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SEO, social media, lying, counterfeiting and the truth

March 18th, 2009 by mdmcginnis

Around 1980, a Czech dissident, Radomir Hubalek, published an article at the risk of his freedom, criticizing his Communist government for telling “white lies” in the name of social progress. He compared untruth to counterfeiting: a lie (or a bogus hundred) is only accepted because people think it’s real. He wrote, “A lie cannot live without the very truth it seeks to deny. it is nothing but a parasite living off the truth.” The more counterfeit bills in circulation, the more people will suspect every bill as being counterfeit. In the end, all money will become devalued. Even real money. The more lies that are told by others, the less likely that people will accept anything they say as the truth. Even what you say.


This story has two morals, one for marketers and one for search engine optimizers. Marketers are learning to their horror that most Americans have developed “ad blindness” – if Americans want to know the truth about products, they ignore the ads and turn to their social network. Because some advertisements are lies, all advertisements are treated as lies. Much of the attraction of social media is the hope of finding reliable answers from people you already trust.

Search engine optimizers are learning that trying to get higher rankings than their pages deserve can result in visitors losing confidence in their site. People turn to Google because they want truth. Well, maybe not truth, but accuracy. They want the best answer to their queries. Google desperately wants to give it to them. Tricks are supposedly designed to fool search engines into moving mediocre pages to the top of the search results, but they end up fooling ordinary people like you and I, who just want to know the truth. This type of “black hat SEO” is a form of counterfeiting. Its practitioners argue, “Everybody does it,” but if everybody really did, search engines would have become worthless.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 Search, Social Media
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2 Comments to SEO, social media, lying, counterfeiting and the truth

  1. If Google wants to provide accurate results so badly, why does it bury the most relevant content in many queries?

    It’s not because big bad search optimizers have done something wrong. It’s because Google is cutting corners and putting cheap, easily promoted content at the top of the search results.

    Don’t be so quick to blame the optimizers for the search engines’ inadequacies. The SEO community is only as good as the search engines it has to work with.

    If you don’t like the quality of Google search results, tell THEM. Ask them why they don’t promote the most relevant content for all queries.

  2. Michael Martinez on March 19th, 2009
  3. In my recent career, I’ve been a search optimizer (paid by clients, who usually asked if I could cut corners) and I’ve been a quality rater (paid by Google to flag cheap, easily promoted content). And I’m pretty confident which side is most responsible for poor search results. (Remember I said black hat SEO.) If webmasters wanted relevant results as badly as web searchers, Google’s algorithm could be a lot simpler, because every site would have accurate meta keywords, for example. If there’s any conspiracy, blame the search optimizers who boast of their deception, not the Google PhDs with millions of visitors monitoring their work.

  4. mdmcginnis on March 19th, 2009

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