Red Herrings, The Social Google, and a Directionless Algorithm
David Harry (a.k.a. The Gypsy), a fellow search geek and publisher of the Fire Horse Trail and the SEO Dojo, wrote a truly stunning piece yesterday on Google’s social search efforts. On top of it being invasive and creepy, it also got me thinking about how the algorithm is taking all this into account. A few things happened in the last week that have changed what we thought we knew about Google. Let’s Start with the red herrings and/or misinformation campaign.
Using the Truth as a Red Herring
It seems odd when you say it out loud. But, since SMX Advanced, when Mr. Cutts announced the “nofollow” attribute was not being adhered to, it appears that someone within the Plex has been given sodium pentathol. All sorts of things, we knew for the most part, are starting to leak from the mouthes of babes. Two examples:
They’ve been worthless to the Google Algorithm for some time (years), but they’ve just finally confirmed this publicly. (Excluding the court case of 2008. Read the SEL post on it: Here) Why should this change anything, if most of us weren’t counting on them anyway?
Well, outside the legal implications of protecting themselves, they were hoping, in my opinion, to catch and bundle a whole bunch of websites wiping out meta-keywords. As with the “nofollow” incident, where swoons of webmasters suddenly began following again, perhaps they’re looking for evidence of “touched” sites.
Remember that Google isn’t the only search engine in town. Yahoo (formerly a search engine) and Bing (more of a decision engine by their own admission) are still looking at them. And, again, the point isn’t that it is an SEO advantage, but you should still have them there. If only 1 or 2.
H1 and H2
Adam Lasnik (via Andrew Goodman) unleashed one yesterday: H1 and H2 tags are not taken into account by the algorithm. Again, not really a surprise. Using these tags is a great practice for semantics and users, so I’m not sure why SEOs would rely on these to push SERP position.
What’s the point in mentioning these? I feel like it’s a misinformation campaign, just as with the nofollow attribute. I get the sense of entrapment on Google’s part; simply waiting in the bush waiting to pounce on the less-confident, less-knowledgeable, and yes, pure bullshit artists franticly racing to “fix’ client sites upon them divulging this information.
Ultimately, there’s something behind this information being told. Whether it’s to monitor site activity and pinpoint “touched” sites or monitor ripples through the net, I can’t be sure. One thing is for sure: information like this isn’t let loose for no benefit on some level.
The Social Google
Within the last few months, GOOG has had an explosion of social augmentation. It’s latest advent, Sidewiki, is really something that can be a) abused easily and b) could really play havoc with the SERPs should they be credited and taken into account on any level.
I’ve got the feeling that not even “man behind the curtain” knows what it should be looking at in order to provide the most relevant results. They want to be as “real-time” as possible (now including Trends as a one-box in SERPs, as reported by Danny), yet still maintaining the good content and resources the made it the number 1 search engine. It’s a hard line to balance, especially with outside influences (read big brand and news lobbyists) pushing the play book around.
Google is all over the place now. They were always a hydra, to be sure, but now their tentacles are extending over more dangerous ground. So much so, that it’s going difficult to know where to place value and trust.
They are playing so much catch up on the “real-time” search, really trying to be “relevant” for it, that it will be hard to know which properties to trust. Of course, the simple answer is that Google will trust their own properties before other properties.
And, once you factor in the previous algorithm changes (i.e. Caffeine and Vince) with this surge of social media inclusion, who can really say what’s going to happen. Even with concurrent testing there’s no definite answer: what is true today, will most likely not be true three months from now.
And, afterall, perhaps this was the point. Another misdirection play by Google. Unleash all these interesting social tools, get the SEO/SEM crowd moving and gravitating toward it. and while everyone is trying to figure it out, keep everything business as usual.
Personally, I think if you keep doing the core elements: building solid site structures, using onsite SEO intelligently and judiciously, building your offsite SEO quietly effectively, and getting in where you fit in on the social media side, nothing much will happen to you or your site.
If the object is quality, if really is to bring quality results, then everything mentioned above ensures that. If Google is going to leverage their power unfairly, for example pushing larger corporate entities, then there’s nothing you can do about it. At some level this game (SEO) is always “reactionary” and not “proactive”. Adapt and overcome.