The New York Times has the gripping–albeit long–story of Google’s never-ending quest to improve/tweak its search engine. The goal of the search engine is to bring you the most relevant content available. But the obvious question remains: How relevant is so-called Search Engine Optimization when Google keeps changing the game?
It’s not like SEO firms have access to Google’s secret sauce. And even if they did, Google would just reinvent itself once again.
According to the Times:
[Google] …has hundreds of engineers, including leading experts in search lured from academia, loosely organized and working on projects that interest them. But when it comes to the search engine — which has many thousands of interlocking equations — it has to double-check the engineers’ independent work with objective, quantitative rigor to ensure that new formulas don’t do more harm than good.
As always, tweaking and quality control involve a balancing act. “You make a change, and it affects some queries positively and others negatively,” Mr. Manber says. “You can’t only launch things that are 100 percent positive.”
THE epicenter of Google’s frantic quest for perfect links is Building 43 in the heart of the company’s headquarters here, known as the Googleplex. In a nod to the space-travel fascination of Larry Page, the Google co-founder, a full-scale replica of SpaceShipOne, the first privately financed spacecraft, dominates the building’s lobby. The spaceship is also a tangible reminder that despite its pedestrian uses — finding the dry cleaner’s address or checking out a prospective boyfriend — what Google does is akin to rocket science.
Seth Godin comments on the story, insisting that:
It seems to me that in the SEO arms race, shortcuts have a shorter shelf-life than ever before. Building 43 is obsessed with them, and they outnumber whoever you might hire to beat the system. Organic success, on the other hand, is a clear path. If you want to be on the front page of matches for “White Plains Lawyer”, then the best choice is to build a series of pages (on your site, on social sites, etc.) that give people really useful information. Not just boilerplate information you stole from a legal website, but really useful stuff about you, the local courts, the forms people need… the things you’d want to find if you were doing that search.
Once you’ve done everything you can… once you’ve built a web of information and once you’ve given the ability to do this to your best clients and your partners and colleagues, then by all means apply the best SEO thinking in the world to your efforts. Hire the best consultants and use the resources you’ve got left to be sure you’re playing by the right rules.
Betting against Building 43 doesn’t seem nearly as smart as betting on them.
Absolutely. But if you can’t bet against Google, aren’t most SEO firms just selling Search Engine Optimism?
(Our advice: Before hiring any consulting firm, including Future Now, be sure to ask bigger questions.)