Just Google It
Did you know that every second of the day 63,000 searches are made on Google? That 5.6 billion Google searches are made each day and two trillion are made each year? Did you know Google indexes more than 9.5 billion web pages? Or that Google accounts for 90.46 percent of the search engine market globally?
Did you know I discovered these interesting facts by doing a search on Bing?
As a search engine, Google is a monopoly and a powerful one at that. According to Newsweek, between Google and Facebook, the two control over 70 percent of internet traffic.
And that means two things. First, if your website isn't in the Google index, you're really not on the web. And that means you're not relevant. Ouch!
Second, in our ever more desperate attempts to rank in Google searches to therefore be seen and be relevant, we have created a massive explosion of content written not to educate and inform our readers but simply to try to get backlinks and higher Google rankings.
The internet was once a wonderful thing. But Google has ruined it. Every day we pack more and more useless content into it, each jockeying for position in an ever more competitive fight to be listed at the top of SERPs. It would help if this leviathan provided a little better direction with respect to SEO and what it takes to rank high with them. Then maybe we'd all calm down a bit and get back to more controlled growth and a more serious attitude toward sharing information. But don't get your hopes up.
What's causing this explosion of information growth? As always, there's no single reason. Here's my short list -- though I'm sure it's incomplete:
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We all know a blog is a powerful tool you can use to catch potential customers' attention and draw them to your website. As a result, there are millions, or more likely billions, of blog posts floating around in cyberspace, possibly written with too ordinary keywords that won't register on Google and won't ever get read. In case you doubt it, there are also tons of blog posts out there on how to write killer blog posts. We just keep churning them out in hopes that we get the SEO right the next time.
Creation of Fake Profiles Across Online Directories
Why do some people clog up the internet creating fake profiles? The biggest reason is backlinks. As wonderful as the internet may be for legitimate information sharing, it's also a haven for misrepresentations.
Several years back, when Google made the announcement that backlinks were a factor when calculating ranking worthiness, everybody started to create online profiles across thousands of forums and online directories with the aim of getting backlinks and hopefully rank higher. This practice is no longer viable and in fact, Google considers this a form of spam which could lead to serious penalties that could push you far down in search.
Content Syndication Across Multiple Networks
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Have you ever finished an article and checked out another by the same publisher because you clicked on a "We Recommend" or "Read Also" link somewhere in the middle or at the bottom of the page? Ever click on an ad embedded in one of those articles?
Top content producers like Bloomberg, Forbes, and The Weather Channel use syndicators like Taboola and Outbrain to help them deliver their content and their ads to targeted audiences across the web. For a price, these "discovery platforms," as syndicators prefer to be called, use algorithms to display advertisers' content to users based on the content those users prefer to see.
Have you ever wondered why most of the news articles that pop up on your front page tend to fall in line with your personal political leanings or your specific interests? Now you know.
Creation of Web 2.0 Profiles and Blog Posts
In the internet's early days, you'd find only two kinds of people on the web. Those who created content and those who read it. Web 2.0 profiles blur the line with a focus on user-generated content. Again, backlinks have led to a massive creation of useless guest posts on web 2.0 sites – and again, Google considers these practices to be spam and can punish your site if you abuse these types of backlinks and guest posts.
Use of Private Blogging Networks (PBNs)
These are sets of private blogs created solely for the purpose of improving the SEO for a website so it will rank higher in search engine queries. Some techniques used in PBNs can be deceitful, such as duplicating content across multiple URLs, which if discovered by search engine platforms can result in the demotion and lower ranking for a site.
Other dishonest practices sometimes used in PBNs include cloaking, the practice of establishing two versions of a site, one that search engine crawlers will see and another that users will see. Scraped or copied content from well-respected sites while adding no original content is also a common practice, as is "keyword stuffing," the practice of packing pages with irrelevant keywords just for SEO purposes.
Creation of Fake Social Media Profiles to Get "Social Signals"
Social signals such as likes, votes, or shares are used to show the popularity of a product or piece of content. Because Google is all about approvals by multiple authoritative sources, there's long been a debate as to whether social signals on social media profiles help boost SEO rankings on Google. If they do, then why not exploit that fact by building an audience of approvers?
Google has denied the claim, but they have since admitted they give some credit for links shared on Facebook's public pages. Google's search engine crawlers pick up on web buzz and use that weight in rankings.
Using Bots to Send Fake Traffic to Websites to Fool the Google Algorithm
Bot traffic is basically any traffic to a site or app that is not made by humans. According to a 2021 report, just over 40 percent of internet traffic is the result of bot traffic.
That's not to say that all bot traffic is bad, and often it is the reverse. Search engines are constantly using bots to crawl the internet to index websites. If Google's bot algorithms analyze the content of your website and find it worthy, you're likely to rank higher in SERPs. Yes!
Of course, there are bad bots too, those that take up space on the internet and wreak havoc on our sites. (Boo! Hiss!) These are the kinds of bots that find and fill out contact forms with bogus names and email addresses. These malicious little bots (and the people who set them loose) are simply bent on messing with website analytics.
Sometimes also, the desire for a higher ranking is too much of a lure, and unscrupulous types will create fake bots in an attempt to crack the Google algorithm and fool it into thinking their site is more popular and respected than it really is.
Those who do so, however, do it at their own risk. Google giveth and Google taketh away. And if Google determines you've delved into unethical internet practices, they are not above exacting penalties that can badly hurt your brand and your bottom line.
So, Are We Still Getting What We Need?
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Face it. The internet grew a whole lot faster than any of us might have ever imagined. So we're really fortunate that Google devised algorithms to help people like us wade through an ever-growing pile of online content. On top of that, Google takes into account some 200 different factors before they decide what we get to see. At least it makes you think they are doing their due diligence.
The search engine giant also updates its guidelines from time to time to supposedly help people find ways to improve their rankings. The guidelines build on and support their basic principles that call for website owners to create their pages primarily for users rather than for search engines, to not deceive their users or try to deceive search engines. Google also encourages website owners to consider what makes their website special and make it a standout.
But these days, when you do a specific search on Google, what shows up in your SERPs? Do you get a solid list of sites that go right to the heart of your question? Or do you get a slew of link farms and scraper sites with nothing but recycled content from other providers? If Google is the mother of all search engines, shouldn't their SERPs be showing us the absolute best the web has to offer?
Honestly, doesn't it make you wonder if Page 1 results are even useful anymore?
So, here's my question. Why doesn't Google provide more clarity around their ranking algorithm? Why does the company let us run ourselves ragged trying to figure out new ways to get into its good graces?
Is it because of their advertising platform? Do they figure if we twist in the wind long enough, we'll all eventually migrate over to their paid advertising product where they can watch us get into bid wars over keywords and watch our dollars disappear with each pay per click from a visitor that does not convert into a customer.
Okay, so maybe I'm being a little hard on Google. But you have to admit SERPs aren't nearly as good and reliable as they once were. And there's only one place to put the blame--squarely on Google's almighty shoulders. After all, Google has all the power and--to borrow from the Peter Parker Principle--with great power comes great responsibility.
Don't know who Peter Parker is?
Just Google it.
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