Why Google should embrace ethical
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
by Phil Craven
At the outset, I want to stress that this article is not about unscrupulous search engine optimizers who mislead surfers by promoting web pages to the top of search results, only to automatically redirect them to completely off-topic pages and sites. By search engine optimizers, I mean those people who promote relevant web pages and sites to the top of relevant search results for relevant search terms. These constitute the vast majority of search engine optimizers. These are ethical
SEOs (search engine optimizers), and are the SEOs refered to in this article.
SEOs have exactly the same aim as Google; that is to see the search results filled with relevant web pages for any given search term. Both SEOs and Google strive for that. The only difference between Google and SEOs is that SEOs want to see one of their relevant pages at or near the top, whereas Google doesn't care about individual websites. Apart from that, the aims and desires of both Google and SEOs are identical.
I realise that Google would like to index the natural web - a web that hasn't been tainted by arranged link exchanges and modifications to pages and sites, for the purpose of improving rankings. But the web wasn't in a natural state when Google arrived, and it will never be in a natural state in the future, so that ideal is something that Google can never have.
The reason that SEOs exist is because of the way that search results are returned - 10 or 20 at a time. It is common knowledge that not many surfers go deeper than the first few pages of results, and it is common sense that no search engine can display all the relevant results for a given search term in those first few pages. It is also common sense that many of the results that don't make it into the first few pages are equally relevant with those that do make it, and many of them are much more relevant than some of the higher ranked pages.
The difference between those that are ranked at or near the top and those that are not is that the higher ranked pages have more PageRank, or better inbound link text, or their on-page criteria is better suited to Google's algorithm, or a combination of such factors. Without SEO involvement, all of those things occur by chance, but chance isn't a very fair way of deciding which pages are ranked highly and which aren't, and chance isn't a very fair way of deciding which sites get the traffic, the business and the profits and which don't. Yes, Google can usually fill the top results with relevant pages, but their alogrithm cannot choose fairly when there are many relevant pages. No algorithm can.
Let me give a hypothetical example of a web that hasn't been touched by search engine optimization. Suppose there are 100 hotels in New York, each having its own website, and suppose a surfer, who is looking for a New York hotel, types "new york hotels" into Google's search box. Which of the 100 hotel sites does Google list at or near the top, and which of them get buried? Which of them are more relevant to the searcher's requirements than the others? Of course, none of them are more relevant than the others; they are all equally relevant to the searcher's search. So which does Google display first? Those that, by chance, just happen have pages with criteria that are the closest to Google's algorithm. Is that a fair way of doing things? Of course not. The few sites at the top would think it's fair, but common sense says that there's nothing fair about that system.
For almost all search terms, there are many sites and pages that are relevant enough to be displayed at or near the top of the rankings, but only a few of them can be chosen - the rest get buried.
The question is raised, why should people accept this unfair ranking system when their own, buried, websites and pages are as relevant to the search terms as those that are ranked at or near the top? The answer is that there is no reason for them to accept the situation, especially when commerce is involved and those at or near the top are taking all the business.
This is where search engine optimization comes in. Search engine optimizers are skilled at making web pages more suited to Google's algorithm, thereby achieving higher rankings for them. Google should have nothing whatsoever against SEO activity, because all that SEOs can do is gain higher rankings for relevant web sites and pages, which is exactly what Google tries to achieve. SEOs cannot achieve high rankings for off-topic pages because Google's algorithm simply won't score off-topic pages very highly for a given search term. Also, SEOs cannot fill the top rankings with their pages because Google lists only two pages per website at the most.
So what is Google's problem with ethical search engine optimization? They certainly have a problem with it, as their SEO page shows. They put forward several non-SEO tasks as being ethical SEO, but they don't put forward any normal SEO techniques as being acceptable to them - not even mild-mannered seo-copywriting.
Since Google wants relevant results at the top, and search engine optimizers want relevant results at the top, they are on the same side. They are not against each other. SEOs want what Google wants. SEOs do not want to put non-relevant results at the top. They merely try to have their own relevant pages included with those at the top, and they do it by trying to make them match Google's algorithm. What possible reason could Google find to object to that?
So there is no reason at all why Google should be against ethical SEO, and they should embrace it. There is too much "us and them" attitude between Google and SEOs and it really isn't necessary. It doesn't do Google any good, because SEOs are forced to adopt the attitude of not caring what Google wants - because Google doesn't care about websites.
Google's business is parasitical in that their product is harvested freely from websites. Without websites, they have no product and no business, and yet they care nothing for websites or their owners. They aren't in the slightest bit interested that relevant websites are buried in the rankings by other relevant websites, and even by completely non-relevant websites, but let them find a website using SEO techniques to try to get up the rankings, where it belongs, and Google will penalize/ban it without a second thought. That's a bad attitude.
Google is known for the relevancy of its search results, but you don't need to go very far down the rankings before you start finding non-relevant results above very relevant results. In fact, you sometimes find them in the top 10.
E.g. why is there a "world-wide holiday accommodation" site and a "French accommodation" site in the top 10 for the search term, "uk holiday accommodation". In fact half of the top 10 are not UK-wide sites, and yet there are plenty of UK-wide sites outside of the top 10. Note: this was true at the time of writing this article. At the time of writing this note, a German accommodation site is at #7 and several sites that are not UK wide are in the top 10.
So Google hasn't got it right yet. In this example, why shouldn't any buried, UK-wide, holiday accommodation site feel agrieved that they are buried when non-relevant sites fill half the top 10 rankings? Why should Google object if those buried sites use SEO techniques to redress Google's failings, and put sites that belong at the top for relevancy, at the top? That's all that search engine optimization does. If Google could place sites by hand, they would change those results. If a search engine optimizer does it, why should they object or penalize? Equally, if a search engine optimizer manages to replace one relevant page in the top 10 with another equally relevant page, what is there for Google to object to?
Google's algorithm checks for pages that most closely match their chosen criteria of what a relevant page should be for a given search term. Search engine optimizers make or modify the pages of relevant sites so that they closely match Google's chosen criteria. Can anyone explain why Google objects to search engine optimization, because I can't see it.
Google and search engine optimizers are on the same side. They strive to achieve the same goal - relevant search results for any given search term, and both focus their efforts on achieving that goal. Google's algorithms are simply not good enough to rank web pages in relevancy order - no crawling search engine can do that. Google may be one of the better ones but it is obvious to any searcher that they are a long way from getting it right, so they should be very grateful that there are SEOs out there to give them a hand. The "us and them" attitude is unnecessary, and doesn't do anybody any good. It's time that Google embraced SEO so that we can begin to co-operate with each other, instead of always being on opposite sides.