is to get your name out there. Other than playing gigs, distributing music online is the best way, then musicians face the problem of getting their content to appear in search results. Search Engine Journal reports that, “Google Allows Musicians To Post Directly To Search Results” that could be a new benefit for the budding superstar.

Using the Google Posts, musicians and small businesses can publish short updates that will appear at the top of Google search results. This feature was first developed for musicians in pop and electronic dance music genres, but now it is widely available to all musicians and it is accessible through the Knowledge Panel.

Here is how it works:

“Updates from musicians will appear within their respective Knowledge Panel, which typically shows up when the artist’s name is searched for specifically. Musicians will be able to publish text, images, videos, and GIFs. A blue checkmark will indicate when the updates are from a verified musician. This feature is now live in Google search results worldwide.”

Being at the top of Google search results is a boon for small businesses and budding musicians. It will attract more customers and people to a growing fan base.

Whitney Grace, June 8, 2018

Want Mobile Traffic? New Tactics May Be Needed

May 30, 2018

I read “Mobile Direct Traffic Eclipses Facebook.” Like any research, I like to know the size of the sample, the methodology, and the “shaping” which the researchers bring to the project. To answer these questions, one must see other sources cited in the write up, including Nieman Lab, which appears to be recycling Chartbeat data. In short, I don’t know much about the research design or other aspects of the research.

Nevertheless, I noted a handful of statements or “facts” which on the surface struck me as interesting. The study data appear to support the assertion that “mobile does not equal social”.

First, the study reports that “mobile direct to traffic has surpassed Facebook.” I think this means that if those in the sample use a mobile device, some of those users use an app or a browser to go directly to a site. At first glance, Facebook seems to be a major player but it is, according to the survey, trending down from being the gateway to information for some mobile device users.

Second, the write up points out sites offering “content” are not losing visitors. On one hand, the finding suggests that Facebook is not a gateway trending upwards. I have seen reports suggesting that Facebook has been negatively affected by the Cambridge Analytica matter, but I have also seen reports which assert that Facebook is adding users. Which is it? That’s the question, isn’t it?

Third, the Chartbeat data put Google as the leading source of traffic to sites. What this means is that the “gap” between Facebook and Google as referrers seems to be getting bigger. Bad news for Facebook and good news for Google if the data are accurate.

Several observations:

  • The data, if accurate, make it clear that Google and its Android operating system have a clear path to the barn
  • Facebook may have to begin the process of adapting to mobile users who do not use Facebook as the gateway to the Internet (whatever that ends up being)
  • Governments interested in censoring certain content streams have a crude road map for determine what online destinations should be cut off from the information superhighway. (The law enforcement addiction to Facebook and Twitter may require some special treatment at clinics run by Google and high traffic destinations accessed via an app.)

To sum up, if the data in the Chartbeat report are accurate, changes are underway. Some positive, some negative. There is, however, that “if.”

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2018

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