The Moral Authority of a Search Engine

John Andrews highlights the fallacy of "make good content"

If we follow this “make good content” path eventually the search engines will fail to deliver meaningful search results, either because of the excessive noise or because they enjoy such a monopoly they find market exploitation irresistably more rewarding. At that point the White Hat SEOs won’t know what to do anymore, and the creators/artists will refuse to work for the nickels offered. The web will become the cesspool Google says it already is.

So much is lost in the attention whoring that is claimed to be professional SEO that less than 1 in 100 "professionals" understand the above and are willing to think it through to its end.

Using critical thinking skills does not make one a terrorist or a black hat individual. We are not the ones promoting infidelity (as Google has done for years).

Published: November 20, 2008 by Aaron Wall in marketing


November 20, 2008 - 2:55pm

This is certainly true in social media.

The reality is that most social media sites (I won't name any names so as to protect the guilty) have a certain threshold number of votes that is required to get a significant viewership... To get enough viewers to start a cycle of getting more votes, getting more viewers, and getting a noticeable amount of traffic in the end.

"Good content" alone won't succeed in this environment. You need an edge.

A friend of mine used social media operations to accelerate the growth of a blog. He gathered more RSS subscribers in two months than many better bloggers do in two years. After a few months of posting sporadically, there's enough organic search traffic that the occasional social media spikes don't look so big any more.


November 20, 2008 - 2:59pm

Much as I hate to, I have to concur with many of Andrews' thoughts. As a formerly staunch white-hat, it is points like this that have made me see the fallacy of believing that quality uber alles wins... However, the "noise" he says that will be created by a glut of quality content is a better option than the noise created by auto-gen blogs, right? NOTHING I hate more than clicking into something that looks like no human being ever even looked at it.
And I will say too, that it is quality content on this blog that brings me back to see what's going on...not any other reason at all. Quality comments, insight, and passion are what drew me into this site - not a high SERP result. Same goes for the other sites and blogs I visit regularly. So how does that figure into this rather "gray" perspective?
I think the better answer is create the quality content first, then do whatever you need to do to make it reach the audiences you need. I like Andrews referring to it as "competitive webmastering" and it makes perfect sense.
Thanks for hipping me to this perspective, Aaron.

November 20, 2008 - 3:19pm

However, the "noise" he says that will be created by a glut of quality content is a better option than the noise created by auto-gen blogs, right?

Sure semi-legible content from people writing about topics they do not know about is generally better than what automated spam generators crank out, but much of the "quality content" being produced should not be described using the word "quality."

November 21, 2008 - 1:27am

There will probably come a time when automated software available to the masses will surpass the average blog in quality of content. The singularity of spam, not exactly a consciousness, but a big money maker for Google which gobbles up spam and spits out ads like mustard.

November 21, 2008 - 1:53am

I have seen automated blogs get a bunch of links and feed readers, and I think about 2 years ago Graywolf mentioned that a Technorati top blog linked at an autogenerated site.

November 20, 2008 - 2:59pm

I have been thinking of some great headlines recently to help display this similar message. Take it from someone who competes with noise every day. Although, unique content is king, it certainly does NOT hold enough quality today to get you where you need to be.

And even worse, because everyone is now link stingy, because they are so informed of its power they refuse to link naturally. Everyone now wants compensation for a petty link, even if you spent hours among hours developing content on a consistent basis.

You can be king of content in your own arena, but that doesn't mean you will be king.

November 20, 2008 - 7:00pm

IBM started seriously working with Mashup technology a few years ago. Google has been as well, obviously with G News but also elsewhere. Now Yahoo! has GLUE

Keep making more content, so search engines can pick and choose what to show the real users, while your web sites are relegated to the sewer (and the sewer rats... eventually your only audience).

Daniel Durick
November 20, 2008 - 9:12pm

We can see this already. Strange articles/stories that are unrelated to the query come up often enough as it is. It's not good for the search engine (meaningful search results) but it's not good for the sites either if their "good content" is actually missing the mark.

November 21, 2008 - 1:20am

I am sure that Google benefits from fuzziness in search. To elaborate, making search results somewhat less relevant increases click through ratio for ads. I believe that this will continue until Google is challenged both in relevance and in the ability to gain marketshare. It will be interesting to see what happens to pay per click as the economy continues to fall. I believe that initially pay per click will benefit but as things become much worse, such as hyperinflation in the further collapse of the dollar, that pay per click will begin to suffer.

November 21, 2008 - 3:19am

hmmmm...while I do agree with some of the ideas being put forth by you and John, something tells me that everyone's opinion is possibly being skewed a bit by the fact that they/we work in the space.

I need to think this through a bit more before coming to any conclusions.

If nothing else, this opinion and John's original post are worthwhile because they are thought provoking.

What I'm really curious to see, however, is what will rank better for the term "make good content"; John's original post or your post which rehashes the original ; )

November 21, 2008 - 5:48am

I just wanted to rank for "feed the machine." :)

November 21, 2008 - 1:40pm


That's probably got decent traffic runoff from people that forget the name of Pink Floyd's song "Welcome to the Machine"

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