It is Time to Regulate Ignorant Anonymous Guest Posts on TechCrunch

TechCrunch published an anonymous attack piece on search engines…both the organic and paid side. Lets deconstruct some of it, shall we?
techcrunch.com/2009/07/13/the-time-has-come-to-regulate-search-engine-marketing-and-seo/

“It’s now conventional wisdom that search engine optimization, representing the organic result sets on any search query, is more voodoo than science.”

And it was conventional wisdom that you needed to own tech stocks because “this time it is different”. And it was conventional wisdom that housing goes up forever. We didn’t care when fraud was looting trillions of dollars, but now you need to be compensated for your own intellectual sloth & laziness? Please.

Most of the market is willfully ignorant and mislead. Just like in most big money markets. Nothing new there.

What about public relations and branding and other forms of marketing? Most people are ignorant of the influence, so should we just ban marketing? Without marketing do consumers get more or less choice in the marketplace?

To most people rocket science and evolutionary biology are more voodoo than science…does that mean we should shut them down? Shall we run society based on the will of the handicapper general?

“In addition, consumer behavior dictates the top three results on any search page are all that matter. “

They may be most important, but you can still build a real business by ranking a bit lower on the search results. Also people search for billions of unique search queries each month, so its not hard to rank in the top 3 for something.

Keep a lean business if you want to use search as your primary distribution channel. Invest in slow sustainable growth as opportunities present themselves.

The line “all of your eggs in 1 basket” also comes to mind. If search bounces around then try to offset that risk by building other distribution channels including offline, word of mouth marketing, repeat customer sales, affiliate marketing, building a strong brand, etc.

“And at any one time, the controller of these borders (that is, the search engine itself) can change and manipulate those rules – and that can substantially decrease or destroy all organic traffic coming to your website, without notice and without your knowledge.”

Use analytics to track your search traffic. If your site has its rankings destroyed and you do not notice then you either didn’t have much of a business, or are not investing properly in knowing your market. Either way you would deserve failure if you were reliant on a traffic stream and were not actively measuring it.

“Because the rules of organic and paid search change frequently – and remain undefined — agencies and other traffic brokers can win big; through their experience, they’re capable of reverse-engineering these rules. This means that, as this market matures, individual businesses have a diminishing chance to actually compete and gain search market share. That, in turn, puts them in a position of not only needing to hire an agency in order to find any traffic, but also making it more expensive overall to build businesses on the web.”

The same analogy could be stated for businesses buying up key real estate locations and building efficiencies into their supply chain model – like a Wal Mart or a McDonalds. The same analogy can be made for huge online networks that cross promote new sites. The same can be said for banks that are too big to fail while smaller ones are slaughtered off and sold to the big ones.

If business owners are too lazy or cheap or ignorant to invest in one of the highest ROI business functions of the last 100 years then how can anyone have sympathy for them? There are millions of dollars worth of tips on this site shared freely. And people can get direct help with their site for as low as $100. If they can’t afford that, then they should not be on the COMMERCIAL web.

“The only real solution is disclosure. Transparency. Those traffic generators that use rule-based algorithms to determine result sets must publicly disclose their methodologies. That is the means by which all businesses can compete freely in the organic and paid search marketplaces.”

Except this is not true. For numerous reasons

  • as the algorithms grow more complex, the transparency of them would still only benefit a few key players while setting a high barrier to entry for small businesses. all this would actually do is drive small businesses out of the marketplace faster. we outrank corporations worth $10s of billions of dollars for keywords that are important enough that they target them on their homepage titles. make the algorithm transparent and there is no way we could compete at that level.
  • if algorithms were transparent automation and testing would be abused by larger established trusted websites. some news companies already use robots to write content. give them a high PageRank, offline distribution, algorithmic immunity, and the source code to the algorithm and I can’t imagine how I would be able to compete against them.
  • media and marketing are rarely if ever transparent. and when they are it often backfires because people feel they were influenced and/or used. manipulation in the traditional media world goes on all the time. I suppose it is time to write another post about media transparency

More: continued here

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