I read an article last week that actually came out in April that was written by a guy named Jon von Tetzchner, the founder and CEO of Opera, a pretty good browser that, unfortunately, lags behind a number of other browsers. He’d written something titled My friends at Google: it is time to return to not being evil, and it was kind of a harrowing tale of how he felt betrayed by them and how they need to go back to living their former motto (which they’ve dropped) of “Don’t Be Evil”.
I think this cat looks evil
I hate going out on a limb and calling Google “evil” for more than one reason… the main one being that they’re kind of thin skinned for a large organization. Yet, I’m going to go there because I’m a glutton for punishment and I’m not really calling them that. Instead, I’m intimating that they often give the appearance of being evil and that maybe changing a few things might help others perceive them better. Continue reading →
You know, many of us have been griping over the last six weeks about the Google algorithm changes that ended up killing our traffic. Some folks, like our buddy Carl have brought up what Google said the algorithm changes were based on and how they were trying to eliminate bad linking, bad SEO and the like. Some people even speculated that it had to do with bad grammar, something I totally disputed and shot out of the water here.
by Jonathan Assink via Flickr
People have kind of lost their minds. Goodness, I think I lost my mind for a short period there, and obviously I’ve talked about it more than I care to even think. But now I think there’s a new way of talking about this thing, and though I’m not totally sure I agree with everything that I’m going to mention in this post, I do think there’s something to some of it if we look at things with a more critical eye.
For me, this all started by reading a post by a guy named James Hussey, who writes a blog called The Average Genius. He wrote a post titled Why Google Penguin Mauled My Sites and What To DO About It, which I found fascinating and commented on. He wrote back and expressed his opinion on what I said, then he said this: “So stay tuned. The conversation gets really, really interesting.”
That looked good and intriguing, and it then lead to this post which is titled Does Google Really Reward Quality, Original Content? An Interview With AsktheBuilder Tim Carter. This is a seminal post, great post, and one to really make you think. It includes an audio file with a guy named Tim Carter, who has a website called Ask The Builder, which of course you saw above. I’m going to give you some highlights of the audio file, but I think you should both read the post and listen to the file, which is about an hour long, for more detail.
In essence, Tim was the perfect Google guy. He started his site before Google came around, and he’s made tons of money online. When Google came around he added Adsense and made a lot of money off that as well. He’s not a guy who ever got into any of the SEO stuff that many other people did, including me to a certain extent. He was held up as the poster boy for how to do things right by Google. They wrote reports using him as an example. They invited him to seminars to talk about his success in working with them. He even went to Congress on their behalf once, talking about how things worked with him and the fairness of it all.
What happened to the poster boy? Panda and Penguin went through and he lost 70% of his traffic. Bad linking? Nope. Bad content? Nope. Pretty much overnight his website, which means his business, took a major hit. Well now, how does one reconcile that based on what Matt Cutts and company said the update was there to do? How do you crush your poster boy, who never did any of the stuff you said you were going after, in such a convincing fashion?
Now, I had to think about this for a bit, and I want to address a couple of points before I go forward. I wrote a post on April 30th wondering where my web traffic went. I indicated that this blog lost traffic and my business blog lost traffic as well. I mentioned that my finance blog stayed the same and that my SEO blog went up barely.
Well, those aren’t the total truths. Yes, this blog’s traffic suffered, and my business blog’s traffic suffered, which also took down my main business website. But within a couple of weeks traffic on my finance blog started jumping, and my SEO blog traffic almost doubled. My local blog stayed the same, and I hadn’t mentioned that one before.
Here’s the thing. I do the same thing on all the blogs. I do my internal linking, I link to the words that seem to make sense to link to, and I do it on all the blogs. I also link to external sources and, when appropriate, use keywords. Yet out of 4 blogs only 2 suffered; what’s that about?
My theory was actually addressed by Tim in the interview. I thought that there was some kind of adjustment against older websites. Indeed, my business blog has been around since 2002, but then again this blog started in 2007, my SEO website didn’t come around until 2007, and my finance site in 2008. This was and still in my top ranking site, but my business site was actually doing really well at one point. I had talked about my medical billing site, which has only been around since 2009, and traffic there jumped as well; my Adsense money on that site has started to increase since the updates went through.
So, was it age? That’s what I thought, which Tim touched upon, but obviously it doesn’t work across the board. But Tim also touched upon something else, that being that Google has made some changes that aren’t necessarily algorithm changes, yet after the algorithm changes helps to enhance what they’d done.
One, they added the G+, which in their way makes websites where your friends, or at least people you know, that have G+’d something takes higher priority than other links used to. Two, they’ve gone out of their way to make local companies and websites come up more than websites that aren’t from the area for many things.
Tim found that many topics he used to be number one for on Google were gone, and often he wasn’t found on the first 5 to 10 pages of a Google search. He also found that some pages that were suddenly ranking higher than him were actually using his content in some fashion; wasn’t that supposed to be something Google was protecting us all from, that someone would rank higher for content we produced first?
If you know what this is you’ll understand the metaphor of why it’s here now
In essence, the “reality” we were given doesn’t seem to real anymore. What some of us were doing for SEO is just fine; it has nothing to do with how we linked, or broken links, or good or bad content. It has to do with supporting some things Google’s been working on in the background. One last thing Tim mentions in the interview is how suddenly more large companies, those that are actually paying Google, are ranking higher than those of us providing pretty good content. I can’t prove this one, as I tested some search terms and didn’t see that.
Anyway, Tim is irked to say the least, and he’s got some other conspiracy theories he talks about. He’s also getting ready to go postal in his own way, as he’s going on a big congressional campaign to get an investigation going into Google. Seems he’s not alone, as James also advocates this on his blog post. Not that there isn’t already someone in Congress that wants to look into this but these guys are serious.
What’s my stand on all of this?
One, I stick by my premise in another post that some companies like Google are getting too big for our own good.
Two, I think there was a different goal in mind that penalizing people for “bad SEO”, which is actually the type of SEO Google themselves told us to do years ago. I believe this as much as I believe Pacquaio beat Bradley Saturday night. By the way, in case you were wondering about the image above, that’s people playing Dodgeball, which I relate to this because I think Google dodged the truth.
Three, I think losing your mind and deciding to write to Congress is a major waste of time for the majority of us. Then again, if I’d lost as much money as Tim I might have a different mindset on this one.
Four, I still think you should read James’ post and listen to the interview he did with Tim because it will get you thinking and maybe you’ll come up with something else.
And five, I think this is proof that we all just need to continue doing what we were doing, especially in producing the best content we can, because in the long run we’re going to still attract traffic and visitors, whether it comes from Google, Bing, Yahoo, or our own efforts in driving traffic to our sites, and it’s imminently more important to spend time producing that worrying about the why’s and how’s of it all.
I have never made it a secret that I’m not a big fan of the free blog sites like Blogger and WordPress.com. My main gripe has been how comments are handled; less freedom for those of us who want to comment on those platforms, which I really hate. WordPress.com fools you into thinking you have freedom, but if you ever want to see a response to your comment you either have to subscribe to the blog (each one individually, not to wordpress.com one time) or keep visiting the post to see if someone responded to you or not.
There’s also another reason I’ve never been a fan of sites like that. At a moment’s notice they can decide to censor you, freeze or delete your blog, and there you are, lost, without any real access to your content. I put it that way because you can always get your content by going to a search engine and looking up each individual post (I had to do that back in 2006 for one of my blogs, which I lost for a different reason, so I know it can be done).
Often you won’t know what it is you did that made them take away your blog or censor it. In this particular instance, Google is now telling people up front that for certain countries they will censor your blog if those countries have laws that restrict what people are allowed to say. This follows two previous changes, those being one, to start censoring search results in countries that have censorship laws, and two, the new Google Search+ Your World thing.
Now, there’s nothing you can do about the one in the middle, and the last one is interesting as to whether most people will fight it or not, but that first one is intriguing. Think of it this way; if you’re in a country that restricts freedom of speech and you have a blog in that country, do you really think you’re going to keep your blog if the powers that be decide you’re to be censored? If you’re outside that country and writing bad things about that country continually, do you really believe Google (oh yeah, Google owns Blogpost, or Blogger, whichever you prefer) won’t eventually just shut down that blog for being a nuisance?
That’s always been a problem with free blogs, although it’s not just restricted to them. Many of these blog promotion services that I also don’t trust all that much get people to help them out by saying that sharing their content through those sites helps you more than it helps them, but in a moment’s notice they can drop you like a bad habit and not ever tell you why. That recently happened to David Leonhardt, a commenter on this blog, and one of the reasons I never signed up with Digg was because I remembered the story of them dropping a very popular blogger, who had promoted them a lot, for whatever reason without giving him at least a warning that maybe something else he was doing violated their terms of service.
This is why I try to promote the concept that people pay the little bit of money and get their own blog space. Think about it; for possibly less than $50 a year (for hosting) you can add as many blogs and websites as you probably want (unless you’re a power creator; then it’ll cost you a little bit more) with little restriction, because of course there’s going to be some restriction. With shared hosting there might be issues of bandwidth (but if that happens it means you have so many visitors that if you haven’t figured out monetization at that point you need to go to internet school) and certain types of scripts (no hosting company wants someone popping malware and scripts within their servers, like it seems these people are doing. But censor what you have to say… none of them do, because online, if you pay for it, you can say it, no matter if it’s stupid or brilliant.
Just something to think about on a Monday morning in February.
It seems as if Google’s either upping the bar or meddling in where people aren’t ready to go yet; I’m not quite sure yet.I will say this; no one can say they’re just sitting around waiting for things to happen.
Google has added something to search that they’re calling Search Plus Your World. You might have to enlarge the image to the side to see the example I put up but in essence, if you do a search for something now it will first show you how many people you know have G+’d it (yes, I’ve created a new word) and allow you to check out those recommendations first before going on with whatever it is you originally wanted to do.
It’s kind of freaky when you notice it, and if you haven’t noticed it then it means you probably don’t have a Google+ account or aren’t signed into your Google account, which I always am. But this is the next stage, their version of Facebook’s “Like” system, only on search. The general idea is that you’ll trust it more if people you’re connected with have recommended it; not a bad idea actually.
This is where you now get to think about some of the people you’ve connected with on G+ or other places because some people connect with almost everyone without really knowing who those people are. If that’s the case, you could be seeing this all over and trying to remember just who that person is that’s recommending something, and kind of co-opting your browser with their recommendation.
Right now I can’t think of a really bad thing to gripe about, so I thought I’d throw it out there to see what you think, if you can see it.
I found this interesting. I was reading a blog post by someone I interviewed for my business blog back in September, Angelique. Her post is titled Angelique Suspended from Google Plus. She was suspended because she doesn’t like to use her last name, feels it doesn’t support her brand, and of course Google+ expects people to use real names; they didn’t appreciate her last name being “Creativity”.
I found it interesting, as well as her follow-up post, for a few reasons (and I didn’t comment there because it’s a Disqus blog, which y’all know I hate).
One, I had the same discussion with her when I did the interview on my blog. I had found her last name and added it to the post, and she was deeply shocked and implored me to remove it. I hesitated at first because I have a set format for doing interviews on that blog, as opposed to interviews I do on this blog, and I felt it would throw off the continuity in some fashion. In the end I relented because I felt I might have been making too big a deal of continuity for the blog, just because it’s a business blog. It didn’t hurt anything.
Two, I had this conversation on someone else’s blog earlier this year as that person was also complaining about it. Since it wasn’t a Disqus blog, I responded that I understood the issue because how would they determine to list people with names that everyone knows that aren’t real, such as Lady Gaga or Will.I.Am? If they came onto G+ and used their real names, no one would know who they were, and if they put up their real pictures G+ might think they were perpetrating a fraud in some fashion and ban those accounts anyway, if you know what I mean. To date I don’t know if that issue has been addressed.
Three, I thought about my own blog. I have a policy where I won’t accept keywords as a true name of a comment poster. I need a first name of some type, and it can even be a nickname (cue Sire), but I need something to call you if I’m expected to possibly respond to your comment. If I don’t have that then I delete the comment, no matter how good it might be; the policy is just above the comment box and if you miss it, then it’s on you.
And finally four, as soon as you start to gripe about it in some fashion you almost have to catch yourself and say “it’s their playpen, so it’s their rules“. This doesn’t mean you can’t complain to yourself, or in your blog, but if you decide to complain to someone else you’re wasting your time and energy.
I’ll go personal on this one. I don’t think it surprises anyone when I complain about a Facebook change that I don’t understand, when suddenly I can’t find something. I do that for two reasons. One, I know that if I’m complaining someone else is complaining as well. Two, I hope that someone can provide a fix or idea of how to get around in some fashion. For instance, I griped when they seemed to get rid of a way to get to pages that I had subscribed to, which meant people weren’t going to find my page either. Someone finally gave me some guidance in finding it, and it’s still in a ridiculous place, and I moved on, knowing that there wasn’t anything I could do to change it.
Last year Google decided this blog doesn’t qualify as an Adsense purveyor based on a post I wrote almost 2 years ago on the topic of cleavage, a very tongue in cheek post with no nudity and what I thought was a very interesting point, and one where even if I’d agreed to remove it they weren’t going to reinstate this blog. I didn’t bother with it, just as I didn’t bother responding to them when I lost my page rank on this blog (I did get it back earlier this year). Google never responds to anyone other than possibly sending an automated message, so what would have been the point?
In other words, we all have choices to make when it comes to dealing with someone else’s rules. We either follow them or we don’t. This means we either participate or we don’t. You don’t get freedom of choice when someone else is paying for it; you don’t get freedom of speech in someone else’s space. At least you don’t get either unlimited.
What Angelique is fighting is the same thing some Egyptian students tried to fight Facebook with when they were protesting the government and were worried that their names would get them in trouble. The rules are the rules; no exceptions. If Facebook wasn’t going to change for students whose lives were in potential danger, Google’s not going to change for her, even if she’d written lots of positive things about them. Goodness, Facebook banned Salman Rushdie for awhile (you might need to have a NY Times password to view this one) and he’s well known.
You want them to change? Work on your website and blog, get it ranked really high, participate a lot in social media so a lot of powerful people know who you are, then take your shot. Now there’s a goal worth reaching for. 🙂