Monday, June 20, 2011


SEO Priests, beware!
Google knows where you live.
For some nerdy reason (and I think it was Jean Jacques Rousseau who said--in French, of course--that nerds have reasons that reason knows not of), I've been following a lot of online discussion in the SEO (search engine optimization) community about the new Google search algorithm called Panda. They hate it. For one thing, it attempts to undermine all of their little search engine gaming tricks, like links to lots of other sites, repetitive keywords, meta-tag subterfuge, and some really arcane things that none of us lowly carbon-based lifeforms can fathom. Panda's a revolution. And if you you believe these Old World Chicken Littles, it is upsetting everything the orange-fingered clergy of SEO know about how to make a website turn up at the front of the line, regardless of whether it's what you were were actually looking for.

Now I'm not going to even pretend to understand this debate. I'm a writer, a branding guy, not a programmer. All I know is that for the past several years I've been having to suppress everything I know about good writing and persuasion in the interests of making sure my "content" has enough buzzwords to make a search engine salivate--mostly at the cost of fun--or interest. But from what I can understand, what Google has done is to finally make an algorithm that comes closer to how actual human beings would prefer to browse for something, instead of how a robot would. The implications are, for me, wonderful. It means that the search engine is looking for interesting, original, cool content. It gives greater weight to well-known brands and trusted sites. It ignores sites with lots of ads and stupid links to nowhere. It requires that the content be relevant and well-written.Yippee! Or maybe, Yahoo!

One SEO blogger lamented that Panda is unfair because it means that big, well-known brands will have an advantage over small, start-up companies. So? An old colleague of mine, Amanda Mailey, used  to say, "The best keyword is a strong brand name." That's the way it should be. And Panda, by its quirky mathematics, looks to make that true again. It means that there are no wise-guy, programming shortcuts to racing to the top of a search list; you're going to have to do it the old fashioned way, by building a strong, well-known brand. And do it creatively.

What Panda promises is that we are getting closer to a time when the web is more human. A website will be more visible because a lot of people find it interesting or entertaining, not because it's been "gamed" to make it pop up at the front of a search query. And for those of us who long for the days when creativity and entertainment ruled branding, Panda is our friend. Anything that overthrows the Lords of SEO is our friend.

At least that's what this Luddite thinks. I probably don't understand it at all.


  1. I have been hearing rumblings about this. What have you seen or heard about these changes and how Google feels about flash on websites? I had heard that flash was going by the wayside because Google frowns upon it. Whatdya think?

  2. I'm only aware of the feud between Steve Jobs and Adobe, which is why you can't see Flash-based sites on the iPad or iPhone, which benefits nobody but Steve Jobs' spite. I'm not aware of a similar prejudice against Flash from Google, other than it's been historically hard for content in Flash to show up in a search.