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Social Media to kill Google’s search algorithm?

Thursday, 25 October 2007 — by

With the recent round of updates to Google’s PageRank, some of the more notable venues on the web have taken a sizable hit in their rankings. And while Google has left it to those affected to speculate, I suspect it’s Google’s way of trying to suppress and then kill off a web trend they can neither full control or monetize…

When websites and ‘blogs like Copyblogger, ProBlogger and even Forbes take a kickin’ for not fully adhering to Google’s law-like guidelines, you know something’s not quite right.

Yes, we can accept that even the big boys slip up once in a while, but the list of big ticket websites and ‘blogs to be dealt a bad hand by Google is just too many and too notable to be the byproduct of Google’s hopefully and supposed even-handed metering out of their web law.

I suspected as much recently when Google’s clumsy update to their search algorithm looked suspiciously like a very public doff of their cap to the media moguls, and a slap in the face of the 99.999% of the businesses in the world.

The same businesses who are now tumbling across this decidedly uneven playing field we call the Google SERP (Search Engine Results Page), not quite sure what’s the best policy for their search strategy.

Google running scared from Social Media

Google isn’t so much penalizing Copyblogger, ProBlogger, Forbes et al; they’re trying to stave off Social Media. Why? Because while people like you & me are finding stuff on Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and del.icio.us, we’re not searching for stuff on Google — and that attacks at the very heart of Google’s revenues.

Instead of ‘Googling’ for something, we find stuff being sent to us as emails from friends, in our profiles, in a friends’ lists of favourites, or any number of user-generated websites, ‘blogs, RSS feeds, Social Networks and Social Media portals.

While we’re busying ourselves voting and commenting on this stuff, we’re not using Google’s search algorithm, and we’re not clicking on Sponsored Links, either.

As an example of Google totally dropping the ball, they’ve let Microsoft buy a stake in Facebook — the very worst case scenario realized.

So when Google went toe-to-toe with Microsoft over Facebook, Google blinked first. And with respect to Facebook, Google had much more to gain than Microsoft had to lose:

“If you’re looking at this from Google’s perspective, Facebook has the bigger social footprint, when compared to their Orkut. And for Microsoft, it’s maybe a chance to wrong-foot Google and snatch an important player in the nascent Social Network market, seen from a business perspective … So there’s obviously a good, solid business angle to all of this Social Networking malarky. As you can image, the prize for Microsoft is to interweave the Social Networking hooks & barbs of Facebook into their enterprise offerings.”

A chance missed for Google and Social Media

Let’s face it, it’s not like Google hasn’t had the chance to make Social Media their own. With their tool bar, Google could have quite easily been where StumbleUpon is right now:

“When I look at what StumbleUpon is doing, I see a missed opportunity for Google, who have much the same infrastructure in place (i.e.: a tool bar), but with a much, much bigger audience. Problem is, Google just don’t get social media at all. And rather than consolidate their own search assets, they’ve effectively given over to a third party to add the real value…”

If I’m right, Google has compounded their missed opportunity with Social Media by letting their company politics seep into their PageRank update.

If that’s the case, not only does Google lose a huge amount of face and standing, they could possibly cede control of the chance to make Social Media a genuine part of their business, which will not serve them well over the next 5 years…

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Shana Albert → Friday, 26 October 2007 @ 1:44 BDT

Hey Wayne,

I think you hit the nail on the head with this post. This is what I thought from the moment that big time blogs were being kicked down with the Google PR update. Google is a bit freaked out by Social Media and it’s not sure what to do at the moment. However, I don’t see Social Media going away anytime soon, so Google’s going to need to learn how to adapt and move on.

Another great post, Wayne!!

Shana Albert

fantomaster → Friday, 26 October 2007 @ 2:33 BDT

You’re spot on with this analysis IMV. Instead of riding the social media wave gracefully, Google is merely resorting to the clumsiest techniques of social engineering – vide their FUD tactics blackballing “paid links”, vide their essentially flunked Orkut venture (did I here someone whisper “Brazil”? LOL), their failure to capture a substantial slice of Facebook, and now – their essentially abusing the toolbar PR display as a kind of text messenger to sites selling links. They must either be despairing over at the ‘Plex, or they’re so full of themselves that they’ve lost all tangible contact with the real world. And yeah, possibly both…
From our own limited experience I can only underline what you’re saying about their actually having to fear social networks. We ran a few low scale tests the past weeks to determine achievable targeted traffic volumes via social networks and the classical search engines. The result? Social networks (and here: only a minute fraction of what’s available out there) won by 9.5:1 every single time…

Wayne Smallman → Friday, 26 October 2007 @ 9:16 BDT

Hi Shana, great to hear from you! It’s been a while .. again!

It’s clear that Google aren’t just going to vanish any time soon, but if I am right about their lack of Social Media smarts, then Google really need to buck their ideas up.

Hi Ralph? / Dirk? (see, I do my research) And thanks for the comment and taking the time to read my article.

It’s good to see that you’re making the most of social media, which is certainly a strong source of traffic these days than search.

However, social media ‘hits’ are often sudden bursts of traffic while organic search traffic is long-term.

To help qualify my thoughts on Google’s total mishandling of Social Media, Aaron Wall outlines how Google like to penalize social media marketing efforts, which makes for enlightening if worrying reading…

Lyndon Antcliff → Friday, 26 October 2007 @ 11:26 BDT

One of the best posts I have read today. The impact of social media is only now becoming apparent, it could be that Google is starting to get worried. It’s amazing how fast things can happen.

Wayne Smallman → Friday, 26 October 2007 @ 11:43 BDT

Hi Lyndon, now I know I’ve seen you before. I’ve definitely seen you on StumbleUpon a time or two, that’s for sure.

So thanks for the comment and a further thanks for compliment, too!

Linda Jenkinson → Saturday, 27 October 2007 @ 13:06 BDT

As Shana said, I think you have hit the nail on the head with this post… and thanks for including the resource reading. That’s something I wish we would all see more of. No matter what Google says, I think it gives your blog more authority!

Wayne Smallman → Saturday, 27 October 2007 @ 15:50 BDT

Hi Linda, I’m glad you agree. And thanks for commenting, too.

I’ll probably catch you on the Blog Experiment sometime soon…

Wayne Smallman → Thursday, 8 November 2007 @ 11:57 BDT

Please note: due to a gross misuse of the very liberal commenting policy I’ve employed here on Blah, Blah! Technology, their comments and mine have been removed.

I made several strenuous — if at times sarcastic — attempts to explain in clear terms the issues at hand, as well as fully answering their points. But in the end, their intent was nothing more than a puerile attempt to foment a pointless war of words, which I find singularly disgusting.

Thus, commenting on this article has been suspended for the time being.

If you have any legitimate comments you would like adding this article, please contact me — leaving your name, email and an appropriate web link and I will look into the matter…

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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