posted in search engine optimization  on 16 September 2011
by Andrew Lang 
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Imagine an Alternative Internet

Imagine an internet that was a true meritocracy where the best content, best services, and best products naturally got the most coverage in the search engine results. The better your site, the more successful you became. And so you honed your content, perfected your services and products, and reaped the commensurate rewards for your hard work and ingenuity.

While the real internet isn't a complete opposite of the above, it's certainly far-removed from the above. It's still wise to be a perfectionist when it comes to your website because once a human being lands on your site, the search engine has done its job - now your content/products/services must do their job to convert. If they're not up to scratch, you're not doing your job.

BUT - the sad thing is - you just cannot be a success today without being proactive with SEO, and/or willing to spend a lot of money on advertising (e.g. Google Adwords).

Someone with experience of running a business might say "yeah, but it's always been the way with business - you need to spend money on marketing and advertising - that's just the way it goes".

It IS the way it goes, but search engines have promised us more than that. And when I mean "they", I might as well say Google. Matt Cutts of Google has beaten the drum about the "Google Deal" : you offer quality content on your website, and Google will reward your site with increased traffic. The strong implication he makes is that if your site has great quality, people will naturally link to it. This is disingenuous to say the least. This might be true for blogs that court controversy / have naturally news-worthy type content, but it's not true for someone selling nuts and bolts or.....pashminas! :) The average e-commerce site would commit business-suicide by taking a back-seat when it comes to online marketing and expecting some well-honed articles about how to use his nuts and bolts or wear a pashmina will somehow grab the attention of bloggers around the internet.

Unfortunately, the Matt Cutts "build it and they will come" statement is more Public Relations-speak than reality. The achilles heel of Google's algorithm is that it relies so heavily on links as a way to judge the value of a site. They use this method because it scales and it's automated. It's an engineer's solution. There's no way to curate the web with human hands Google say. That's true, but it's causing a huge problem with the internet nonetheless.

What's This Huge Problem?

Here's the problem with links: they've become too important. Now many website owners view their content as secondary, and their inbound links as primary. It's not a great way to think, but it's 100% understandable. Business is business, after all. The problem is that there's more value to SEO than merely improving the quality of the content - especially if a site's main income is ads.

Time to Dream Again

So imagine that alternative internet. One where everytime you improved your content, your product, your service, you were also improving the coverage your business had online too. Think of the amount of effort that would be transferred from link building / SEO to simply improving content. Imagine if each page on your site had a universal quality score for content, instead of the current one (Page Rank) which merely measures the value of inbound links (which are nothing but currency these days, not a true vote).

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