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Monday, March 19, 2012

Build it as if they will come

Building something though people may not immediately attend? Karlskirche in Vienna by night

Last Friday, Search Engine Journal transcribed part of Matt Cutts' talk which pre-announced changes to Googlebot that will address "overly optimized" content:
What about the people optimizing really hard and doing a lot of SEO. We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, like too many keywords on a page, or exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect. We have several engineers on my team working on this right now.
First, it's my impression that although Cutts does say he was lacking for a better term, 1) if anything were "overly" optimized it would no longer BE optimized and 2) "great" is a pretty subjective label to apply to most things, web content included.

Then, it occurs to me that concocting text that contains what people (and Bots) perceive as "excessive" presence of keywords - be they the targeted ones or semantically related ones - would be another form of keyword stuffing, a long-acknowledged "black hat" measure when this is implemented in meta data. Or as I should have written before, an "unnatural" level of frequency with which certain terms is used (rather than incorporating variants and "mixing it up" so to speak) reflects writing with the aim to use Machine Translation more often than not, in order to localize texts more affordably.

The author of the afore-linked article in SEJ speculates that correlative factors such as number of shares and amount of (presumably positive?) interaction as evidenced by comments and discussions pertaining to a page will help to enable this "smarter" GoogleBot incarnation. While this may well be the case, I'm left with the sense that sound content creation practices, as they should always cater to the (human) audience, will sooner or later enable accurate search engine indexing. That is, with time search bots will all process language more naturally and they aim to mimic human comprehension and reaction - so craft one's text with one's intended readership firmly in mind, and the categorizing will (should) follow.

As an aside, I am trying to associate some of my personal photos with subsequent blog entries for a couple of reasons, although I shall readily admit that some of the links will be quite tenuous. Which in light of standard SEO practice (associating semantically relevant images with alternate text that reinforces the theme of the text), is humourously ironic.

In this case, the pictured Karlskirche (St. Charles's Church) was built for the patron saint of the healer of plagues, a year after the end of an epidemic. In other words, the population was significantly depleted from this period - yet, the church was still built in quite an opulent and triumphant style. One could say even that although the city was still in recovery, it anticipated imminent popularity with optimism and foresight. And indeed, it's a well visited tourist landmark today (I pass it often as well, since it's in my neighbourhood). So too, one may hope that curators of web presences aspire to achieve acclaim and publish well-loved content.

About Mayo

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Professional: As "Senior Enterprise SEO Strategist" in IBM's Digital Marketing division, I provide consulting and training services for both internal and external clients. Formerly I was involved in Natural Language Processing, software localization, quality assurance and documentation authoring.
Personal: INTJ Nikkei Nisei ex-patriated Canadian who takes photographs and enjoys Baroque through late Classical music. The G+ page shares some of the "best of" photos.