Technology and New Normal Insights: What?

August 18, 2020

I read “10 Insights for the New Normal.” Remarkable. The essay was a product of IT Pro Portal and a marketing consulting firm doing business as BrandCap. What’s the connection between the new normal (which means the Rona Era) and technology? That’s is a very good question. Let’s look at three of these “insights”. I urge you to devour the remaining seven in the source document. Before I take a quick look at what I think are the the most interesting in the list of 10, I want to point out that I am not sure what “normal” means. The world is jagged, according to The End of Average. My hunch is that “normal” is a word selected because the people who read about socio-techno analysis in IT Pro Portal are “normal.” Is that a fair assumption? I will leave it to you, gentle reader, to answer this question.

Insights 1, 2, and 3 are essentially the same insight. Humans want to continue their lives in a pre-Rona manner. The new normal is the Rona Era. The third insight is that people want to get back to the pre-Rona normal. There you go. Hegel for Dummies.

Insight 6 is “Every day is like a Sunday afternoon.” I must admit this had me baffled. I then realized that I have continued to operate in the same way as I have for the last 52 years of my professional life. I don’t count years 1 to 22 when I was in college as “professional.” Moments were, maybe. But Sunday afternoon. Consider this explanation of the insight:

As lockdown stretched on and has now evolved, one of the most difficult aspects of life at home has been the sameness…Brands have an opportunity to surprise and delight through enabling the discovery of new products and experiences, both within the home and outside as people become more comfortable with the easing of restrictions.

Surprise and delight? I ordered an HDMI switch from Amazon. I was neither surprised nor delighted.

Insight 9 is a logical delight. Consider this trend: “Staying connected and disconnected.” I recall w somewhat quirky PhD in psychology whom I honestly believed was nuts telling me that schizophrenia is a mental disorder presenting itself in actions and speech that is disordered or hallucinatory. Some context may be helpful. This “wizard” and I were on numerous flights to work on a client engagement. Each flight this PhD would ask me, “Why do you wear maroon ties?” I explained that at 5 am I knew I could find a suitable tie to wear with my blue or gray suit in an efficient way. He then asked me on each flight for the next nine months, “Why do you wear maroon ties?” Which of us was crazier: Efficient me or the board certified whatever who asked the same question repeatedly?

I think I understand. One is working alone in a home office. The mobile phone only buzzes softly. The email notification is muted. Others — humanoids and allegedly domesticated animals — on the other side of a closed door. Alone yet connected. Disconnected yet reachable. The “trend” is explained this way:

The temptation for brands will be to tap into the national acceptance of on-screen comms, but brands should also be aware of the need to step away from screens and not attempt to interfere when people are disconnected.

This weekend I received three spam emails from a company which sold me three bars of an alleged French bar soap. Each email had no reference to my two previous emails sent to an entity known to me as LuckyVitamin.com. Three bars of soap and a dozen spam messages. Yep, that’s a trend. LuckyBrand.com obviously did not get the messages about the connected and disconnected paradox.

Net net: The outfit IT Pro Portal is running content marketing or search engine optimization content either intentionally (okay, I understand money) or unintentionally (yeah, that falls into the LuckyVitamin.com basket of mental behavior). A trend article might want to heed this definition:

the general course or prevailing tendency.

Self-referential statements, paradoxes, and brand awareness are not trends; these are examples of zeitgeist.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2020

The Curious Case of a SEO Expert Who Sees a Link Between Dining and DarkCyber

July 29, 2020

This is another “SEO Follies” write up by the DarkCyber research team. The essay falls into three parts: First, an explanation of why irrelevant backlinks are the rage among search engine optimization experts; second, how language becomes an irritant and a reflection on the search engine optimization company’s business methods; and, third, some reflections on the stupidity of some SEO or search engine optimization sales methods. I want to point out that SEO professionals mostly bilk unsuspecting customers by promising them that their Web page will be more findable in Google. If a company wants traffic, the company will either have to buy ads from Google or remain deep in a search results list.

The Quest for Backlinks

In my first Google monograph “The Google Legacy”, my research team and I compiled a list of publicly disclosed ranking factors. The list has been used by some universities in their information science courses (example: Syracuse University). The majority of these factors are recycled ideas from other search systems, research conducted by IBM Almaden (example: the CLEVER system), and common sense (example: the more links pointing to a Web page, the “better” that Web page is if one uses de Tocqueville’s concept of average as a way to determine what’s “good”).

The current rage for backlinks is little more than an effort to generate a false “good” score for a Web page. The present technique — practiced by charlatans like the Hustler who makes crazy videos and companies like the once prestigious Boston Consulting Group. Since The Google Legacy, two changes have taken place at Google. First, the company has expanded its grip on online advertising despite the best efforts of Amazon and Facebook. Second, the options for getting independent, objective search results from Google have decreased. The reality is that a business either buys traffic or pays a charlatan pitching search engine magic. Either way, a business has to pay for traffic. There are exceptions, but these are forced upon Google due to exogenous circumstances and most organizations cannot rely on an anomaly to publicize their existence.

The trend I have noticed is that requests for backlinks are coming more and more frequently. Here’s an example I received from a company in the UK authored by an SEO marketer delightfully named Izaak Crook. He wrote:

HI Sa,

How’s it going? I’m Izaak from AppInstitute.

I was browsing arnoldit.com and I noticed you’d covered Restaurant Technology before, linking to https://restauranttechnologynews.com/2019/07/online-food-delivery-fraud-increasing-can-tech-address-problem from http://arnoldit.com/wordpress/category/statistics/

I wondered if you’d be interested in checking out our post “7 Restaurant Technology Trends to Watch Out for in 2020”. We take a look at some of the key restaurant technologies to watch out for and how they’re going to change the industry.

If you deem it worthy of a link from arnoldit.com that would be a dream come true.

Either way, it’d be cool to discuss how we can collaborate in the future. Enjoy your Friday and speak soon!

Kind Regards,

Izaak

I had my team poke around and we learned that Mr. Crook (love that name, right?) works at a firm named AppInstitute. According the company’s Web site, the group develops “apps.” Why is an app development company wanting me to link to a story about restaurant fraud. Sure, DarkCyber covers cybercrime, but odd ball references just underline my point about SEO silliness and the belief among SEO experts that backlinks will get significant traction with the new, revenue hungry Google. (Sure, Google generates a great deal of money, but the company is smart enough to realize that the unregulated, anything world of the pre-Trump era is ending. Plus, Google costs are getting very difficult to control. Then Google has to consider the Amazon and Facebook advertising competitors. These companies are not Excite and Lycos.

The Language of the SEO World

In an email exchange with Mr. Crook (wonderful, evocative name, is it not?) he used this phrase:

Okay, Boomer.

I am a septuagenarian, 76 soon to be 77. I had to contact two members of my DarkCyber research team to get a read on the phrase “Okay, Boomer.” I was aware that a baby boomer described people born after World War II. From my team, I learned that it is:

  • An age-biased slur when used to indicate that a person of age is out of touch with someone who is a thumbtyper, TikToker, and Facebook champion
  • A derogatory term for a person who is older than a Gen X or Millennial
  • An indicator that the person called a “boomer” is stupid, out of touch, irrelevant, a nuiscance, etc.

The team told me that if I were called a Boomer in a public setting, I could contact one of my attorneys and pursue the hate speech angle. Hate speech. Directed at a person soon to be 77. Over an overly familiar email asking for something for free.

The AppInstitute email is representative of the SEO junk I receive on a daily basis. I did not like the tone of the email and I was not happy to learn that boomer was a slur.

First, the familiarity of the “Hi” and the use of two of my initials indicates a certain casual mindset, a thought process incapable of understanding how familiarity is interpreted by someone like me as either careless or stupid. Call me old fashioned, but “Mr. Arnold” is what I prefer in business email.

Second, the reference to a Beyond Search/DarkCyber story about restaurants is amusing. I don’t write about restaurants; I eat at restaurants. Anyone who has looked at any of the more than 13,000 articles in this blog can figure out that feeding people is not one of my primary, secondary, or tertiary interests. I am not going to “check out” a frothy, probably substandard report about the restaurant industry. Apparently Izaak has not seen Yelp’s report about the state of the restaurant business. Here’s a story called “Nearly 16,000 Restaurants Have Closed Permanently Due to the Pandemic, Yelp Data Shows.” Read it, Izaak Crook. Yelp’s information obviates the need for a “report”.

Third, note the word choice. Izaak had a thesaurus handy I would wager or his prestigious employer provided him with a spam script and ready-to-roll bot:

One syllable fancy word: deem

Two syllable fancy word: worthy

Four syllable jargony word: collaborate

Then there were colloquial phrases like:

checking out

watch out for

going to change

dream come true

cool.

Izaak adds this thoughtful postscript: “Don’t want emails from us anymore? Reply to this email with the word “UNSUBSCRIBE” in the subject line.”

The entire email screams spam, carelessness, failure to know to whom one is writing, and arrogance. Am I going to do something for an unknown entity named Izaak Crook without sending a bill? Answer: Not a chance.

My research team told me that the Izaak Crook entity is a person. He is the head of marketing and he is a T shaped marketer, a growth hacker, and an “SaaS fanatic.” He’s spent 14 months performing search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization for the first class outfit AppInstitute. He was a digital communications apprentice for a company called Champions UK plc. Before that he was a social media manager. I love the “apprentice” role as part of an SEO’s work history.

Now Mr. Crook (an evocative name, is it not?) markets the App Institute. A quick reveals that this top drawer outfit is an “AppBuilder for busy small business owners.” The CEO is Ian Naylor who is a serial entrepreneur. I have been told my one of my researchers that the company is small and seems to do many things, not just apps. SEO is one of those many things.

Stepping Back

I have written a number of blog posts, articles, and essays about the loss of relevance in ad-supported Web search systems. The erosion of relevance, to summarize, my conclusions is the result of three factors:

  1. A need to generate revenue in order to pay for indexing, updating, and serving answers to users’ queries.
  2. A desire on the part of marketers and webmasters to get coverage in search result pages without having to pay Google for traffic
  3. The more recent imperative of the ad-supported Web search engines to extend their control over flows of user behavior data.

In this environment, clicks, psychological tells via clicks, and surveillance technology mean that comprehensive data collection are essential. Traffic results from feedback loops and intentional presentation of certain content. Free visibility is not part of the game plan.

SEO marketing is going to fail. Some tactics may spoof Mother Google and deliver a short term boost. However, Mother Google wants SEO to fail because it forces the SEO wizard to herd those desperate for traffic into the advertising kill pen.

Who knows this simple game plan? Maybe the SEO expert who also moonlights as an ad sales rep for Google does? I surmise that Google continues to cultivate SEO professionals as part of the company’s ad sales strategy.

Why write me? Certainly Mr. Crook cares not a whit for my blog and content. He wants a link. He wants to make a sale. He wants to get the client to buy more and more SEO and then AppInstitute will probably sell that customer Google advertising and get a commission.

No thanks, Mr. Crook. I want no part of your SEO scam. I don’t want to help out AppInstitute. However, I do hope that the upcoming Congressional hearings lead to meaningful regulation of certain large high technology firms.

But we live in Rona times, and I must admit, the odds of ethical, responsible behavior are long.

And the links Mr. Crook (tasty, evocative name) wants? Here they are:

Izaak Crook: izaak@appinstitute.co

AppInstitute: https://appinstitute.com/

It seems to some of the DarkCyber team that “Boomer” is hate speech.

Slick marketing method indeed.

Stephen E Arnold aka “Boomer”, July 29, 2020

You Know Times Are Hard When a Blue Chip Firm Stoops to SEO

July 27, 2020

Many years ago I worked at Booz, Allen & Hamilton. After I set up my own consulting firm, I did projects for other outfits which I thought operated in a blue-chip or high-quality mode.

If you read DarkCyber, you may have seen my articles making fun of some consulting firms’ analyses; for example, the outfits producing Gartner-type subjective comparisons enterprise vendors.

I have also been quite clear over the years about search engine optimization. The manipulation of a Web page feeds sales of online advertising and erodes what minimal objective relevance ranking methods remain in use. From my point of view, SEO is a scam. If you want traffic, buy advertising.

Why take time to write again about questionable consulting operations and SEO?

I received this email a day or two ago, and I have informed the sender that I would publish the email, his name, his contact information, and his employer before this item runs in my blog. Now the spam email. Please, note the chatty tone:

Hi Stephen,

We noticed that you featured Boston Consulting Group in four of your articles (Gartner Magic Quadrant in the News: Netscout Matter, Radicati Group: Yet Another Quadrant, Search Engine Optimization: Chasing Semantic Search &  Search Companies: Innovative or Not?) and wanted to say thanks so much for the mentions!

We were hoping you could add a link to our homepage [https://www.bcg.com/] in those articles so your readers can easily find the site. Please let me know if you have any questions or if I should direct this email to someone else. Thanks again for your help in advance.

Sincerely,

Connor Hayes

Connor Hayes Hayes.Connor@bcg.com
Global Search Senior Coordinator
T + 1 617 850 3941
Boston, USA

Allow me some observations, and I will offer some comments for Connor Hayes and other SEO “experts”:

1. Connor, and spare me your slathering of Dollar Store taco sauce. I am not into familiarity or hippy dippy “I want a link” pitches.

2. Boston Consulting Group, let’s be classy. SEO spam is something that I associate with outfits less well positioned to sell high-end professional services work.

I asked myself, “Was Connor Hayes influenced by Homer on “The Simpsons”?

I asked myself, “Has BCG lost its sense of professionalism?”

I do recall learning from my father who worked for an entrepreneur R. G. LeTourneau that General Eisenhower and later president of the United States was not impressed that Bruce Henderson, founder of BCG “borrowed” the four square matrix analytic tool. When I heard this anecdote, I suppose the state was set for today’s BCG to embrace search engine optimization. Both the four square star-dog thing and SEO illustrates a similar thought process: Do what needs to be done to become a modern day winner.

I segment the world of professional services consulting into some simple chunks. At the bottom are newly unemployed managers, unemployable college graduates with degrees in home economics, art history, or some similar expertise, and people who just cannot stick with a legitimate company. Many of these individuals become SEO experts.

Then there are mid-tier consulting firms. These firms capture government contracts, find a niche and generate information and knowledge products, and pontificate on LinkedIn about their organizations’ mastery of knowledge-value in today’s world.

The third group is the top of the professional services pyramid. My perception was that the big leagues attracted the best and the brightest. Examples of these top-tier operations included Arthur D. Little, Bain (formed by unhappy professionals at Boston Consulting Group), BCG itself and its four square star dog thing, Booz, Allen & Hamilton, McKinsey & Company, SRI, and a handful of others.

The names I assign each level are:

  • Pigeons, the flocks of consultancies pecking for anything that will sustain them
  • Azure-chip consultants, the myriad of good enough firms that pontificate on everything from Amazon AWS to Zulu refugee buying preferences in South Africa
  • Blue-chip consultants, the Big Leagues of professional consulting and advisory services.

Some observations are warranted, at least to my way of thinking:

  1. Blue-chip consulting firms once marketed via word of mouth, repeat business, and sponsoring awards like the original McKinsey payoff for the “best” Harvard Business Review article. Sorry, BCG, McKinsey aced you out there. SEO is definitely a winner for some like Twitch or YouTube luminaries. (Why not retain Dr. Disrespect to build an audience for BCG’s services? He is available for promotional work at this time I believe?)
  2. The economic downturn appears to require scraping the dregs from the wine barrel for sales leads. Yes, SEO, the better way. Forget the white papers, the speeches, and the thought leadership. It is apparently short cut time.
  3. The larger issue is that desperation marketing seems to be okay for a once-prestigious firm’s management team. The use of Connor Hayes-type intellects to get me to point to a formerly respected consulting firm is either the sign of a Ted Kaczynski-type thought process or stupid.

Net Net: The fact that BCG appears to endorse and desire SEO backlinks is more evidence of a decline within the ranks of top-tier consulting firms’ marketing and PR methods.

PS.

Connor Hayes, as you progress in your SEO career, why not get ManyVids or TikTok influencers to promote BCG? Let me know when you become a partner, please.

Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2020

NLP with an SEO Spin

July 8, 2020

If you want to know how search engine optimization has kicked librarians and professional indexers in the knee and stomped on their writing hand, you will enjoy “Classifying 200,000 Articles in 7 Hours Using NLP” makes clear that human indexers are going to become the lamp lighters of the 21st century. Imagine. No libraries, no subject matter experts curating and indexing content, no human judgment. Nifty. Perfect for a post Quibi world.

The write up explains the indexing methods of one type of smart software. The passages below highlights the main features of the method:

Weak supervision: the human annotator explains their chosen label to the AI model by highlighting the key phrases in the example that helped them make the decision. These highlights are then used to automatically generate nuanced rules, which are combined and used to augment the training dataset and boost the model’s quality.

Uncertainty sampling: it finds those examples for which the model is most uncertain, and suggests them for human review.
Diversity sampling: it helps make sure that the dataset covers as diverse a set of data as possible. This ensures the model learns to handle all of the real-world cases.

Guided learning: it allows you to search through your dataset for key examples. This is particularly useful when the original dataset is very imbalanced (it contains very few examples of the category you care about).

These phrases may not be clear. May I elucidate:

  • Weak supervision. Subject matter experts riding herd. No way. Inefficient and not optimizable.
  • Uncertainty sampling means a “fudge factor” or “fuzzifying.” A metaphor might be “close enough for horse shoes.”
  • Guided learning. Yep, manual assembly of training data, recalibration, and more training until the horse shoe thing scores a point.

The write up undermines its good qualities with a reference to Google. Has anyone noticed that Google’s first page of results for most of my queries are advertisements.

NLP and horse shoes. Perfect match. Why are the index and classification codes those which an educated person would find understandable and at hand? Forget answering this question. Just remember good enough and close enough for horse shoes. Clang and kha-ching as another ad sucks in a bidder.

Stephen E Arnold, July 8, 2020

News Flash: SEO Leads to Buying Ads with or without Semantic Blabber

June 26, 2020

A Search Engine Optimization blog offers some axioms on semantic search for a crowd used to manipulating keywords, backlinks, URL structure, and the like. David Amerland posts, “Five Semantic Search Principles to Help Organize your Content and Marketing.” To us, the result seems like a reconstruction of an Incan incantation with a mystical diagram tossed in for added magic. Amerland writes:

“Semantic search is as open to analysis and interpretation of the elements that govern it as the good ol’ Boolean search of the past was. Yet the effort required to achieve a positive outcome (i.e. higher visibility in search) is now every bit as labor and cost intensive as doing the right thing. Semantic search, in other words, does not automatically make us all behave in a morally better way because it is the right thing to do. It makes us behave morally better because there is no viable alternative.”

So far so good. The piece then gets into search as psychology. We’re told the structure of search has always shaped users’ perceptions of the information presented and, by extension, their behaviors. We cannot argue with that much. Then Amerland continues:

“Semantic search has much in common with Gestalt psychology. It looks at the phenomena it studies as organized and structured wholes rather than the sum of their parts and, like semantic search, it deals with entities and how we perceive them. The question that arises with semantic search, now, is that since there are so many elements that drive it and since many of them are roughly equal so that none has a significant advantage over the other, how can we create a strategy that actually works? This is where Gestalt psychology comes into its own.”

Gestalt psychology as an SEO strategy—interesting. See the article to go further down the rabbit hole, where it discusses, with illustrations, its five principles: the law of proximity, the law of similarity, the law of perceptual organization, the law of symmetry, and the law of closure. We grant that SEO professionals are nothing if not creative, but perhaps there is such a thing as over thinking one’s approach to algorithm manipulation.

Cynthia Murrell, June 11, 2020

Web Traffic: Pay Up or Become Mostly Invisible

June 24, 2020

We have been warning our dear readers about a recent uptick in SEO scams, but how bad can it be? Business 2 Community relates a cautionary tale in, “A Small Business SEO Horror Story (and the 7 Qualities to Look for in a Real SEO Professional.)” The post describes the plight of one plumber who surely wishes he had known more about how to choose an SEO firm.

A plumber referred to here as “Joe” began in 2011 with a website that showed up at the bottom of Google’s first results page, and sought to climb higher. He got taken in by an outfit that promised fast results, and handed over responsibility for his online marketing. His rankings, and profits, did improve greatly—at first. Unfortunately, the “expert” he hired was focused entirely on building backlinks, a shady tactic condemned by Google’s Penguin algorithm, released in April 2012. Unaware of the update, Joe just knew he was suddenly getting fewer calls and saw his site was now nowhere to be found in Google’s search results. His SEO service swore it could get him back on track by building even more links, and continued to take his money to do just that. Writer and SEO executive Guy Sheetrit continues:

“A few more months of link building yielded nothing new. Joe’s website still wasn’t in Google’s search results and his so-called ‘experts’ weren’t communicating anything to him. Finally, he reached out to an actual SEO expert to find out what was wrong. Quick checks of Google Analytics and the Google Search Console confirmed that it was a Penguin issue. Worse yet, it wasn’t a manual penalty. It was an algorithmic one. That meant Joe couldn’t even engage in a back-and-forth with Google while he attempted to clean up the bad links. Unfortunately for Joe, the website he’d built back in 2004 was almost worthless to him now. He’d have to start all over again by building a new website. And of course, that also meant investing in new marketing materials, since all the old ones used the old site. And I’m not even mentioning the amount of income his business lost. The rapid growth he’d enjoyed early on disappeared. The new hires and the extra vans had to go as Joe went from prospering to penalized. And all because he fell for the same BS that so many so-called experts spout.”

Stories like Joe’s abound, but Sheetrit goes on to describe what qualities SEO shoppers should look for in a firm to avoid a similar fate: They aren’t desperate for your business; They tell you the truth even if you don’t want to hear it; They have the results (like case studies and testimonials); They don’t claim that you’ll get results overnight (especially noteworthy); they tell you what you need to do (instead of taking over); They know more than just one aspect of SEO; And they use plain English. See the write-up for more details on each of these points. For our part, we keep one major rule in mind—create content that offers value to the user. Any approach that tries to game the algorithm is bound to lose, sooner or later.

If you want traffic, buy online ads.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2020

Search Engine Optimization Craziness Continues

May 28, 2020

One of the DarkCyber team spotted a write up. She kept it under wraps because with restaurants reopening, the loyal researcher did not want our lunch spoiled. SEO makes my dander do whatever dander does. Because I pay for lunch for those working for me, the team knows that happy subjects like the wonderfulness of enterprise search innovations are sunnier topics.

She goofed. I snagged a photocopy of “The Four V’s of Semantic Search.” My initial reaction was, “Are these SEO experts channeling IBM’s four V’s of Big Data”? I came to my senses. SEO experts simply borrow acronyms, refit them, and reveal great insights.

SEO or search engine optimization is a runway for selling Google Advertising. When the “organic” content fails to deliver the lusted after clicks, those seeking click validation have one path forward: Pay Google for traffic.

Don’t agree. Well, get in line with those who fail to understand their role in the ad selling pipeline.

What’s the write up explain is the key to “semantic search”?

There are four points, just almost the very same as IBM’s shattering insight after Charlie Chaplin ads and before the most recent round of layoffs at Big Blue.

First, crank out lots of content. Nah, it doesn’t have to advance knowledge. Second, put out the content as fast as possible. Bing, Google, and Yandex algorithms are greedy. Feed them, you click starved Web site owner. Third, mix up your content. We now have three V’s: Volume, velocity, and variety. Are there facts to back up these bold and confident statements? You are kidding, right?

The fourth V is the one that made me take a few deep breaths, chop some wood, and crush two aluminum Perrier in the thin, flimsy cans.

Veracity is the trigger word. Here’s what the write up says:

The fourth V is about how accurate the information is that you share, which speaks about your expertise in the given subject and to your honesty. Google cares about whether the information you share is true or not and real or not, because this is what Google’s audience cares about. That’s why you won’t usually get search results that point to the fake news sites. [Note a DarkCyber editor added the possessive apostrophe in this passage. You know “veractity” which is related to accuracy sort of.]

What’s this have to do with semantic search?

Nothing, zip, zilch, nada.

It should be the four V’s plus a B for baloney. That’s SEO because when you don’t get traffic, buy it.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2020

Search Engine Optimization: Designed to Sell Google Advertising

May 26, 2020

Many years ago, I gave a talk at one of Search Engine Land’s conferences. I am not sure how I ended up on the program. At that time I was focused on enterprise search and some work for the US government. I showed up, gave a talk about enterprise search, and sat in on several round tables. The idea was, as I recall, that speakers sat at a table and people could sit down and talk about search. I was like a murder hornet at a five year old’s birthday party. Not only did I have any context for questions like “How do I get my department’s content to rank highly in our local search engine?” And “What ideas do you have for making content relevant?” That was the last time I accepted an invitation to give a talk at a search engine optimization conference. If you want to manipulate corporate content, just do it directly. What’s with the indexing thing?

The topics were designed to give a marketer who knew essentially zero about search of any kind information to game a relevance ranking system. The intent of the conference organizer (who eventually became a search evangelist or apologist for Google) and the attendees had zero, zilch, nada, to do with getting on point answers to a query.

I typically confine my annoyance at search engine optimization to comments I offer in my blog Beyond Search/Dark Cyber. If a scam artist sends me asking me to include a link to another blog, I respond and point out I will reproduce those emails about cyber crime. That usually causes the bot or whoever is sending me emails to go away.

I want to take this opportunity to state what was obvious to me when the SEO (the acronym for the relevance-killing discipline of search engine optimization) industry began taking bait dangled by Google.

Here’s how this multi-year, large-scale digital pipeline works. The diagram below shows a marketer or Web site owner eager to get the site into a search engine. Being indexed, of course, is not enough. The Web site must appear on the first page of a Web search system’s results pages. The person seeking traffic has two choices and only two choices: Get traffic with the content (text, audio, or video) providing the magnetism or pay to play. Buy ads. Get traffic. Period.

Put content on the page with index terms (now called tags) and make sure the Web page conforms to Google’s rules. Despite Google’s protestations, the company accounts for an astounding 95 percent of the search queries in the US and Western Europe. Google has competition in China which holds down Google’s share of market in the Middle Kingdom. For all practical purposes, embracing Google’s web master guidelines, conforming to AMP, and making modifications decreed by Google is helpful in getting indexed. The first path appears to be easy. When it fails, the search engine optimization experts are ready to assist.

The second path to traffic is to buy Google Advertising. Google has a desire to become the premier place for large-scale media campaigns. Google will sell ads to small outfits, but the money comes from having Fortune 1000 companies and their ilk buy Google advertising. The problem is that Google Advertising costs money. The interface is designed to be like a game, a gambling game at that. The results from Google ads can be difficult to connect to a specific sale. Nevertheless, ads are option two.

How does the pipeline work? What is the feedback mechanism that enriches some SEO experts? Why are the two options symbiotic? I want to provide brief answers to each of these questions.

How does the pipeline work? (Perhaps the word “grooming” might be appropriate here?)

This is an easy question. Not buying ads means that most Web sites will get almost zero traffic. Web search is a pay-to-play operation. Google has its own list of bluebirds, canaries, and sparrow. (A bluebird is a Web site that Google must index no matter what. An example is whitehouse.gov, stanford.edu, and cnn.com. A sparrow is an uninteresting Web site which may get indexed on an irregular or relaxed cycle. The canary? That’s a Web site which may not be indexed comprehensively or if indexed, updated on a delayed basis.) With more than 35 billion Web sites wanting to be indexed by Google and the lesser online systems, the no-ads option seems attractive. Therefore, Google encourages SEO experts to pitch their services.

Now here’s the kicker. Web sites which do not buy ads struggle to get clicks. SEO experts make suggestions and may make changes in their customers’ Web pages. But nothing delivers traffic unless an anomaly or a particular item of information catches attention which delivers large numbers of clicks. Google dutifully indexes that which attracts clicks, thus creating more demand. More demand means that indexing those “magnetic” pages makes ad sales “obvious”. Traffic allows Google to chop through its ad inventory. Relaxed queries for words related to “magnetic” sites is an obvious technical play to sell more ads. Thus, SEO experts lucky enough to have a customer pulled into the maelstrom of a “magnetic” page is happy. If Google wants a change, that Web site operator will make the change. If an SEO expert is involved, the Google change is packaged with assurance that “traffic will arrive in an organic way.” Organic in the lingo of the SEO expert means “you don’t have to pay to get traffic.”

So what? Groomed or indoctrinated SEO experts set the stage to help Google get their requirements and methods adopted without telling a Web site operator “You must do this.” Second, the SEO experts make money pushing the fluff about organic traffic. Third, Web site operators who benefit from the effect of “magnetic” sites on their Web site become noisy advocates of SEO.

There is a but.

At any time, Google’s algorithms can decrement a Web site living by organic traffic. Google can also manually intervene and slow the flow of traffic to a Web site. The mechanism ranges from blacklists to adding a url or entity to a list of sites with “negative” quality scores. I have explained the notion of “quality” as defined by Google in my The Google Legacy and Google Version 2.0 monographs, originally published by Infonortics but out of print due to the skill print publishers have in committing hair Kari.

What happens when a Web site loses traffic? Some sue like Foundem; others go out of business. Many simply accept the loss of traffic as fate and either buy Google Advertising or run back into the La-La land of SEO assurances that traffic will again flow organically after we wave our magic wand.

Other companies bite the bullet and buy Google advertising. Examples range from companies who pull advertising because their ads appear adjacent objectionable content. These companies go back because Google is a de facto gatekeeper for high-volume online traffic. Other companies decide that they need to pay SEO experts AND buy Google Advertising.

This is a sweet operation because:

Google has evangelists who tell those with Web pages what specific changes are needed to make a Web page conform to a Google-defined standard. Conformance to Google standards reduces computational load. There are tens of thousands of Google’s “SEO helpers” creating what Google wants and needs.

When the SEO experts fail to deliver clicks, you know what happens? Google Advertising to the only life saver on the digital beach.

SEO is a game played for free or organic traffic. Google controls the information highway. Stay in your lane and do what we want. Make a tiny error. Well, Google Advertising, a friendly Google inside sales professional or certified SEO expert can get you out of the mud.

SEO experts are sure to object to my characterization of their efforts as Google pre-sales. But some SEO experts make money and one SEO expert became an honest-to-goodness Googler.

From my point of view, SEO is a complement to Google Advertising. Want traffic? Buy Google’s ads. The Google knows, and it gets the pay-to-play money, its gets the support and love of the SEO “experts”, and Google gets a third party pounding Web sites into the Google cookie cutter.

What happens if an outfit doesn’t play Foosball by Google’s rules? Just ask Foundem or the TradeComet executives.

If you are not on Google, you may not exist. That’s what makes the pipeline work and plugs in the Google money machine: Pay to play. It is a business model guaranteed to cement increasingly irrelevant results to users’ minds. And what happens when Google shapers results? You decide based on the information you “find” in Google, usually above the fold and more than 90 percent of the time without clicking to Page 2.

If you want more search engine optimization information, point your browser to this page of titles and hot links on Xenky.com. (Some of these articles identify SEO experts who are avowed hustlers. Is SEO a playground for digital Larry Flynts?)

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2020

Content Free Advice: SEO Hits New Heights

May 19, 2020

I have just watched a value-free video about producing value-free content. Uselessness squared, if you will. Regular readers know we are no fans of quick and easy SEO techniques—slapping keywords onto a page just to boost a company’s Google search ranking. The “marketing” approach has had a negative impact on the Internet for years, and we have recently noted an uptick in SEO advice creeping across the web.

One fast talker in particular has garnered our attention, and you can read more of what we’ve learned about him here. He calls his YouTube channel The Hustle Show; at least he acknowledges his advice is designed for shady characters. The video I was tasked with reviewing, “How to Find Keywords for Plumbers—Best Keywords for a Plumbing Company” provides no redemption. Our host claims to have done a lot of plumbing. After checking out his purported bona fides on LinkedIn, we wonder where he found the time.

The video pushes a specific SEO platform with its “keyword magic” tool. Just plug and play—no beneficial content needed! Several times in this five-minute video, the speaker prompts viewers to follow a link to the platform’s free trial and to watch more videos where he explains the self-explanatory tools.

What’s the line between content free and duplicitous information? None. We have a new SEO centric service in the works. Gathering data about the questionable activities of SEO experts is long overdue. When money changes hand, the SEO game enters a new playground.

Cynthia Murrell, May 19, 2020

Crazy Expert Report: Covid19 and Enterprise Search? Really?

May 18, 2020

I received a notification from an online information service called WaterClouds Reports and Kandj and Prof Research. What? Water clouds, Kandj, and Prof Research. Will too many flailing experts spoil the content free soufflé?

Plus, the water thing meshes nicely with Beyond Search and DarkCyber.

What’s WaterCloud Reports up to these days? The answer is delivering information purporting to be about market research, news and reports using a number of different business identities. Suspicious? Yep, very suspicious.

I learned:

The news concerns “The Absolute Report Will Add the Study for Impact of Covid 19 in Enterprise Search Software.”

Now that’s a small dump truck of nuttiness.

What’s in this report available from and outfit called Kandj Market Research and not Water Cloud Reports?

Check this lingo with Covid tacked at the end:

The recent report titled “The Enterprise Search Software Market” and forecast to 2024 published by KandJ Market Research is a focused study encompassing the market segmentation primarily based on type and application. The report investigates the key drivers leading to the growth of the Enterprise Search Software market during the forecast period and analyzes the factors that may hamper the market growth in the future. Besides, the report highlights the potential opportunities for the market players and future trends of the market by a logical and calculative study of the past and current market scenario. The Final Report Will Include the Impact of COVID – 19 Analysis in This Enterprise Search Software Industry.

The news story suggests that the multi thousand dollar report may not be completed. Is it possible that this digital container of loopy zeros and ones is only completed when someone buys a copy?

No problem. Enterprise search is definitely a hot topic when Covid 19 is involved. Whip out your credit card. The report costs $4,000. There’s a deal too. Fork over $6,000 and you get an enterprise license. In the average WFH company, how many employees are hungering to read a report about enterprise search and Covid 19?

Answer: Not many.

What big time enterprise search vendors are included? Here’s the partial list. You have to spit out an email in order to see names of the other five vendors:

AddSearch

Algolia

Apache Solr

Elasticsearch

SearchSpring

Swiftype

Two open source systems apparently have reacted to Covid 19 for enterprise search. Also four other firms have put on their digital N95 masks and tried to “save” search.

Several observations:

  • Outright scam or just a high school term paper? DarkCyber is leaning to the scam end of the spectrum?
  • Covid 19. Nothing thrills like a key word which may attract clicks from the curious or the clueless.
  • Kandj and the cloud whatever? Wow.

Not even Forrester, Gartner, Kelsey, and other mid tier consulting firms use this type of marketing. Well… sometimes?

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2020

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