Plato's Cave of SEO's

Plato's Cave of SEO's

Plato. Luni marble, copy of the portrait made ...

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Perfect Math

Tonight I watched Proof. Before I got a computer I watched movies all day long while reading books. Now a chance to watch a movie comes few and far between. And because it does and it is one of my favorite things to do is veg out for hours and watch a movie, it gives my mind a chance to look at my work from a little perspective. The work I had been looking at with a microscope for weeks at time. If I can get far enough away for a little while, the answer will come.

I thought about math. I never really liked mathematics until I played poker for the first time. But I was always good at it. I remember doing Algebra, Geometry, Calculus and Advanced Math and running out of places to go in mathematics where I could be challenged, so I started programming in my last year of high school, games mostly, when one person could do that and screens had 32 colors. I was home schooled so subjects came and went fast and I could pick what I learned for the most part.

And now I couldn’t tell you one thing about Calculus. It’s the way my mind works. Fast to learn, quick to discharge when it’s done with it. None of the books that taught me math taught me how to apply it, so I lost it all. I do remember physics and some descriptive geometry because I could apply it. And I love catapults in physics. I could finally write the pattern of that arc I always noticed down in a language. I already could visualize it in every rock I threw as a kid.

And with poker, I learned statistics and probabalities or what I like to call prediction and it ran directly into the part of mathematics I could have loved 7 years out of school. But I soon learned that poker was not all math and I was not a people person and moved on.

And math sort of followed me everywhere. I picked up a book on design and it was there. No wonder a conch shell is amazing. I could draw one and come close. But now I could build one out of numbers.

Math is pattern recognition in a language. It is turned into the language so that pieces of different patterns can be manipulated and merged and then pulled out again and put back into concrete ideas. Take object, turn into number. Take another object, turn into number. Shake them around a bit in their number world. Pull them back out again as newborn baby predictions of what will happen or of something you don’t know yet.

If you have one apple and bob give you two, you will then have three. This face has a 99% chance of being Bob Jones’. An eye-witness would make it a 100% chance in a court of law. So math is an attempt to put down on paper the way the world works as we interpret it. What natural law says that people can recognize faces in the first place? And if everything I saw visually as orange, you saw as green, how would you know? You would call it green and I would agree, but my lawn would look totally different to me than you.

So math could never be said to 100% describe the world we live in because some part of it is still a justification of the patterns we see in the outside world as filtered through our senses and finally our psyche and that last one can be a doozy.

I throw rock, hit target. You throw rock, hit target. We not insane. Ok, throw rock this hard, hit target. Go get Bob, have him throw rock too, just in case. Then we’ll be sure. Then we’ll go sacrifice this goat to thank the gods for this inspiration.

If mathematic were always 100% accurate this were not so, we would not be in the financial fiasco we are currently in. Mathematics made the risk seem less than it was, sometimes by removing the risk from the equation before it is written. Garbage in, garbage out and garbage algorithm.

More money could be lent on the hopes of more money to be made when it was paid back. But the formula did not work. It was wishful thinking or maybe meant to only look good in the short-term like our perfect calendar that has to correct itself every four years. An economy cycle diet meant to shift the numbers to a steeper slope.

Which makes me wonder if the ultimate model of economy is mother nature herself and it just doesn’t know it yet or at least the rest of the world doesn’t. And mother nature is really a bitch on the person to person level with the whole survival of the fittest thing. Mother nature is not fair. The damn whales people try to save suck down thousands of shrimp in a mouthful. A you freakin Vegans, plants have a conscious too, so you better find a new diet of rocks, water and air. There is no way to live with out killing a lot of other things in the process and just to survive.

And SEO Chasing It's Tail or The BeeWatcher Watcher

And by now, I myself am wondering when I am going to get to SEO. All those paragraphs were just meant to lead in and I got carried away. But during the movie, I started thinking about mathematics, search engines and SEO. Some people who use math change the way we look at the world. And some use it mundanely.

I started thinking about what a great discovery in SEO would be. It would be discovering the algorithm that someone else wrote to recognize a pattern in language and use it to rank documents. These documents themselves are ideas encoded in one written language or another. The goal of these documents is to transmit these ideas to another person who wants them.

An SEO works in the gap between the algorithm and what people see. This is not even a science, more of a meta-science, if there is such a thing.

I starting writing this post months ago and dropped it, because I could quite get to what I wanted to say. But for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been playing around a lot with the my6sense android app, which I now prefer to any social media app because it pulls my Google Reader feeds in also. I do like reading more than random brain farts.  And what did I see, the same stories over and over. And in my area of the internet, the Google Farmer Update, which to me just seemed like Google’s rules, which have been there for years. were finally being put to use.

In all this, the thought never crosses most people’s minds that Google in its current state is not the end of information retrieval. Stop being librarians with the Dewey Decimal System. The Dewey Decimal System was great for paper cataloging, because location in the library and topic indexes could be one in the same thing. One number was all you needed. And it worked at any library you walked into. It is about the best you can do for physical books, because the contents of each book aren’t indexed.

The printing press was invented in 1436, 440 years before the Dewey Decimal System was invented in 1876 and has been updated 22 times since then. I know technology moves quicker now, be we are no way near the end of search engine evolution. All search engine algorithms are just that, algorithms, mathematical constructs that are never 100% accurate and only infinitely get closer to accuracy through change.

Google’s system ultimately will become a system of providing commerce above information. It has stock and shareholders and no real rules governing how to organize or order its content. A corporation’s core interest is the bottom line. And the bottom line means, sell as much as ads as you can in the space you have. When does this core interest interfere with “Do No Evil”. When does it interfere with “most relevant content” and who is this content relevant to. Network TV jammed as many ads in as it could and someone came up with cable and then cable did this and another ingenious bastard invented the dvr.

Google is big. Which means they move slow. Oh, yes, Google has done a lot in the last year or so. So much so they look like a combination of Yahoo, Facebook and Bing. But much of this technology and features were already being done by competitors. They have become a “do that too” company, which means they partially do something another company has put all their effort into. Some of these swipes are more apparent. I didn’t realize the extent of copying until I started looking through some semantic search engines and found the origin of many of Google recent “innovations”.

And I thought Google’s homepage was the way it was for a reason, with a bunch of scientific mumbo jumbo to explain why minimal was better. Or maybe I’m the idiot and the history police have already rewritten that part and I didn’t get the memo.

So I think Google has become sloppy with change on the heels of Facebook’s popularity, Twitter’s ability to serve information happening now instantly and Bing’s increase in search market share.

But this has nothing to do with the Farmer/Panda or whatever the fuck it is update. That needed to be done. It knocked out some crap content.

And if the Internet Was Forever

And, we as SEO’s just follow Google around like a God with a lot more commandments. What we have to realize in this is that Google is following around everyone else, trying to figure out what they like, so they can serve it up. Which makes us as SEO’s, the beewatcher watcher (Dr. Suess reference).  Let me explain.

Let’s say you bookmark your site at one site and it is dofollow and you submit an article at another site but your link is not dofollow. The use of a dofollow or nofollow tag is a bandaid to prevent spam link building but it is a hindrance to ranking content. Back to the link submissions. If the article site or guest blog post gets 100 the clickthrough times the traffic of the bookmarked link, and that article link in nofollow and therefore gives you no link juice by Google’s algorithm, then by all logic, Google’s algorithm is wrong.

And if Google algorithm stays wrong and flaws are not fixed, another search engine will find a way in. Read a college paper on knowledge theory or information retrieval every once and a while and you will realize that the Google algorithm is a toddler when it comes to finding relevant information, while the company itself is getting older. Not a good combination in my book.

And if the internet was forever, who gives a crap. But then again, what is forever on the internet. About the time between the launch of AltaVista and the launch of Google and it probably decreases as time goes on.

I am not saying or want anyone to take away that I think Google will be going down any time soon or in the future.

What I am saying is this. If you start thinking about your websites as a house you own in the city. Repaint it (tables to css to html5) every now and then and keep it occupied with good content and it can only go up in value. Your house is there forever if you want it, past search engine algorithm changes, before and after social media, however long this internet protocol lasts. I have never sold a domain and don’t really plan to. I want to pass them down to my kids if they want them. I want them worth money and I treat them that way.

No More BeeWatcher Watching and Meeting Google at the Pass

This got me thinking. Google is not God. Google is a fixture and now must filter new search technology and roll it out slowly. The key is not to know Google, but to be there before Google is. Google follows the internet. Google follow internet technology. Google follows what people do. Google can’t do it too quickly or it will freak people out. A few search engines were years ahead of Google with LSI and Semantic search. Google can’t do it too slowly or Google will not be where it is supposed to be and someone else will be there and quick, YouTube. And Google just can’t get some things right, maybe too many PHD’s and not enough hard knocks. My nickname for Google +1 is Google Me (Windows reference to go along with the current antitrust issues).

Google is trying to figure out the way we rank content and SEO’s are trying to figure out what Google is trying to figure out. Why not cut out the middleman?

Backrub (Google 0.0) used academic papers as it’s model for ranking content. Before this, every search engine mainly used keyword concentration for a rank indicator.  The internet was bigger than any mountain of data a computer had ever climbed and indexed correctly before. But it was in HTML and HTML had various indicators of content importance similar to acedemic papers. 6 levels of heading tags from H1 to H6 could indicate rank. A link to another paper could indicate importance. Count those links and you have a scale. And on and on.

But the truth is, Backrub was reinventing the wheel in code. The heading tags were already an indicator of rank when reading a document and you knew when you hit a list, to take notes.

But the wheel now is code and content. The sonnet was invented. The novel was invented. Twitter invented a new content type. What about videos? Social networks invent new content types every day. Algorithms still have to be built to process all of this stuff and those must adjust with time. Everything is in flux and social is here to stay, smart phones guaranteed that for a while.

Google can write it’s algorithm but social networks gave people a voice against Google which Google must eventually adjust to or perish if it is to provide “relevant content”.

Google can refuse to index a technology or content type correctly for a while but when enough people start using it, they must change or perish.

Know Your Media and Your Audience - Zen and the Art of SEO

I have actually become bored writing about SEO because most of the concepts are pretty simple.

  • People search with keywords
  • Research words that people would use to find what you have to sell
  • Write content with these keywords
  • Write better or more controversial content with these keywords (linkbait)
  • Build links to this content
  • Get social buzz for your linkbait
  • Build different iterations of this very flexible erector set

But really isn’t this just:

  • Do research on topic
  • Write cool shit on topic
  • Find people who like this kind of shit
  • Tell people about cool shit

There is not really much to it for someone with an analytical mind and creativity. Pick a new social site, bookmark site, article site, etc.,  figure out it’s dynamic, and work a little magic with it to get links in to your site. There are and were new social sites every week. Simple concepts with an almost endless work schedule if you wanted until you had the site where you wanted it. I guess you could write about each and every site, but then spammers would read your stuff quicker and start manual spamming and then write software to do it.

Every social network has a dynamic. You can consider blogs a disconnected social network, a huge one. I consider forums in the social network realm. Any site that you can add content to, that you do not own, I consider a social network. Most likely, the links you get from here and beyond will come from social networks.

Think of link directories, for example. We all know they are worthless. DMOZ and Yahoo may have some value. Small niche directories that have other content may have value. Directory sites with voting and comments (LOL: review sites) may have some value. But the cookie cutter sites? Would you go there? Would someone else?

I had to add the “Would someone else?” because I am 36 now and there are some places I would go 16 years ago I wouldn’t now. But it still is fucking simple. And Google finally said enough. Ditto on the other random crap sites too. And that is the end of the audience section.

But you still have to know your media, not that I do (shoemaker’s children), for those who want to throw stones at glass houses. Google did make some other “Duh” changes, like ranking more speedy content. After all, it is their damn search engine and if you want to drive your broke ass model T site down it, they are going to force you into the slow lane. This post is already almost 3000 words. But there are ways to make your site faster and they are many and varied. I have played around with most of them to know that they won’t fit here.

Make your HTML current, look good or at least presentable, easy to navigate and organized logically. Again, broke ass Model T’s.

Your media is also your content. Write right, for fuck sake (I guess I do earn a few stones for that one, but really don’t give a crap here).

But also keep track of what is happening. New web technologies and ideas sprout up all the time. If you see an in and have the time, jump in. Google will be there soon or someone else will get there first. Microformats were out a while before Google recognized them. If a social network becomes popular, Google will be there. Google is only a diplomat. The internet is king.

And if you are deeper into SEO, read papers and check out new search engines. Something will hit you that is new, that Google missed for a second and you may have a jump on.

The Mantra

If you are doing your own SEO, Google’s changes may have freaked you out.

Evil God Google Smash Site.

But if you are in it for the long haul, then it is just time to rebuild. Upgrade your site design. Speed it up. Make sure your content is unique and fits your visitors. Maintenance would have fixed most of this.

When you get too wrapped in SEO, remember this.

Google is trying to find the people you are trying to find. You just have to be there.

I guess if you work as an SEO, it’s a bit different. You already know this stuff.

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Stephan Miller

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Kansas City Software Engineer and Author

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