When a blog gets “popular”, the blogger is faced with a quandary. Continue to do what has made the blog popular, or recognize that there is now audience expectation, and accommodate it? The audience is people, and people live by politics. If you don’t accommodate the people, you can find yourself on the wrong side of a pitchfork (or tied to a stake). If you do go “politically correct”, won’t the critics sway that mob against you eventually? People is politics. No matter how much you might wish it weren’t so, politics will play an active role in any successful business or industry as it evolves.
Search is no exception. Google seemed to eschew politics for years as it grew into one of the world’s most powerful corporations. Google referenced “the algorithm” as the source of every nuance, skew, prejudice, or bias evident in the search results. Have a political complaint? Concerned about search results which seem to infer something about Judaism, abortion, creationism, white supremacy, or even left-handedness? Don’t blame Google. Blame the algorithm, and recognize that Google is trying really really hard to make it better, every single day. “Thanks for the highlight of the problem“, Google would say in response to criticism. “This helps us to make the algorithm even better!” It worked. The defenders of Google escorted Google all the way to the bank, heralding the “don’t be evil” company as a leader and innovator worthy of the massive profits it had earned.
Of course what Google was really doing was playing politics. Better than most, I might add. Sans the lobbyists and open debates, Google was working the people. Price controls? No, Google doesn’t control prices. Google measures quality, and adjusts pricing based on quality scores. People believed it, and Google controlled pricing. And now Google is controlling Internet commerce using the new Google Politics, while we all watch. Google gets hugely richer and more powerful every single day, as we watch and (if you are an SEO, you play along).
But one emerging area that might test the waters of this new political Google is domaining. Domainers control a very large amount of Internet traffic. Domainers are keen on developing that traffic, to better serve it commercially, while earning a share of the commercial profits associated with serving that market. Just as Google delivered search and then monetized it via commercialization of the traffic flowing through search, domainers have published on domains (parked pages) and are now seeking to monetize the traffic flowing through those domains. The problem is, in the current PPC marketplace, Google is managing that traffic, too.
As a search consultant, I work with companies to help them earn more search referrals (targeted traffic) from Google. I am very confident in my knowledge of what helps Google to give you free targeted traffic, and my ability to execute. I see the tangible results of my efforts every day in the traffic logs. More traffic, more conversions, and more rewards from Google for meeting the needs of the Internet searcher. But when I look at this emerging field of domain development, as defined by domainers, I see a political storm developing.
In Miami I was lucky to meet Jay Chapman of Digimedia. Jay and his company have published a site you won’t find in Google’s index: DiamondsDirect.com. If you look at it from an SEO perspective, you might classify it as a thin affiliate site or a shopping aggregator. We SEO people would expect that site to suffer from poor quality scores in Google, ranking off the first page for sure, and in need of substantial SEO work to go after the long tail terms represented by its content. We would have to do some work to keep it out of the supplemental index, because it uses a popular data feed. Since Google is not yet selling diamond jewelry, I would not expect it to be completely absent from the Google index, just off the first pages. I’m not sure how much of an arbitrage play it is, but I’m assuming that’s not a primary problem.
From a domainer perspective, DiamondsDirect.com is a rich parked page. It has supremely relevant content, quality imagery, and several layers of content behind navigation that engages the visitor and genuinely guides the visitor to appropriate jewelry choices ultimately sold up by affiliated sites. To the domainer, there is no reason at all that DiamondsDirect.com should no rank #1 for its own name “diamondsdirect”, if not for many other very closely related searches. But it doesn’t. It’s banned from Google (or at least completely absent).
Politically, where is the line that separates worthy vs. unworthy sites? The quality score approach enabled Google to effectively control who gets and doesn’t get search traffic for the money terms, without openly assigning value. But what about these rich parked pages? What happens as they get richer and richer? Certainly this site is already better than most of the “made for adsense” sites out there. We expect those to be supressed below page 10 or so, but dropped completely? here’s one that still exists out there, and ranks #1 for it’s own name. And yes, it ranks for its content as well. (if it goes away after I publish this, it was www.nr59.org).
I would not have mentioned a specific site here except that Frank Schilling already highlighted Digimedia’s rich parked pages on the Seven Mile blog a few days ago. Frank suggests that this is the future of the web, as more and more of the millions of parked pages develop into useful, commerce-driving “billboards” on the web. I can’t disagree, although I have my reservations. This is a political battle, and Google is very very good at politics. Those who know how I work as an SEO consultant know that I would never publicly call my pages “parked pages”, never have them on parked page domain services, and never highlight them as projects seeking search traffic. I know Google better than that, and I’m not in the business of advocating for change but rather quietly integrating with the status-quo to earn profits from free search referral traffic. If you heard my “speech” at T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Miami referencing “Google the grumpy old man”, you know what I mean. But unlike regular web publishers, domainers have leverage. Google is earning a large percentage of its PPC profits from parked pages. Google is getting a large percentage of its traffic from parked pages.
How will domainers use their leverage? How will Google respond? This is politics, folks, and it should be exciting to watch. In the mean time, duck and cover, and if you want search traffic, I’d suggest a solid stealth SEO strategy.