A great piece in the NYT about SEO and how it gets gamed – in this case, by JC Penney. And about the constant war between Google and “black-hat” search optimization techniques. This shouldn’t come as any surprise, of course, although it’s a well-told tale that gives some nice insights into the struggle to be found by Google.
But more importantly, it’s a reminder that for all of the magic that seems to happen whenever you type in a query in that Google box, it is just an algorithm – not a mystical experience. And that while it’s a great algorithm, it’s in an arms race against a multitude of people – and it may not always win, or even win in the long run.
So if we’re building a business based on SEO – as some people suggest the Huffington Post does – it’s important to remember that it may not be a forever thing. (And indeed, there’s lots of evidence to suggest that social networks are driving a large chunk of readers to news sites. And that may be harder to game. )
I’m not suggesting, of course, that it’s unimportant to be noticed on Google or other search engines, or that you should be invisible on social networks. Only that strategies based on ad revenues based on high traffic driven by SEO are always going to be in a state of flux as the algorithm evolves. And that while it’s an important marketing tool, it may be better to figure out ways to build a more committed audience that you can charge/earn revenues from, beyond CPMs on traffic.