SEO: Yep, Easy Like 1-2-3

April 29, 2021

Much ado about SEO. VentureBeat has teamed up with StackCommerce to offer a training course the publication describes in, “SEO Is Shrouded in Mystery. This Google SEO Training Can Help Answer those Questions.” The post begins by emphasizing Google’s secrecy behind the specifics of its algorithm, lamenting that the company drops tantalizing hints here and there. Of course, they say, “everyone” wants to know how the algorithm works to make the most of their companies’ Search Engine Optimization. We’re told:

“Thankfully, not everything in the world of SEO is flying blind. The training in The 2021 Complete Google SEO and SERP Certification Bundle is an extremely helpful distillation of what a marketer or brand manager needs to know to make their web pages and content search-friendly so they can scale to that search ranking pinnacle. Over 11 courses, this package explains how SEO is done, as well as all the top tools and techniques to make Google algorithms smile on your website and your brand. It starts with SEO Training 2021: Beginner To Advanced SEO and The Complete SEO Course for Beginners 2021: Zero to Hero, where even digital marketing novices can learn the ropes, understanding what known factors go into a page’s SEO ranking and the factors available to move up those Google search results. The training also includes getting familiar with popular SEO tools like Ahref, Alexa, WordAI, Articleforge, and more, some of the most effective ways Amazon sellers market products, and even how to produce simple YouTube videos that can make a surprising impact on your Google search profile.”

There is a lot of razzle dazzle here, but let us provide a little clarity: creating quality, helpful content has always been the key to higher SEO rankings. That is the whole point of the algorithm in the first place, though the SEO industry has been built on gaming that system. The other alternative is even simpler, and probably the one Google would prefer—just buy Google ads for traffic. Mystery solved? Yep, just have $20,000 per month or more.

Cynthia Murrell, April 29, 2021

YouTube Manipulation: The Corrosive Effect of Search Engine Optimization

April 20, 2021

Do you want to get a glimpse of how “relevant” content ends up in your search results? Navigate to “Feeding Hate With Video: A Former Alt-Right YouTuber Explains His Methods.” Here’s a quote to note:

Mr. Robertson recently boasted in a text that in one day a video
targeting Mr. Jones, the conspiracy theorist he once worked with, had
been viewed over 250,000 times.

The article explains how a person who comes across as an evil individual generated traffic. The information provides a road map to undermine relevance and make a mockery of Google’s vaunted black box for determining relevance.

Let’s call this manipulation of a flawed method for determining relevance what it is:

SEO or search engine optimization.

Take a look at a search results list from your most recent query? What’s relevant? What’s accurate? What’s manipulating you via injections of digital bias?

Years ago professional publishers produced indexes and abstracts of content human measured against specific editorial criteria. Those “standards” and “methods” are long gone.

What’s taken the place of knowledge work? Thumbtypers in the SEO game.

Stephen E Arnold, April 20, 2021

Checklist of Shady Digital Marketing Tactics

April 13, 2021

I think the author of “The Problem With Digital Marketing” wanted to make a positive contribution to the art and science of paying to get attention. The write up identifies four categories of marketing wizards which may cast a shadow over the well intentioned efforts of companies desperate for revenue.

The four buckets of bad things are:

  1. Gunning for a quick payoff
  2. Thinking about money now
  3. Shady search engine optimization methods
  4. Unprofessional behavior or what I call MBA ethical practices.

These four groups of activities are interesting for three reasons. First, the mixture of big things like the lack of an ethical command center and tiny thinks like using Dark Patterns to snooker a Web site visitor into spending money when the user thought he/she was NOT making a purchase are jarring.

The lack of the ethics thing opens the door to many activities not included in the three other buckets; for example, apps which are designed to snag a user’s financial information or the use of email to lure the recipient into divulging access credentials.

Items one and two are essentially the fabric of anyone who has bills to pay, a habit to feed, or a keen desire to ride to the bank in a new Bronco with an M1 MacBook under his/her arm.

Item three is actually the focal point of the write up. If an entity is not in the Google and easily findable by those with a limited vocabulary, that entity does not exist. The same need for findability applies to tweet things, Facebook craziness, and even the hopelessly weird Microsoft LinkedIn.

Distorting relevance, using assorted tricks like buying backlinks from clueless Web site owners, and dabbling in the sale of endorsements from YouTube influencers are probably not helpful to someone looking for an objective results list in response to a query.

So what do I make of this write up?

First, it makes clear that SEO is the way to go.

Second, the use of Dark Patterns or closely allied methods work and often work quite well.

Third, payoffs come when ethics are kicked into the trash surrounding the youth soccer field and email (phishing), apps (vectors of malware), and rhetorical tricks are used. The problem with digital content is a combination of tricks and bad content.

What works is buying Google online ads or becoming famous on YouTube or TikTok. Twitter is a minnow compared to the Google thing.

Stephen E Arnold, April 12, 2021

SEO Semantics and the Vibrant Vivid Vees

January 29, 2021

Years ago, one of the executives at Vivisimo, which was acquired by IBM, told me about the three Vees. These were the Vees of Vivisimo’s metasearch system. The individual, who shall remain nameless, whispered: Volume, Velocity, and Variety. He smiled enigmatically. In a short time, the three Vees were popping up in the context of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and content discovery.

The three Vivisimo Vees seem to capture the magic and mystery of digital data flows. I am not on that wheezing bus in Havana.

Volume is indeed a characteristic of online information. Even if one has a trickle of Word documents to review each day, the individual reading, editing, and commenting on a report has a sense that there are more Word documents flying around than the handful in this morning’s email. But in the context of our datasphere, no one knows how much digital data exist, what it contains, who has access, etc. Volume is a fundamental characteristic of today’s datasphere. The only way to contain data is to pull the plug. That is not going to happen unless there is something larger than Google. Maybe a massive cyber attack?

The second Vee is variety. From the point of view of the Vivisimo person, variety referred to the content that text centric system processed. Text, unlike a tidy database file, is usually a mess. Without structure, transform and load outfits have been working for decades to convert the messy into the orderly or at least pull out certain chunks so that one can extract key words, dates, and may entities with reasonable accuracy. Today there is a lot of variety; however, for every new variant old ones become irrelevant. At best, the variety challenge is like a person in a raft trying to paddle to keep from being swamped with intentional and unintentional content types. How about those encrypted message? Another hurdle for the indexing outfit: Decryption, metadata extraction and assignment, and processing throughput. So the variety Vee is handled by focusing on a subset of content. Too bad for those who think that “all” information is online.

The third Vee is a fave among the real time crowd. The idea that streams and flows of data in real time can be processed on the fly, patterns identified, advanced analytics applied, and high value data emitted. This notion is a good one when working in print shop in the 17th century. Those workflows don’t make any sense when figuring out the stream of data produced by an unidentified drone which may be weaponized. Furthermore, if a monitoring device notes a several millisecond pattern before a person’s heart attack, that’s not too helpful when the afflicted individual falls over dead a second later. What is “real time”? Answer: There are many types, so the fix is to focus, narrow, winnow, and go for a high probability signal. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t.

The three Vees are a clever and memorable marketing play. A company can explain how its system manages each of these issues for a particular customer use case. The one size fit all idea is not what generates information processing revenues. Service fees, subscriptions, and customization are the money spinners.

The write up “The Four V’s of Semantic Search” adds another Vee to the Vivisimo three: Veracity. I don’t want to argue “truth” because in the datasphere for every factoid on one side of an argument, even a Bing search can generate counter examples. What’s interesting is that this veracity Vee is presented as part of search engine optimization using semantic techniques. Here’s a segment I circled:

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 Googles [sic] audience cares about. That’s why you won’t usually get search results that point to the fake news sites.

Got that. Marketing hoo hah, sloganeering, and word candy —  just like the three Vivisimo Vees.

Stephen E Arnold, January 29, 2021

What Makes the Web Slow? Really Slow?

January 28, 2021

I read “We Rendered a Million Web Pages to Find Out What Makes the Web Slow.” My first reaction was the East Coast Internet outage which ruined some Type A workers’ day. I can hear the howls, “Mommy, I can’t attend class, our Internet is broken again.”

Here’s a passage from the “Rendered a Million Web Pages” which I found interesting:

Internet commentators are fond of saying that correlation does not equal causation, and indeed we can’t get at causality directly with these models. Great caution should be exercised when interpreting the coefficients, particularly because a lot confounding factors may be involved. However, there’s certainly enough there to make you go “hmm”.

Yep, I went “hmm.” But for these reasons:

  • Ad load times slow down my Web experiences. Don’t you love those white page hung ads on the YouTube or the wonky baloney on the Daily Mail?
  • How about crappy Internet service providers?
  • Are you thrilled with cache misses?
  • Pages stuffed full of trackers, bugs, codes, and spammy SEO stuff.

Hmm, indeed.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2021

Online Immortality: Suddenly Death Makes Digital Headlines

January 26, 2021

I was surprised. Yes, I was. I read three news stories within a few minutes of their appearing in my newsfeed.

The first — “AI Resurrects Legendary Spanish Singer to Hawk Beer” — explains that Lola Flores appeared in a commercial. No big deal except that Lola Flores died a quarter century ago. The article reports:

The company recreated her voice, face, and features using hours of audiovisual material, more than 5,000 photos, and a painstaking composition and post-production process, according to El País.

Some people found the recreation or deep fake quite sporty. Of course, smart software was used, but the implications for those dead are interesting to ponder. Thumb typers, activate your mobiles!

The second  was “Microsoft Patent Details Tech That Could Turn Dead People into AI Chatbots.” The write up explains:

The patent, titled “Creating a conversational chatbot of a specific chatbot of a specific person,” details a system that would access images, voice data, social media posts, electronic messages and the like to “create or modify a special index in the theme of the specific person’s personality.” In some cases, images and video could be used to create a 3D model of the person for extra realism.

Use cases range from a smart chatbot which reminds a 20 year old remote worker for a high tech company to pick up his / her clothes to a digital companion to provide support and solace when life delivers a surprise; for example, “You know you should have taken that other job. No what, smarty pants?” If you want to read the system and method behind this innovative idea hinted at by sci-fi writers, the number is US010853717. Is that my mother saying, “Stephen, tidy your desk. You know what they say about loose papers on desk or did you forget? Like you forget the garbage.”

The third write up was “Backed by Vint Cerf, Emortal Wants to Protect Your Digital Legacy from Bit-Rot.” None of that grieving family member learning via email that Facebook will not permit access to the beloved one’s account. The write up explains:

The company will use Google architecture to preserve digital memories — photographs, documents, correspondence, videos, interviews and more – indefinitely into the future. The idea is that this will ensure that as operating systems, devices and tech evolves, your entire digital legacy will remain safe, secure and accessible — to only those you choose.

The possibility are endless; for instance, targeted advertising for digital mementos, eBay listings for vehicles just like the one the loved one used to drive, and facial recognition matches from social media sites so the loved ones can locate a suitable doppelgänger.

Mashing up these services with virtual reality might provide additional opportunities for monetization. Just as one can insert Bernie Sanders into any Google Street View location, these digital constructs can enhance real time constructs. For information about the Bernie app, navigate to Engadget.

The added bonus: Search engine optimization specialists can use their methods to make sure one’s loved one pops up. Hmmm. That’s not a good phrase but it is close enough for a 2021 cornhole game.

Stephen E Arnold, January 26, 2021

 

SEO Trends for the New Year

January 13, 2021

Here at Beyond Search, we are quite skeptical of search engine optimization. In fact, our toothless leader, says, “SEO is a way to get struggling search engine optimization experts to become Google ad sales reps.” True or false, that’s what the old goose says.

Here are the latest pearls of wisdom from the search engine optimization world. Hackernoon discusses the “Top SEO Trends Every Digital Marketer Should Know in 2021.” Writer Muhammad Waleed Siddiqui specifies four factors to be aware of: the importance of mobile-first indexing, the impact of Google’s EAT algorithm, the changes brought by voice search, and the ascension of search intent over keywords. We actually welcome point number two, which ideally will result in more good information and less junk online. Siddiqui writes:

“The E.A.T. word stands for Expertise, Authority, and Trust. The concept itself covers the idea of a copywriter/writer being an original and proven professional in the industry he or she works in. Google will only accept that publicly available content that has no negative impact on people’s lives. With E.A.T. implemented in 2021, Google will genuinely look for quality and authentic content. One best way to succeed with this E.A.T. algorithm is to get good reviews from the customers and the community. If Google finds positive feedback about your website and services, your business will be considered an expert that authorized users can trust. For the SEO geeks, having high quality backlinks will help in this case. Pro-tip: If you can disavow all the bad or suspicious backlinks, it will help build up your E.A.T. score to Google.”

Anything that discourages dummy articles is a step in the right direction, we believe. Navigate to the article for details on the move away from desktop toward mobile, the difference between voiced and typed searches, and searcher intent vs. keywords.

Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2021

The Shallowness of Search Engine Optimization: Just Buy Google Ads for Traffic

January 8, 2021

Google is in the business of selling online advertisements and playing the role of a digital real estate broker for a commission, of course, of course. Therefore, any information about how to get Google traffic for free is only mildly interesting. An entire industry of search engine optimization experts explain how to achieve the impossible: Avoid buying Google online ads. The ploy of SEO leads in one direction only; that is, the SEO professional eventually utters the words, “You need to buy Google advertising.” Free only goes so far like the charges for storage to an unsuspecting user of Gmail learns.

So what do I make of “What We Know About Google’s Passage Indexing”? Not much. The write makes clear the tissue thin thought about traffic tricks. How does one respond to Google’s indexing of paragraphs? Do nothing. How does Google’s indexing for meaning impact authors? Not at all. Why did Google make the announcement? Maybe marketing.

In my opinion, the notion of Google Passages feeds the SEO sector and greases the skids for selling more ads. When the free stuff doesn’t deliver clicks, what’s the fix?

Buy Google ads. SEO experts become a sales force for the GOOG.

Simple in my opinion. A purloined letter tactic which has demonstrated remarkable durability.

Stephen E Arnold, January 8, 2021

BERT: It Lives

November 2, 2020

I wrote about good old BERT before.

I was impressed with the indexing and context cues in BERT. The acronym does not refer to the interesting cartoon character. This BERT is Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers. If you want more information about this approach to making sense of text, just navigate to the somewhat turtle like Stanford University site and retrieve the 35 page PDF.

BERT popped up again in a somewhat unusual search engine optimization context (obviously recognized by Google’s system at least seven percent of the time): “Could Google Passage Indexing Be Leveraging BERT?”

I worked through the write up twice. It was, one might say, somewhat challenging to understand. I think I figured it out:

Google is trying to index the context in which an “answer” to a user’s query resides. Via Google parsing magic, the answer may be presented to the lucky user.

I pulled out several gems from the article which is designed to be converted into manipulations to fool Google’s indexing system. SEO is focused on eroding relevance to make a page appear in a Google search result list whether the content answers the user’s query or not.

The gems:

  • BERT does not always mean the ‘BERT’. Ah, ha. A paradox. That’s helpful.
  • Former Verity and Yahoo search wizard Prabhakar Raghavan allegedly said: “Today we’re excited to share that BERT is now used in almost every query in English, helping you get higher quality results for your questions.” And what percentage of Google queries is “almost every”? And what percentage of Google queries are in English? Neither the Googler nor the author of the article answer these questions.
  • It’s called passage indexing, but not as we know it. The “passage indexing” announcement caused some confusion in the SEO community with several interpreting the change initially as an “indexing” one. Confusion. No kidding?
  • And how about this statement about “almost every”? “Whilst only 7% of queries will be impacted in initial roll-out, further expansion of this new passage indexing system could have much bigger connotations than one might first suspect. Without exaggeration, once you begin to explore the literature from the past year in natural language research, you become aware this change, whilst relatively insignificant at first (because it will only impact 7% of queries after all), could have potential to actually change how search ranking works overall going forward.”

That’s about it because the contradictions and fascinating logic of the article have stressed my 76 year old brain’s remaining neurons. The write up concludes with this statement:

Whilst there are currently limitations for BERT in long documents, passages seem an ideal place to start toward a new ‘intent-detection’ led search. This is particularly so, when search engines begin to ‘Augment Knowledge’ from queries and connections to knowledge bases and repositories outside of standard search, and there is much work in this space ongoing currently.  But that is for another article.

Plus, there’s a list of references. Oh, did I mention that this essay/article in its baffling wonderfulness is only 15,000 words long. Another article? Super.

Stephen E Arnold, November 2, 2020

     

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

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