Google Code Speak - do You Add Value?

Google representatives often make statements like make sites that are good for users, but they don't tell you what specifically they are looking for to determine the quality of a site because if they did people would exploit it. When Google is using code speak to prevent people from reverse engineering organic search results then perhaps the ends justify the means, but recently it appears that Google has been looking at usage data and signs of trust which may relate to organic search and applying some of those to Google AdWords.

As Google obfuscates the field of SEO with bland double speak, and uses organic search signals as a sign of quality in PPC they are increasing the value of those who take the time to understand what Google is ACTUALLY looking at. They want an informational bias in organic results and a commercial bias in AdWords, but invariably Google is looking to separate signal from noise in organic results and AdWords.

Given how crafty us optimizers are, Google believes a healthy dose of misinformation is key to making that happen. Given how arrogant Google is and how much they believe in the raw power of data you wouldn't think they would need to do that with AdWords.

As Google owns a growing segment of the attention stream, uses vague guidelines that are selectively applied, and make backdoor deals with large publishers they are killing off many business models in aims of improving quality (also known as profit). How much leverage has Google accumulated? The NYT said that ~ 22% of their website visitors come from search engines. Think of how old some of the old media companies are and how long they have built their brands, and they are already that dependant on search. Think of how new web video is, and that there are already reports of it eroding television viewership.

As the web grows the increasing competition and increasing scope of the link graph means that content creators have to keep getting more innovative and give more away to be remarkable, gain mindshare, and build a brand.

Creators are not publishers, and putting the power to publish directly into their hands does not make them publishers. It makes them artists with printing presses. This matters because creative people crave attention in a way publishers do not. Prior to the internet, this didn't make much difference. The expense of publishing and distributing printed material is too great for it to be given away freely and in unlimited quantities -- even vanity press books come with a price tag. Now, however, a single individual can serve an audience in the hundreds of thousands, as a hobby, with nary a publisher in sight.

That is why I feel so strongly that most standards are arbitrary. As long as you reach to your market with passion eventually your market will find you. I am living proof that armatures don't need publishers. As everything moves toward free, attention, trust, and brand will be the only things that makes you a non-commodity. And as long as Google keeps separating signal from noise, and technology keeps making it easier to participate on the web, publishers are going to need to start adding value if they are going to stay relevant.

So sure, Google is right when they say you need to add value, but many businesses operate under the false pretense that they are not going to get marginalized.

Published: November 28, 2006 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


November 28, 2006 - 2:14am

Google is always creating online challenges. Regardless, the top people in a given industry always find a way to come out on top.

You sum it up best in your statement: "As long as you reach to your market with passion eventually your market will find you."

I'm willing to bet if Thomas Edison was still around he would be a top SEO guru. He always believed "you can only fail so many times before you succeed."

November 28, 2006 - 7:32am

I agree that Google is basically telling half-truths as much as possible to keep the crappy SEO's and would-be blackhats doing the obvious and easily fingerprintable things that they've always done instead of thinking outside of the box.

Whether we realize it or not Google is always pushing the envelope in social engineering the web to suit their needs. If it's a "quality score" in PPC, a page rank update, or even just whining in the press about Internet Explorer not putting Google as the default search engine Google is doing everything they can to socially engineer us to act in a way that more benefits Google.

If Google had its way it would be a shepherd to a flock of dumb sheep webmasters who all followed their guidelines and no black sheep would ever disobey Google's perfect guidelines. As it is lots of people still push the limits and in my opinion that is what really adds value, not just being a Google sheep.

November 28, 2006 - 12:22pm

One fine day there will be discussions where no one will even bother to talk about Google. In order to dominate the online industry the way they want it, they are complicating things for webmasters with new concepts.
IMO those who try to dominate and dictate things do not have long run of success for themselves in future.

November 28, 2006 - 1:06pm

"So sure, Google is right when they say you need to add value, but many businesses operate under the false pretense that they are not going to get marginalized."

I could not agree more. On one hand I have to answer to a person that understands this completely. On the other hand, I have to answer to a person that uses that old school of search mentality and its a harder sell for me with some things, but overall they trust me which I am thankful for.

November 28, 2006 - 2:10pm

"If Google had its way it would be a shepherd to a flock of dumb sheep webmasters"

Are they not called cuttletts?

November 28, 2006 - 2:52pm

We run dating sites. All our users want to do is search for and find people to date. I seriously doubt most of our users would want to read any added value content we stick on there or care about its quality. If we put interesting stuff on there we may get more visitors to the site who come for the sole purpose of reading the content, but would those readers necessarily convert and justify the money spent on creating that content? Doubtful. Would a user who failed to find a date on the site for a long period of time keep paying us money because there's some kind of free blog on there? Doubtful. From a business point of view, the only reason to put stuff there is for the ranking. We just need to put stuff on there that looks like it could be of interest to our customers, even though we know most of them would come to our site quite happily anyway and get what they want out of it regardless.

I think Google has a very traditionalist view of what web users need or want, which is often at odds with reality.

November 28, 2006 - 4:09pm

I agree with Shimrit - that each site should be a one-stop shop for their niche (purchasing + articles covering every aspect) isn't necessarily what is best for the customers. That is the same kind of thinking that caused some people to think that online shopping malls are a great idea... when the Internet already IS an online shopping mall.

Right now it seems that a site has to have an absolutely incredible USP to escape the bias against tons of content unless they want to start mashing it together and reorganizing existing content from elsewhere on the web. If the latter is the case, then we just end up cluttering the Internet w/ redundancy to make it more useful?

November 28, 2006 - 5:08pm

Yes. This whole "content is king" thing probably owes a lot to the fact that Google's idea of what makes a site "relevant" is sometimes more to do with the limitations of the spider than with actual relevance to the user.
Going back to my industry, is a dating site less relevant to someone searching for a date because there isn't a company blog on that site?

November 28, 2006 - 5:32pm

Disinformation has always been at the heart of SEO. Especially in the Altavista days when SEO was just a case of text and meta keyword density. It used to make it hard for just anyone to become an SEO and made the incrowd special. That's why there still is so much crap on the internet about possible algorithm aspects.

And now it is spreading to SEA. Adwords says it uses some secret formula that claims to detect "quality". Although Google can use it to increase the bidprices, it will also help good SEO's to become good SEA's. We are experts on letting Google think we have quality content, so the need for our services is growing.

Influencing your clickthrough rate and the relevance of ad and landing page can save you half your Adwords budget (or you can get double the clicks). So I think a good thing to increase the importance of the so called "quality score", as long as I am benefiting from it!

November 28, 2006 - 11:12pm

The printing press is the perfect (and amazingly ironic) example to give in respect to disruptive technology, since that's what the printing press originally, was -- amazingly disruptive technology which allowed for the first time the layman to take a book of prayer in his hands and read it in his own tongue.

If 'blogging is the future, then artists aren't we all...

November 29, 2006 - 6:48am

Well, it may be a 'white lie' for you, if they don't tell you what they want, eh?

The thing is, you need to put effort into building value to your visitors in every aspect of your [online] business:
- when you create a product
- when you develop a website
- when you promote the product

When you dissect what you have to offer to small bits, you'll need to apply the principle of providing value to it. It is hard work, but it is worth it.

Azhar Malik
November 29, 2006 - 9:07am

So google wants quality (or just ) content, and as Shimrit pointed out we are here to give it to them in exchange for higher rankings. Regardless of if the users are ever going to bother with it.

The question is how do we achieve higher converstions and best use of our traffic while dancing to google's tune without skipping a beat. We have been playing with some relatively inexpensive web analytic tools for our clients ( and by using heatmap functionality we have moved the junk that google so much desired to places where it almost nearly does not matter. That helped us increase our conversion and oh so important TRUST Factor with ad words ;-).

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