Canary in the Coal Mine vs Boy Who Cried Wolf

Back in September I posted that I thought it was somewhat sketchy for Google to recommend there photo search when a person searched for Istockphoto and got flamed for it. Recently Blake Ross, the creator of Firefox, said similar. Because of Blake's market position, the exact same story was credible, important, spread, and is something Matt Cutts needed to make multiple blog posts about.

Based on the credibility and market position of an author certain stories may be important, or may be worthless. Even completely true stories may still cut at your credibility if you don't later reference them again to remind the dismissive parties of how their thought process changed over time.

The media is largely owned by conglomerates tied to banks, geared toward selling ads and their business agendas, manipulated every day, but most authorities would like people to blindly trust the media as a representation of truth, even as that same media wraps self serving messages in a self-aggrandizing article that dismisses their competition.

Search is also a topic that is easy to love, but SEO has been painted as a scourge on the web. Any authority or authority based system has to pretend that they hate market manipulators to justify their own legitimacy, market position, and how they got where they are.

SEO is largely based on speculation and predicting market trends that most people do not see, so it is easy to be seen as having little credibility, so long as your brand is focused on SEO, even if you are 100% correct. At least one board member of a major search engine has called me for investing advice, though I guess it would be a bad idea to blog any specifics on that.

It is quite ironic that the main reason this site was worthy of press attention is because I was sued by an unethical business, and I can even get interviews published in the London Times as an expert on Black Hat SEO largely because I own the matching domain. But even after about an hour of talking, showing highlights of how search engines pay for much of the spam, and how they don't stop paying for it even after they catch it, all I could get was a few sweet soundbytes like:

"Who is and who isn't a black hat is dependent on what Google says is black hat," said Wall. "They would certainly class me as a black hat."


And then you remember that stories need to sell ads. To do that they exposure. To do that they have to be controversial. They have to be pitched, sold, and then the matching facts have to be collected. Rarely is there ever enough column space to risk challenging conventional wisdom if you can be controversial and conventional at the same time.

Knowing that the whole polarized black hat vs white hat garbage was going to get more and more self serving press was probably smart marketing, but is it SEO? And, if a site that cost me a half a day and under $100 gets me featured as content in the London Times (with an HTML link) is that efficient marketing?

A year and a half ago I predicted that Google would eventually create an automated commodities trading platform where they could leverage their pure data. Since then Google has leveraged their market position and used predatory pricing to become a large payment processor. Just about anything without a brand will eventually be commoditized by cheaper communications, search, more efficient markets, and other forms of automation that are good enough. Google has already won the web. Don't be surprised if you see Google Checkout offline in 2008.

Published: January 2, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


January 2, 2007 - 2:34pm

I can see my self walking up to the cashier at safeway in 2008.

After she rings up my purchase, she asks if I would like to pay cash or GoogleCard.

Wow that would be weird/scary.

January 2, 2007 - 5:02pm

While I agree that most products and services without recognizable brands run the risk of being commoditized, the flipside to that which must be stated is that any commodity can have a brand created around it, allowing for an increase in price -- just look at what has happened to the bottled water market in the last decade...wowzers!

When it comes to Google's dominance dreams, I think you're right Aaron. I disagree, however, on their ability to execute. They've doubled in size in the last year and are undoubtedly at the point where it is no longer economically feasible nor practical to keep hiring geniuses -- speaking with a couple people in their Adwords departments more or less tells me that they already moved past that point and are at a level of increasing mediocrity. To pull off this massive scale commodities trading platform for an unlimited number of commodities would be immense...hugely immense. However, if they try, they'll probably leave giantic holes in it that will allow for some clever "optimization" from self-misquoted blackhats like yourself. :)


January 2, 2007 - 5:17pm

Hopefully I'll be able to use my implanted GoogleChip to pay ;-)

January 2, 2007 - 5:18pm

I can see where Matt was coming from when he flamed you, but later took another source more seriously. You've been so successful at branding yourself as the master of link bait, that I can easily see people like Matt giving a post from you a cursory look and chalking it up as "baiting Matt" without giving it much thought. I'm more surprised that Matt flamed you than I am surprised that he didn't take you seriously, then later took the same subject seriously because it came from another source. So, yea, the 'Boy Who Chried Wolf' may be a very apt analogy here. No offense intended, at all, on this. I personally have fallen into this trap a few times. When you successfully get people to think about you in one way, it's very difficult to get them to think of you as something else.

January 2, 2007 - 6:30pm

I think maybe it's more to do with the fact that you raised the issue of image search (for which I take Matt's point of it just being a way to make users aware of the fact that you can search for images, although, as he pointed out, it's often poorly targeted) whereas Blake Ross talked about an actual product they are effectively putting on top of the results. You rightly pointed out the next logical stage of development for this, but people were not necessarily going to bite without further evidence.

January 2, 2007 - 9:16pm

I think it is important that you DO bring "forgotten" things like this to the surface again if not simply to remind us that the first person who says the world isn't flat is often the "insane one".

January 2, 2007 - 11:02pm

Aaron you're spot on that credibility / authority drives media hugely and the same story can spread or die dependent on that. The change in response from Cutts may also be indicative of the decaying trust Google has with the industry. Maybe he feels more defensive.

I "woke up" today after a bunch of time off and was reading all about Google's tipping points on techcrunch, from Danny, etc on and on. Of course this has been coming for a long time, much earlier than this post by Nathan Holley in LED (November), but it's worth a look:

and a quote:

Power = corruption it's that simple and we are all witnessing the opening salvo of a growing corrupt power named Google.

Who's so naive that they believe this company won't be evil? How are they any different from any other big business? In the end we've seen this before many times and sadly when it comes to business, ideals are only words on paper. The bottom line drives the decisions.

The entire post is worth a read - it's really about the supplemental index "fiasco" but he uses that to reflect their growing arrogance.

The other side of this of course is that with growing power you grow enemies - people love to tip over tall towers. It just makes walking the line between business and ethics that much more difficult. Danny wrote about that in his recent post about the tips promotion thing:

Small "tips" promoting Google products create a fairly large uproar, almost seeming to be a straw that broke the camels back over growing concerns about Google. Is this the real tipping point where trust is lost? Is it just the latest in a series of tipping points Google overcomes? Or is the real tipping point simply that each of these tipping points in totally reduce the company down into something more ordinary, more typical company like.

January 2, 2007 - 11:55pm

Do you believe that you have lost a bit of credibility with Matt and Google Aaron?

January 3, 2007 - 12:24am

Hi Aaron,

Fascinating article here about the way things work in the world.

I think a lot more could be said (the question is often whether it is worth it or not).

I have some ideas around this topic and would like to talk to you about them and see what you think.

Could you please email me and I will let you know roughly what I am thinking and you can see whether you are interested or not.



January 3, 2007 - 1:33am

I had a similar situation recently. After seeing Blake Ross' post I blogged on the matter as well. Considering my level on the food-chain I received comments such as "who cares" and "you have better things to blog about", yet its getting attention everywhere with much more attention.

Definitely a matter of building credibility & trust before you're taken seriously, even if you are the source of the news.

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