When people ask me conceptually about the effect of certain elements on search engines, I often respond, “If you were a search engine, what would you think of it?” It’s a hard question to answer if you don’t know what they are looking for. Here’s the low-down on search engines from the eyes of Google. .
Google is a Business
First and foremost, Google is a business. They do what they do because it helps them turn a profit. The fact that the majority of people view Google as a benevolent organization stems from great user experiences. And it’s true–they allow us to use their great products for free in exchange for our usage data.
So how do they make their money? Since they give away all their products for free, how can they fund the development? Many of you are whispering the answer right now…PPC. Google made 98% of their revenue last year from pay-per-click advertising. That means there is a disconnect somewhere – how does providing excellent user experience help Google make money? Easy. Make the user experience for all of your users so awesome that they will want to spend all of their time using your products. The more time you spend on Google software, the higher the chance you’re going to click on an ad, which gives them cash.
Google Mimics Your Behavior
In order to provide the best user experience, the Goog wants to know how you use the web. They track usage data from everyone who has Google Analytics installed, from your Gmail box, and from information about how you search. It all belongs to them. They use it for the purpose of making your experience faster, cleaner, and more pleasant…and possibly for taking over the world.
How does that reflect in SEO? Take, for instance, the idea that links which are further up the page pass more authority. They pass more authority because the further up a link is on the page, the more of a chance that the users are going to have to click on it. A link in the footer or sidebar where advertisements traditionally reside isn’t going to get much play; therefore, the links will be worth less to the target domain.
Google Wants to Rid the World of Spam
My guess is that with all of Google’s spider overhead (servers, power, maintenance, storage, etc), plus the lost opportunity cost of crawling and indexing new, fresh content elsewhere, Google’s time is probably worth a few thousand dollars per second. Spam wastes everyone’s time.
Spam takes up valuable space in Google’s index. It forces them to update their algorithm over 500 times per year. 500. And just in case you missed that, there are 365 days in a year, so the algorithm is updated every 16 – 18 hours (approximately). Spam makes the user experience poor. For these reasons, spam is the antithesis of Google’s mission.
Next time you are considering a tactic, ask yourself:
- Does it provide bad user experience?
- Does it waste Google’s time?
If you answered yes to either of these two questions, you can rest assured that one of this year’s 500 updates will send you packing.