Many broken belief systems that exist do so because of a misinformed understanding of how the world works through naive idealism, with various special interests paying to syndicate misinformation that coincides with their current business model to foster culturally constructed ignorance - agnotology.
It is not a bubble. This time is different. The internet changes everything
And then of course we had "Real estate always goes up!"
Who was behind that lie? The bankers, the mortgage brokers, the Realtors, bond raters, hedge funds, construction companies, media running real estate ads, local government tax revenues, current home owners who kept seeing their "savings" go up while doing nothing. Some of those people did not intentionally aim to be deceitful, they just believed a convenient lie that fit with their worldview.
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it" - Upton Sinclair.
Fraud vs the Stuff Bankers do
And so the bubble grew until one day the fraud was so integrated into society that there was simply nobody left to sell to.
Then the bottom fell out.
The rule of law was SELECTIVELY & arbitrarily enforced against a few, even while companies that made sworn statements admitting to doing literally millions of times more damage were not penalized, but rather bailed out / promoted.
“In mid-2006, I discovered that over 60 percent of these mortgages purchased and sold were defective,” [Citibank's] Bowen testified on April 7 before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission created by Congress. “Defective mortgages increased during 2007 to over 80 percent of production.”
The rule of law only applies to those who lack the resources needed to subvert it. Socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest!
Wachovia was a strong brand. A true pioneer and market leader in the drug money game, which funneled over 1/3 TRILLION Dollars onto the hands of drug dealers. For the crime they got a slap on the wrist. there was no bonus clawbacks. There was no jailtime. There was no honest attempt at the rule of law.
Online, Just Like Offline
The same is true online. Those who exhibit desirable characteristics are promoted & those who do not fit such a frame are left to fight amongst other losers in the market.
"we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side." - Matt Cutts
Create an Itch
For a marketer to say what is old and steady and boring is effective is not a way to be perceived as relevant (that old coot is still stuck in '97!)
Being grounded is not a way to get positive headlines. Saying that the web is becoming just like the fraud laced offline world would be considered in poor taste. You have to sell something new...to try to push to inspire, achieve, gain hope, etc.
If you manufacture evidence that your LinkedIn votes are directly tied to better Google rankings then outsiders who are unaware of the workings of your industry may syndicate that misinformation. Even if you run a public experiment that fails it still shows you are trying new things (are cutting edge), and is a low cost branding exercise. Just like how MLM folks say you can get rich by using the same system they used to get rich. Everyone wants to sell a life worth living, even if they are not living that life, but rather sentenced to life in prison.
Pushing the Boundaries
Most profitable belief systems sell into an existing worldview but with a new hook on it. Most new marketing approaches are all about pushing the boundaries of what exists, probing to find the edges. Some people do it on the legal front, others probe on the ethical front, and yet others are just more creative & try to win by using technologies in unique ways. If you never fall off a cliff and never have any hate spewed your way then you are likely a bland marketer who hasn't done very much.
Google is in the press almost every week, aiming to stretch the boundaries on trademark, copyright, privacy, and so on.
I was lucky enough to chat with Larry one-to- one about his expectations for Google back in 2002. He laid out far-reaching views that had nothing to do with short-term revenue goals, but raised questions about how Google would anticipate the day sensors and memory became so cheap that individuals would record every moment of their lives. He wondered how Google could become like a better version of the RIAA - not just a mediator of digital music licensing - but a marketplace for fair distribution of all forms of digitized content.
Google is seen as an amazing company that does a limitless amount of good for the world. Yet the are up for anti-trust review and carry ad categories for "get rich quick." Google massages how they are viewed. Anytime something bad happens to their brand you can count on a new invention or an in-depth story of a rouge spammer getting torched by "justice."
For a company that is so good at manipulating outside rules & guidelines, they really lean hard on the arbitrary guidelines they create.
Foundational Marketing vs Public Relations Spin
The web is constantly shifting. Mailing lists, email newsletters, blogs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter, Color, etc. Most of the core infrastructural stuff is boring. But it is essential. If you don't understand email marketing or newsletters you can't create Groupon.
It is the new stuff with some sort of twist that earns the ink, which drives the perceived value, which earns the ink, which builds the actual value. But most people can't tell the difference between real innovation and public relations fluff. And so after a series of failures and burning millions of Dollars of capital it is time to pivot again. Anything to be seen as new and/or relevant.
If you manufacture evidence that your new strategy is better than Google then outsiders who are unaware of the workings of your industry may syndicate that misinformation. Even if you run a public experiment that fails it still shows you are trying new things (are cutting edge), and is a low cost branding exercise.
Sounds familiar, right?
History keeps repeating itself.
Algorithmic Fallout vs Spam
The perfect algorithm is something that does not exist.
Every choice has winners and losers. No matter what happens to the network & how the algorithms evolve people will find ways to exploit them. Many of Google's biggest holes were caused by Google patching old holes.
Which is precisely why Google leans so hard on public relations & shaping market behavior.
It is not the fault of the search engineer when something goes astray, but rather an evil exploitative spammer (even when Google's AdSense is the revenue engine driving the project).
Clean Your ____ Up!
Thinking back to the content farm update (which was never called the content farm update, because it impacted a wide array of websites) the main message that came out of it is that "Google can determine content quality" and "you better increase your content quality." Webmasters who heard that message were stuck in a tough situation if they had hundreds of thousands or millions of pages indexed in Google. How exactly do you *profitably* increase the quality of millions of pages, even while your site is torched to the ground, revenues are off over 50%, and the timetable + certainty for the solution are both unknowns? In many cases it would be cheaper to start from scratch than to repair the broken mess & deal with all the known unknowns.
Based on Google's advice many webmasters decided that as part of their strategy they would improve the quality of some of their best pages & then have a look at some of their worst content sections and try to block and/or remove them from Google. That sounds pretty logical! In response to that overly-logical approach to problem solving, Matt Cutts wrote the following:
What I would not recommend is sending tons (as in, thousands or even tens of thousands) of individual url removal requests to the url removal tool. And I would definitely not recommend making lots (as in, dozens or even more) of Webmaster Central accounts just to remove your own urls. If we see that happening to a point that we consider excessive or abusive, we reserve the right to look at those requests and responding by e.g. broadening, cancelling, or narrowing the requests.
So here you are trying to comply with Google's latest algorithmic approach (after they already torched your website once) and they have to give you another "or else."
Why The SEO Consultant Will NEVER Go Away
It would be nice to know what pages Google thinks are of low quality, but they don't say. It would be nice to know what pages are indexed in Google, but even official data given in Google Webmaster Tools varies widely over time, let alone the data which is shared publicly.
Further, some sites, like forums, are hard to edit to please Google without potentially destroying the flow of the community and enraging the community. Should sites have to delete or de-index their water cooler area because of Google?
What about the pages that GoogleBot arbitrarily creates by putting keywords into search boxes and generating pages that the site owner may not even know are indexed?
The reason so many webmasters are forced to rely on external search advice is that Google's desire to not be manipulated is so strong that they frequently appear dishonest & not worthy of trust. They speak vaguely, distort, and change the numbers as needed to fit the vision. Saying "in an ideal world" doesn't make that ideal world appear. And people don't trust folks like Donald Rumsfeld - at least smart people don't.
And that is why the SEO market will never die.
As for the web, it is still teething. We are most alike in the areas where we are vulgar & we are most unique the areas in which we are refined. Ultimately what happens as Google becomes more corporate is that Google becomes a boring shopping mall.
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