The Internet is a curious place. I spend a good deal of my time on it, and generally I am looking for information. As a result I rely on search engines a great deal. My weapon of choice is Google, although I do occasionally use other ones.

Although I am no longer in the Tech Industry I do like to keep abreast, at least in general terms of WTF is happening. One of the new industries spawned by the internet is something called SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I get at least one email a week from some company explaining that they have looked at my various bits of Internet Real Estate and can improve my rankings with Google. I toss these emails in the virtual trash can.

There has been a hidden war raging for years between Google and the SEO world. Google is quite plain about the guidelines, write good stuff and you rank. Write crappy stuff and we ignore you. Of course the Internet has grown to an extent that no search engine company could possibly employ enough people to read every web page or Tweet, so the process is an automated one. An article is ranked by a computer algorithm (a program), Google do not share exactly how this works, but it is a complex process. In simple terms it is the Internet version of KFC’s spice recipe for fried chicken!

For the past decade the war has raged on, Google looking for worthwhile content, and web sites looking for position in a search. SEO was born!

One of the mainstays in quest for rankings is the use of keywords.

John Smith was a nice guy. He did much for the company. He is sadly missed and the company XYZ Widget has decided to name a conference room after him.


John Smith was a nice guy and a key player for the XYZ Widget Company. John Smith did much for the XYZ Widget company. John Smith is sadly missed. The XYZ Widget company have renamed one of the conference rooms The John Smith XYZ Company conference room. XYZ Widget Company are planning a small event to announce the John Smith XYZ Company conference room next week.  

It doesn’t take much rocket science to spot the change. But, which would you prefer?

To the reader both say the same, to the computer they say very different things. The latter has John Smith and XYZ Widget both mentioned 10 times. So this version must be more important than the first one? John Smith only gets one mention, and the company gets one mention. In version two both get lots of mentions, obviously the SEO (Seeking Economic Opportunity) expert will opt for version two. However for the consumer of the information version two is just extra words to read that add little of value to the information.

But there is a slam coming down. Google has spotted that they are being gamed. It might seem that the world of SEO have a bit of a challenge on their hands. One that will no doubt have the entire industry reaching for the bottle of Tums.

Google’s Matt Cutts announced that Google

is working on a search ranking penalty for sites that are “over-optimized” or “overly SEO’ed.”

He went on to add:

What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.

I have always viewed SEO with a jaundiced eye, now it seems that that they have a real challenge. It will be interesting to see what Google does.

This is all great news for the millions of people that use Google on a daily basis, but may not be quite as good for those that abuse Google. Could SEO start to mean Scamming the Engine Obliteration? I’ll bet that there are many small companies offering SEO services that are… Scared as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs!

This change is good for the Internet user. SEO is a technique most commonly applied by retail sites. I for example often want to look up technical information about a specific piece of computer hardware and find myself having to go through page after page of listings of companies selling the thing to actually find the information about the ‘thing’. So this change should go some way to fixing that issue.

Simon Barrett  




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