Google searches are a great way to get your website noticed – and cheating the system is a great way to become invisible.
By Ron Daly
Google started out with a simple goal: make it easy to find things on the Internet. That goal grew from a simple search site to one of the most oft-consulted tools online – personally, professionally, academically, and otherwise.
Google has their own version of everything – email, calendars, an instant messenger, document creation and sharing – they even started a microsite recently that teaches you all the ways you can use their tools to plan your wedding (Google.com/weddings , believe it or not).
There’s all sorts of debate about whether or not Google is foregoing its motto of “Don’t Be Evil” in this next phase of its growth. They’re getting awfully big and have their irons in any number of fires, some interesting and some frightening. But I want to ignore the morality debate and talk about the “product”, specifically, the search engine.
No user has to pay to search for a subject on Google. Results for any given search hinge on how much Google likes or dislike the found pages’ information organization. Clean keyword metas? Fine. Clear information hierarchy? Great. Keywords used in context? Superb. Where you get into trouble, typically, is with websites that SLAM thousands of lines of meaningless text and links into a page to try to jockey for higher positions in search results. Pages like that used to be much easier to make, but Google has since refined its complex algorithms to weed out SEO “juicing”. Their goal has been to refine the process and make the thing you seek easier and easier to find.
Our understanding of what is and isn’t good content is evolving, too, as a result of this process. We can self-select a bit better now than we could at the beginning of this Internet era. We know just because it shows up doesn’t mean it’s what we’re looking for and we go back to Google to get the next ten (or ten million) results.
We also know that Google keeps its people paid and its servers lit by selling ads. You can buy a higher search result, or even the very first result users see. Thus, to be ranked highly by Google, you can have content Google likes or money Google also likes.
Or you can cheat. Which Google DOESN’T like.
Case in point, JC Penny.