For those of use who watch the web search industry develop, the recent transformations within it have created excitement to say the least. Everything has changed. Or at least that is the current buzz. Major changes have been made to how Google does search over the last year. That is true. Search is always evolving, so do not panic and simply inform yourself about what is happening to the information process that bloggers count on to fairly index and refer to their blogs.
I remember being heavily penalized by a subject area reviewer volunteering for DMOZ for having a page on one of my earliest websites that had a list of books of particular interest to Late Boomers that linked to Amazon.com. The editor trashed the whole site because of the page. I was livid. I saw many other sites that were far more commercial than mine do well. Links were where it was at way back in the early adolescence of the internet. If you didn’t link properly, properly according to whom I never did figure out, your site could nose dive. Even though it was a directory and not a search engine with which I had trouble, that is when I started paying some attention to what came to be known as Search Engine Optimization, or SEO.
Google rose to prominence and finally dominated the market a couple of years into the new millennium. Checking your page rank on Google became as common place for individuals with web pages as checking the number of hits your website received. Almost immediately search engine “professionals” emerged from the primordial info slime and the 21st Century’s first group of snake oil sales persons integrated themselves in amongst the few real SEO professionals. Lots of people who pass themselves off as experts are con artists, but most SEO sellers are just well-intentioned people who do not know as much as they think they know. Real SEO requires staying on top of what are essentially trade secrets – the proprietary algorithms that are used to fuel web search.
What are called ink farms and content farms were some of the major problems for the search engine companies. Link farming attempted to create higher rank or search page result listings by trading or selling links that would increase a site’s supposed credibility or authority as at one time incoming links were treated as valid reflections of the authority and influence of the site. Linking just to increase links inflated the number of links while decreasing the worth of a link.
Search engines, such as Google, began to do battle with link farms mid-decade into the ’00s. Link farming slowly withered as search engines began to cut the weight links had in search, and content was declared king. Then sites had to have content or articles or blog posts to rank highly in search results. Content rather than links then began to be farmed, or more accurately ranched, as major content farms used two main strategies to produce content for sites that would fake out the search engines.
One type of farm hired individuals to write lots of stuff for very little money, so the quality was not that great, but the quantity of the content was enough to feed lots of sites, many actually used regurgitated content. The content farms then sold to sites so that the sites would have lots of fiber for the search engines to digest.
Another type of farm hired people to write posts and articles that seeded keywords at just the right frequency in pieces that did not even have to make much sense. This was done because keywords are used in meta tags and should be reflected in the content that the meta-tags describe. This was the juncture at which content became confused with key words.
Now we seems to be entering a new focus phase for search engines. I like to think that while content is still king but the but the power behind the thrown has been recognized and is queen in all of her contextual glory. It is good to be the queen, in the Mary Englebreit sense of the word., because all those cherries and patterns, color, attitude and relationships are what matter in the process of getting the searcher connected to the information he or she wants. Social authority is the new buzzword for search. To rank well in the brave new world of search you need have quality content and that translates, according to the word on the street, to often updated, non-keyword seeded content that is accessed by important people.
The “important people” aspect of the new search is reflects the increasing awareness of the heavy hitting nature of social media. The recommendations of people you trust, as measured by your info stream with them more than whether you actually know them or not, is the “new” and secret ingredient of Google search.
Some folks, such as the women who started the BlogHer network, Lisa, Elise, and Jory, were paying attention long before Google began to pay attention and these savvy women had launched conferences and networks based on a feminized understanding of information in the digital age. Sites that foreshadowed the coming changes, which some people are only now “getting,” and all the concomitant changes to search that have resulted reflect what I like to think of as the feminization of the internet. (I am writing more about this topic this week in what may or may not become a series of articles.)
To restate this succinctly, what has happened recently with Google stems from search engine companies trying to outmaneuver scam artists whose sole purpose in life is to get you to look at stuff in which you have absolutely no interest. Deceptive ads, promises of free prizes, and manipulation of search engine results are three of the most common ways such “marketers” do this. This practice gives real marketers who work to deliver a good product a bad name, but be that as it may, everyone does want your attention on the web. So while some of us may be expressing concern as we mull over the whole Google privacy hoo-haa, at the very same time, some things Google is doing are very much in our interest as women, household managers, content creators, and savvy private and public consumers of information. Google appears to be using relationships and networks (of both creators and consumers) in the algorithms that determine what the authority is of individual chunks of information on the web. And women are the mavens of communication and relationship networks.
Women understand context and know how to balance competing priorities. Women understand that comments are actually conversations. Women also know when someone is trying to hose them. Women create the daily stories that build most our culture. The semantic web is attempting to recreate the way we humans understand things. Women are experts at this.