Google Didn’t Listen To Seth 18 Months Ago

I have spent the morning watching a number of contrasting videos which in some ways suggest that Google may have jumped the shark, and I don’t fully agree with any of them.
The Seth Godin Video is interesting, because he was telling Google what to do 18 months ago.

Seth Godin Speaks to Google

In this video Seth Godin is insightful, and explains to a bunch of Googlers all about Purple Cows and Flipping the Funnel on its side and embracing buzz marketing.

The concepts are sage advice, however there is one major pitfall.

If the perfect way to market a product is to flip the funnel on its side to become a megaphone, as Seth describes “The fashion permission complex”, then Google is in trouble, because they can’t currently charge for it, and they are constantly denouncing companies like PayPerPost who can make money from buzz marketing.
Google attacks PayPerPost mainly because PayPerPost potentially has the ability to disturb the link balance their algorithms place on the fabric of the internet.

The same is true for PR firms and almost all marketing, PayPerPost however in many cases is cheaper.

Matt Cutts thinks it is good value to do viral marketing, so you pay a specialist $5000 for a few hours work, and you might be lucky to get 100 links. It is not guaranteed.

With PayPerPost you pay $5000, and in general you will only get writers who have some genuine interest in your product writing about it, just like a PR firm isn’t going to persuade a blog on parenthood to write about the latest database system from Oracle. That might be a bad example, I actually know a few blogs that could do such a review justice, who occasionally talk about parenting as well.
PayPerPost delivers 200-300 people writing about your product, sometimes positive, sometimes negative, but you are guaranteed the buzz.

The biggest problem? This presentation is from February 2006 – PayPerPost didn’t even exist when this presentation was made, and Google didn’t adapt and fill the void that Seth Godin spotted, because it doesn’t fit with Google’s primary source of revenue.

Thanks for posting the timely video Jack, I had seen it before, but things didn’t connect as well as they do now in hindsight.

Robert Scoble Reinvents PageRank?

Robert Scoble posted 3 videos yesterday along with a short blog post he hopes won’t be noticed on Techmeme, so of course it will ;)Social Graph Based Search Parts 1, 2 and 3

I couldn’t work out a way to embed each individual video, so I embedded the full channel and provided links to individual parts.

What Robert is saying is that social networks help create a web of trust in the content people refer to, and thus that will eventually play a pivotal role in how searching for content will work in the future.

He didn’t reference Del.icio.us or StumbleUpon, but those services also in some situations can provide better search results than Google.

Robert seems to be fixated by the idea that Mahalo provides a list of HDTV manufacturers on their search page, and Google doesn’t.

That fact is based upon SEO, and he seems to think the review sites and trusted vendors such as Amazon are bad results.

Robert blames this on SEOs, when in fact it is the fault quite often of the manufacturers having very hard to navigate, poorly optimized sites, that don’t attract natural linkage.

I think it is testament to Google’s algorithms that some review sites do appear above Amazon.

I disagree with Robert that the Mahalo results page is better, what is missing from the Google search is just a suggested search term “HDTV manufacturers” along with the other suggestions.
Most of the Maholo results were taken straight from the top of Google, and many of the remainder are shopping comparison sites and coupon sites = yes it is those dirty SEOs and affiliates at play again.

You still have to count how many clicks you have to perform until you get the information you are looking for, and for all but general browsing, Mahalo doesn’t offer any advantages.

There isn’t even a decent link to something explaining the difference between the various formats and technology, no links to specific self help forums etc.

The Mahalo page is so good that Yahoo doesn’t even pick up any links to it yet.

Networks of Contacts = PageRank

Networks of friends, contacts and who links to and trusts each other is effectively the same as PageRank, and that is proving to be broken and easy to manipulate.

One of the biggest problems is that “Robert Scoble” as an example might have a lot of credibility when talking about mobile phones, or camcorders, but using one of Robert’s examples a while back, he knows nothing about lawnmowers.

Techmeme overcome this by having separate indices for different topical authority, but that only works partially.
Techmeme certainly doesn’t pick up every important technology story, as an example I don’t think the SES discussion on paid links appeared on Techmeme.

Google Has It’s Failing

Google does have it’s failing, but currently Mahalo and various meme and social networks are only offering a subset of the data Google is dealing with, and Google is slowly making changes to the way it’s algorithms work.
Google does take into consideration topical authority to a certain extent – PageRank is only part of the equation, whereas that is effectively all Techmeme and Facebook could offer as an alternative to improve search.

One of the big reasons Facebook doesn’t open up is monetary, they wouldn’t be able to control search, and the income that can produce.

Rand has already responded, Duncan has already responded on Techcrunch, I am sure others will, and this is already on Techmeme.

Muhammad also has some interesting coverage, from a social network point of view, Google still has a number of its own services yet to be integrated.

David Utter on WebProNews also offers some insight into the TV factor – using Facebook takes some effort to get any kind of quality results.

It also seems that Techmeme seems to have developed some very selective results and doesn’t like me any more, or maybe I have to use specific titles for Techmeme to work correctly, something Robert in his video was suggesting isn’t the case.

Dave Winer has also rumbled and thinks Google is on the top rung and will be hard to shift.
Over a 4 year span I don’t think it would be impossible to take a chunk out of Google, as things are moving faster, but Facebook, Techmeme and certainly Mahalo are not the platforms that will do it.

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Comments

  1. Martijn Smit says

    Hey nice site, thnx 4 the information, i can use your blogs 2 optimize my own.

    Keep on blogging :)

    [moderated: unfortunately my site cannot be USED for you to optimize your own, though you could certainly use my information to learn something beyond comment spamming for SEO. Link deleted]

  2. says

    “Networks of friends, contacts and who links to and trusts each other is effectively the same as PageRank, and that is proving to be broken and easy to manipulate.”

    The Social Graph or Trust Fabric is not the same as Page Rank because it is not as accessible or as easily manipulated as Page Rank. See my post on how Yahoo could create an open Social Network of Search Engines for more on why:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/social-graph-search-engines-part-3/

    Scoble is on to a powerful concept. I’ve experienced it first hand and changed my search habits in a way everyone can do:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/08/25/stop-googling-and-search-for-blogs-aka-web-20-to-reduce-spam/

    Just searching blogs instead of Googling is still vulnerable to SEO strategies, but try living with it for a short while and you’ll see how helpful it is to escape the SEO’s at least for a brief respite.

    Cheers!

    BW

    • says

      Bob

      Your “Bobrank” doesn’t work because it doesn’t cover topical authority in any way. Once it does you get closer to Google search algorithms. Add a little natural language processing and you get a little closer still.

      Mahalo already contains links to affiliate sites.

      Facebook you have to work hard to build up a sphere of connections, and then you have to be willing to read their chatter as well. The more contacts you add, the more problems with noise.

      Techmeme as can be seen by their very narrow coverage – if I can’t get on there for a topic so closely related to my blog which is both web2.0 and SEO related, I am not sure how less linked to bloggers ever will.

      I can actually get in Robert Scoble’s linkblog easier than on Techmeme.

      Also if you force people to log in to comment, they just won’t comment. I refuse to create a new WordPress.com account in a different name after being banned for beta testing during the beta test.

  3. says

    I find it ironic that Scoble is impressed with Mahalo because it doesn’t link to Amazon for HDTVs. Yet, it does link to Amazon for Kielbasa!

    The fact is, Mahalo links to affiliate sites. It links to sites that have no content above the fold. The guides overlook dead links when editing. In areas where I am familiar with the subject, the links are rather uninspired.

    So, many of the Mahalo problems people predict will someday occur (due to lack of scalability) exist right now.

    Yes, Google can have shortcomings, but Mahalo as currently implemented is not the solution for search.

    Will other social networks someday beat Google for search? Well, maybe. But someone needs to figure out how to tap the correct social network for the correct information. If you need to find good knitting links & advice, find a knitting social network. (And you need to be sure that group doesn’t get polluted by avid promoters who live to nominate their friends stuff.)

    If a knit store owner wants good SEO information, tapping her social network isn’t going to do much good. That person needs to break out.

    Figuring out how to make the social networks become wonderful for search while then insulating them from gaming is going to be difficult!

    Oh.. this is rambling. I should follow my own advice and figure out what I really mean to say and write a blog post tomorrow! :)

  4. says

    An excellent post. I guess Google is also worried that advertisers may move away from them to companies providing customer generated advertising such as PayPerPost. Their fear is quite justified of course but it’s quite funny considering that PayPerPost advertises on Google.