Okay, TechCrunch publishes an anonymous article calling for the regulation of SEO and SEM aimed squarely at the monopoly that is Google.
The hue and cry is being heard around the world, mainly through comments being posted on Twitter. But is the article really just a way for TechCrunch to do a test of Twitter traffic and its impact on link building, and ultimately on Google's search algorithm?
Our industry has weighed in on this article as if it were another installment of Dave Pasternak's annual controversial traffic generators. But what is it saying and what will this article achieve?
As many of the comments on the article have stated, an anonymous post about transparency is an oxymoron -- you can't tell the search engines to be open when writing without accrediting the author. This is not some revolutionary tract aimed at overthrowing the British, written anonymously for fear of being shot. Even Google does not retaliate against those that criticize them -- I have not been shot, and I give them grief all the time.
There are two paths to look at involving this article: the information it contains, and the motivation behind TechCrunch publishing it.
Let's look at the information first. Using anecdotes of countries and companies controlling access is really distracting -- at first I did not know if this was discussing Google's different country based search or the company as a whole. Google is a multinational conglomerate -- a huge corporation that operates in every country on the planet because of its internet existence.
Google is not the only search engine -- but they are the big dog when it comes to being a gatekeeper of where and how people find information online. We recommended them, we helped make them the most popular source of information on the web. And now we are bitching about it because they were smart enough to monetize it and we are now at the mercy of any change they decide to make.
Yes, we really can't go anywhere else -- they have the searchers we're trying to reach. But you can't complain when a company does its job too well. Asking for someone to come in and regulate it now is like wanting to take your ball back because you are not getting everyone to pass it to you during a game.
Funny how I do not see the industry shouting from the roof tops that Bing or Wolfram/Alpha is a great search engine that makes searching easier or more accurate. The only way the market share will shift is if people evangelize other search engines -- and that means a lot of people.
I have suffered through the changes just like everyone else, and could add several to the list in the article. But sadly, yet realistically, we have to adapt to these changes.
Countries can stop you from entering based on any rules they want. Companies have the right to refuse service, change their prices, the layout of their stores, what products they offer and promote etc. etc. etc. At least that is the case in democratic, free countries.
Getting the government to force Google to show everything will -- as the comments to the article express in the majority -- allow the people with deep pockets to just grab even more of the prime positions.
Do the big spenders at AdWords get preferential treatment? Yes -- and I know that from personal experience. When I was spending over a million dollars a month with AdWords, I got all kinds of help -- including advice on SEO.
Mr. Anonymous, you really lost me at this statement. "It's now conventional wisdom that search engine optimization, representing the organic result sets on any search query, is more voodoo than science."
Sounds exactly like Dave Pasternak. And when it was bandied about two years ago there were some great replies. Barry Schwartz's counter was good, as was Aaron Shear's reply about C execs thinking SEO was voodoo.
So beyond the basic complaint that many of us have about Google's position as gatekeeper of information, let's look at the second point.
What has motivated this article's publication at TechCrunch?
Apart from the huge amount of traffic it is now getting through Twitter and everywhere else, could it be a test of social media traffic? Or is it a clever way to grab links?
TechCrunch has lost a lot of its traffic from search engines, if you can believe Alexa numbers.
Since 2008, it appears TechCrunch has lost almost 50% of its search traffic numbers. Have the algorithm changes finally impacted them, and this is a case of sour grapes? (I am sure that will get some reaction).
Interestingly, TechCrunch does not seem to have been impacted if you look at pageviews. Quite the contrary: they have increased even while getting less search traffic.
So where is all this new traffic coming from? I wonder why this was not added to the post? How to grow numbers despite dropping search traffic would be a much more interesting piece. But that one may not get the huge spike in traffic this one is getting right now.
Michael Arrington is a sharp guy. Like Guy Kawasaki and Jason Calacanis, he recognizes the power of Twitter and has jumped on it as a new source of large amounts of traffic.
So what are we to infer from all this? I don't have a definitive answer, but I'm hoping TechCrunch is running a test of social media, and Twitter in particular. I hope that I will soon see the definitive article on the power of retweets and the global wave of viral social marketing.
I really am hoping this was not a ploy to garner a huge number of links. Either way, you are getting them Michael, and I will watch closely how those search numbers over at Alexa are influenced. Could there be a huge jump in the next few months and get you back where you were a year ago?
Now that would be a clever play. Increased traffic from Twitter -- no doubt getting huge followers today -- and a return to the larger numbers from search would be one hell of a trick. Almost worthy of a Voodoo priest!