For Google, innovation is not rewarded. You don’t simply rise to the top for being the best at solving problems, you be the best by answering the same question in 14,000+ different, but mostly similar ways.
Why is that, you may ask? It’s because the search engines are in the business of supplying the most correct answer to your search query. So, if I want to rank for “How to Teach a Child to Tie Shoes With This Nifty Rhyme,” then I damn well better have a page that answers that specific query.
What this results in is: Landing Page Proliferation, (otherwise known as “Query Results Plague,” or QRP). Catering to how Google wants answers fragmented to match every query results in landing page proliferation ad nauseum ad infinitum.
Content spammers may have, for a moment, held their heads low. But then the Hummingbird algo came along and fucked things up.
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
- DH Lawrence
That small bird called Hummingbird is a return to QRP by catering to long phrase matching. Their assumption is that spoken search, say the kind one does when doing a search on your cell phone while driving (not that I ever have done that) are composed of long phrases. So
content spammers SEOs looked at this and said: “Cool, I’ll just make thin content with long conversational titles such as “How to Teach a Child to Tie Shoes With This Nifty Rhyme.” …and never once did Hummingbird feel sorry for itself.
Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Another mission could be: Expose the world to Landing Page Proliferation plague. And? Well, nothing. What? Did you expect a cure? Hey, we’re trying to run a business here!
Worse, Google lives in a world where it doesn’t have to cater to the likes of you. Eric Schmidt, ladies and gentlemen:
“If there’s any question that I can compute more accurately than another website, if I can give it to you faster, we want to be able to do that.” – Eric Schmidt, Former CEO, Google
Rather than display the link-based display for search engine results linking to web pages, Google, if it can, will just give you the damn answer.
Reportedly, when Google unveiled Google Maps and took the top slot away from Mapquest, traffic immediately dropped 20%. A month later, that dropped traffic 40%.
But I digress…
The point is, Google doesn’t reward innovation. Innovative products still need to practice optimization. They can’t just let “brilliance shine!” Innovative products till need to generate a ton of landing pages catering to search queries that result in a plague of landing pages.
Because of the way search engines run things, this has led to the ghettoization of the web. The web is filled with the jetsam and flotsam of duplicate, thin, only barely-relevant-to-a-specific-search-query collection of landing pages, now with incredibly long title and header tags to address the
fresh hell new paradigm that the little hummingbird wroth.
Now, websites are rewarded for spouting duplicate, thin, long-ass page titles. We play these reindeer games, because that’s what it takes to live and prosper in the Google world. Build crappy sites in order to garner traffic. Rinse and repeat.
A healthier view
But, is there a better view? A healthier view? The question is not: How do I rank for every query under the known Google sun?” the question is: “How do I demonstrate expertise without content?” The answer is: you don’t. There’s a reason why NIH.gov and WebMD.com rank high for the term “Asthma.” Could it be because WebMD has over 13K pages with the word “Asthma” in the title? Or that NIH.gov has over 51K pages?
The difference is that these two sites show expertise through content depth. These pages were not built to cater to every search query regarding “asthma” known to man, but rather supply relevant content on the subject matter of “Asthma”.
Search algorithms reflect human factors (or are supposed to). Multiple pages on a subject display subject matter expertise. Links to particular pages from other sites are votes for the relevancy of a web page for that blue underlined subject. Time on page reflects content that is deserving of the time and attention to read it. Low bounce-rate reflects additional content within a site that is interesting enough to click-through.
Keep those items in mind, and then your site will rank in spite of what Google does or does not do. Display expertise. Deserve the links you get. Create a site that deserves attention.
Rinse and repeat.