It was incredible. A comment on a blog post about search engine rankings said something like this:
(paraphrase) Google is broke. They spent too much time trying to make themselves the best search engine and employed a strategy of secrecy about what their algorithm entailed. That killed them.
When you’re done picking yourself up off the floor, consider this: That is not an unpopular opinion.
It’s true. This anti-Google bias is all over the place. For some reason, some SEOs have decided that Google is broke because the search engine sets its own rules. Secrecy and excellence killed it. Funny, huh?
I paraphrased the quote to save face with the blogger on whose blog the quote appears and with the commentator as well. No need to embarrass any one just to make a point. But it does deserve a carefully thought out response.
Here it is (somewhat carefully): Google isn’t broke. Google is secretive about its algorithms (as all the search engines are) because they don’t want people gaming them for personal and monetary gain at the expense of relevant search results. This already happening, you say? I agree; but imagine how much more so it would be happening if everyone in the world knew every bit about how those algorithms worked. My bet is you’d never see a relevant result.
It’s true that Google isn’t perfect. None of the search engines are perfect. But the reason Google holds the majority of the search market is because it has proven itself to be more accurate than the other search engines more often.
Google was an innovator at a time when no one dominated search. They were able to develop an algorithm that proved successful in delivering relevant results most of the time. That made a lot of people happy. In the excitement, Google grew. Webmasters began running tests on all the search engines to see which search engines were good at measuring certain ranking factors. Through these experiments, the search engine optimization field was developed, people began sharing their findings, and some of those people were able to demonstrate that they could achieve top results in Google time and time again by employing certain techniques. They, in essence, discovered the secrets to Google’s algorithms.
This didn’t sit well with Google execs so they changed their algorithms. It didn’t matter. The SEO gurus figured them out again. Google responded with other changes. More tests were run and the same guys were able to beat them. And this game continued, and still continues, and will likely always continue. Some of those SEO gurus are not bad people, though Google would prefer that no one learn the secret to their algorithms and just focus on creating content. But that won’t happen.
What has killed Google results – admittedly, Google’s accuracy rating has slid – is that some of the SEO gurus not really playing fair. It always happens in any business where people are free to research, create, build, and do what they do best. Some people use their skills for good and some for not-so-good pursuits. The bad SEOs began spamming the search engines and exploiting the algorithms for uncanny gain. That’s not Google’s fault. It just happened.
I believe Google is trying hard to fix the problems it has, but they really are fighting an uphill battle. The reason for secrecy to begin with was to prevent the kind of situation we have right now. If the search results at Google have declined in relevance and accuracy it’s because spammers – not Google – have broke the system. There are too many of them and they are too good at it. Couple that with the fact that Google only has so many resources at their disposal to combat the spam and you have a decline in SERP values. The bright side is that Google is still trying to fight the spam and will never give up.