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It’s Your Move, SEO

These days I really want to say “it’s your move!” to all the SEOs out there. It really is. Go for it.

The world has a search engine at that is filled with crap, sponsored listings, and placed listings. The algorithm is fooling around with new ideas, offering “how’s this? Anything good in here?” style search results, and it’s ok because, frankly, nobody cares. Most people are staying inside their favorite, daily addictions (apps, sites, SM channels).

Google is busy building the next big thing… the current search thing doesn’t matter…. it is what it is. So where is YOUR stuff in Google?

The Yahoo! search engine is not really a search engine any more. Yahoo! is a portal, like it was when it started. Millions of people start at and get sent somewhere, for a fee. The ones who do search, get a mish-mash of junk, plus some remnant of Google’s (often experimental) search results. What are you doing to benefit from Yahoo! referred traffic?

Bing’s engine is stable and opinionated… and hasn’t changed that opinion much in what, years? It’s pretty clear what it takes to get into Bing’s index, and pretty clear on how to rank. So where is YOUR stuff in Bing?

Many of the “I can rank you #1 in Google for money terms” SEOs are gone. Off selling Content Marketing, hawking SEO tools, or doing audits.

Social media has admitted the truth… it’s chaos in SM world, like it was on the old AOL was before everyone learned how to get on the web without AOL. In fact each social media channel is now clearly unique… and deserving of dedicated attention on an ROI-justified basis. Either it’s worth playing, or worth paying, but there is little doubt once you test.And pretty easy to test.

So where is your stuff on social media?

The spammers have automated their methods so much that spamming is cheap and scales incredibly… and is incredibly easy to detect and counter. Those guys are either killing it or keeping really busy executing and re-executing again a week later, to skim profits off the SERPs. Some things never change.

Really it’s your move now. What matters is what YOU do with your URLs.

The important thing in SEO is no longer what Google is doing. The priority is no longer what spammers or social media gurus are doing. The Guidelines are pretty stable, and of minor importance. Content Marketers are off to the side, struggling to draw budgets capable of producing what has to be produced to generate results. And the link builders are also grinding hard for their paychecks.

What are you doing?

There are few excuses now. You either do the SEO, establish and advance your positions over time, or you don’t (and don’t enjoy the traffic). You are either in the game or not. There is little room for talkers these days… the chatter doesn’t hold water. You need to be doing, or you look bad. Real bad.

It’s your move.

Bullish on SEO : RankBrain vs. SEOBrain

Google has begun promoting a new name for their advanced search technology, which they claim is far superior to prior manually-tuned algorithmic approaches to search. They want you to refer to their Artificial Intelligence engine as “RankBrain“. They claim RankBrain has been controlling much of what you experience at since early in 2015.

We SEO practitioners have clearly noticed the changes, but not everyone agrees that the new RankBrain is better. In fact, most of the people I know have been complaining about a decline in search quality for specific searches since around the same time Google claims to have deployed RankBrain.

What has not changed is the ongoing battle between RankBrain and SEOBrain. That will only heat up now.

SEO is Dead. Long Live SEOBrain

Let’s call the collective innovation efforts of SEOsSEOBrain“. SEOBrain has been challenging Google since Google incorporated.

Back when Google finally went public on the stock market, the leadership listed SEOBrain as a primary threat to Google’s success as a public offering.  That’s right… one of the biggest risks to investing in Google stock was SEOBrain – the practice of strategically publishing in order to rank highly in search engines. SEOBrain was not Artificial Intelligence. SEOBrain was human intelligence, executed by thousands of human brains hell-bent on reaching audiences.

Now that Google has handed TheAlgorithm off to an artificial intelligence engine, we can visualize the battle between SEOBrain and Google’s RankBrain as Man vs. Machine. Can you predict how that will go?

Google Always Loses Against Clever Human SEOs

Throughout search history, Google has lost the battle against human SEO. Google even acknowledged this, when it hired thousands of humans to work on its own anti-SEO team, battling SEO efforts directly mano-a-mano.

Manual intervention, as distasteful as it was to Google’s leadership, was the only way Google could maintain its canned search results in the face of the world’s overwhelming desire for fresher, smarter, more helpful results.

You’ll Get Brand Results, and You’ll Like it!

Google wanted us to accept stale, sanitized, Big Brand results for our search queries, when in reality we all wanted fresh, smart, interesting, and helpful results. Stale corporate pages led to advertising revenue for Google, while innovative and more interesting results were untamed and unpredictable.

As most humans shifted their publishing off of individual websites and onto 3rd party platforms like Facebook and Twitter, Google didn’t know what to do. Those were controlled by competitors.

If Google was to manage risk, and ensure a predictable corporate revenue stream, innovation had to be stopped. Guidelines were written to stifle innovation. An almost mercurial penalty system was developed to constrain innovators, under threat of lost rankings. Blogs were assigned special management, and older, established sites given renewed power to help stabilize volatile SERPs.

Google needed stability, but didn’t know how to get it out of a rapidly-growing and super dynamic web it didn’t own. Enter humans.

Google is an Algorithm… except… Quality Raters! WebSpam Team!

When TheGuidelines and TheAlgorithm couldn’t stop innovation, humans were hired to do it. The WebSpam and QualityRater teams grew thousands strong. Google invested heavily into technology that could be used by humans to judge and penalize web content, to prevent it from ranking. Google decided to sacrifice search quality as needed to protect its advertising-supported business model.

Backed by a coordinated PR effort, these “quality raters” and “spam fighters” diligently clicked through Google’s tasking orders, collectively generating the signals TheAlgorithm needed to slap down web pages that were risky for Google. Even as Google claimed in public that only TheAlgorithm could determine search results, it knew it needed humans to battle the humans behind SEOBrain.

And there are reasons for this. Basically I will sum it up as this : until Google’s search customers are as dumb as machines, human SEOs will always outsmart Google’s AI and win at search. This is because SEOs follow and influence the intent of searchers in the marketplace, while Google’s algorithm (and AI) merely monetizes it.

Go back to business school of you need a refresher on why a sales team has to wait for product R&D to be completed, or why Marketing needs to wait until market shaping is well underway.

My Bet is on SEOBrain

I’ll put my chips on SEOBrain for the win, especially as RankBrain is given more and more influence over the Google SERPs. My team is already being forced to Page 2 of Google SERPs for most of our commercial research queries. Google is not delivering reasonable results sets on Page 1. And one thing we know for sure… the market influencers.. the people who search and then influence consumers with their publications or talks or leadership, will search when they don’t find what they want or need, even if it means clicking to Page 2 (or using another tool).

You can fool the masses for a while, to get your ad dollars, but you can’t suppress the power behind the markets. Cashing in on brands will get Google rich, but it will kill those brands much more quickly than they can be built or restored.

Fools Watch the Rising Tides while Leaders Predict the Floods

The currents of insider knowledge, empowered by specialty product development and increasingly valuable personal experience with those products, are noticeable now and growing fast. SEOBrain will dominate RankBrain for as long as Google search is considered essential by the valuable users.






Google no longer “helping”

Some time ago Google shifted from helping and enabling, to hindering, interrupting, and exploiting. The shift was quick, on a real-world time scale, but slow in search marketer hindsight. One could *almost* track the activity by plotting a timeline of Matt Cutts’ public personality changes. Matt’s public profile went from helpful, specific, and sincere to somewhat apologetic-but-still-trying-hard-to-help to a sort of frustrated-hopeful, before going into the basically-misleading mode we griped about for years, before he checked himself out on “sabattical” where he’s been for years now.

There is also that “the rise of Larry Page” thing, the “who the hell is in charge over there” thing, and the “wow is there anyone here who didn’t used to work for Microsoft?”  thing.

But perhaps most telling of all, were 1. the switch to manipulating webmasters (via the no-accountability Google Help Forums and the “trust me I’m honest” John Mueller persona), and 2. the shutting down of Google Reader.

I think the rise of the Google Ventures conflict of Interest and BigMoney lobbying are separate issues, driven by need and ancillary opportunism. You can’t have control and not pay the policy-makers, and you can’t bank THAT much cash and not invest in what you know.

They Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Reader

Google Reader (and the associated tech Google had bought up to control, such as SuperFeeder and related) was technology that web consumers used to stay connected to specifically sourced content. It was an outstanding curation tool, which of course bypasses search. I don’t think it was so much a threat to search, though… it’s pretty clear it wasn’t very widely used in Internet demographic terms. But it represented an alternative to search, and it enabled influencers to operate independent of Google Search.

The shift from helpful to hindering involves specific strategic steps calculated to stop helping and start hindering… such as shutting down curation tools and closing down tech that had been advancing the web towards better curated connections between sources (authers) and consumers (the market).

Of course there doesn’t need to be a deliberate decision to shut something like that down. Like a “donut hole lie”, where you effectively lie by leaving OUT some important part of a story, a Google manager can simply incentivize everything except a specific project, in order to kill it.

Didn’t Matter to Me at the Time

I didn’t use Google Reader. I didn’t really use any feed reader… but I have always struggled with curation, bookmarking, and keeping connected to specific sources I prefer and trust. And of course I utilized feed reader technologies in my SEO work, as much as it was helpful for advanced, technical SEO, or for enhancing reach.

But now, years after Reader was shut down and the complaining dwindled, I have had enough time to watch the alternatives not replace Google Reader.

I’ve been able to see Internet Infosumers lose focus, become less productive, demand less quality from Google Search, and change their habits to lower quality, less productive use of the web. I’m seeing them more accepting of crap answers, half-baked information pages, and unverifiable or unsupported marketing claims. Less demand for Trust Badges that used to help testify to veracity. More acceptance of the idea that “trusting what some web page said is ok, because the responsibility lies with them not me”, among the general population (in America).

Meanwhile, as in the days of Google Reader and the RSS feedreaders before it), the “smart people” have moved off the mainstream web for a larger portion of their research, to find the trustworthy content and authority. The used to use Readers to help them manage (while also using search), and now they use OtherThings to help them manage, supplementing search.

So Where is the Damage?

The mainstream is now more ignorant, less able to get informed, and more susceptible to untrustworthy or non-worthy-of-authority published content than ever before, after consulting Google Search, which has become for many “the Internet”.

Web businesses are now profiting by contributing to the very “cesspool” that earlier Google warned about… before it shifted from helper to exploiter. Google apparently decide to get into the cesspool monitization business instead f the Amazing World Wide Web of Organized Information. Of course good business practices and supply chain management would then dictate efforts to encourage more and bigger cesspools.

Was Eric Schmidt the Nice Guy?

Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this for me, is that it actually seems like Eric Schmidt, the  guy we all knew in our hearts was capable of the nastiest explotation in the world should he desire to execute in that fashion… in a Carl Rove-like way, or perhaps a Koch Brothers or Charles Manson way, may actually have done a fine job controlling his natural insticts and “being nice” to all of us while running Google.

Can you imagine?

Of Course Not

We have to wait for the final Chapters to know what is really happening behind the scenes, but it’s pretty obvious that power brokers don’t need or want an organized, democratic World Wide Web. They need a cesspool they can manipulate, and at the peak of Helpful Google, Google Search represented the perfect choke point for content curation at scale.

And content curation at scale, by and for the power brokers, is exactly what Eric Schmidt gave them.