Hopes for Google's algorithm changes

Google is making changes to its algorithms. And many SEOs are worried (but Nathan Gotch is hopeful). Long story short, Google will attempt to devalue SEO-gaming content in favor of more helpful content.

The optimistic side of me hopes this works.

The last few months as a marketing specialist have brought to light the great difference between popular content and helpful content. When you perform a Google search, the top results are usually popular because they've gamed the system. But they're not always helpful, so they provide little value.

The cynical side of me says these changes will somehow cause new problems we can't foresee. I can't elaborate because, well, the problems can't be foreseen.

So let's keep the tone optimistic and focus on the hope.

But first, let's touch on that cynicism again.

Where my marketing journey began

I graduated with my marketing degree back in 2007. I had no intent of working in marketing—I just needed to graduate, so the college of business seemed like the obvious choice. And marketing seemed the easiest business college offering.

But I graduated during an exciting time for the internet. Blogs allowed people to publish their own thoughts. And Twitter, though technically a closed and proprietary network, was certainly more open than Facebook and far more exciting as people connected on the basis of ideas rather than proximity or history.

During this time, I discovered the prophets of the new marketing—marketers like Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, and Mark Schaefer—and fell in love with their basic message.

Build relationships.

Present value.

Solve customers' problems.

The formula seemed simple. Fun. And perhaps best of all, human.

I read numerous books and blog posts by the aforementioned new marketers and others like them. I fell in love with their ideals.

But it would be a decade and half before I got the opportunity to practice them.

The state of marketing (as I see it)

Much had changed by the time I got into marketing.

What today passes as “marketing” is really a specific type of gamification.

Study the algorithms.

Learn the formulas.

Execute to the finest detail.

Repeat as needed.

A screenshot of a job posting for “clickbait specialist” on LinkedIn—a sign of the times?

Google certainly deserves part of the blame. How can it not when it's built itself up as the company which in many ways defines our internet experiences?

When the company killed Google Reader in an attempt to kill RSS, it did so not to benefit users but to benefit its own advertising ambitions. Google opened the door for an internet built purely for metrics.

Don't get me wrong: Metrics are important. How else can a business know if it's investing money and resources properly?

But how many metrics does a business really need to measure?

Google has made it easy to focus on a plethora of metrics and to create a formulaic environment in the hope of improving those same metrics rather than create unique and helpful content.

The case for hope

The formulaic internet experience is what I hope Google's algorithm changes will help improve.

There does seem to be a push against certain types of algorithms in addition to Google's search, such as those designed by Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And so I hope Google's changes can be one of the first dominoes to fall in the rethinking of these algorithms that are now crucial to our online experiences.

A return to form?

(Now I'll echo some of the sentiments Jaron Lanier made in his technocriticism manifesto “You Are Not a Gadget”.)

The early days of the internet felt like a wild frontier, for better and for worse. Each site and service felt different. Especially personal websites, which emphasized personal, often through the design itself.

But exclusive reliance on algorithms appears to have hindered opportunities for personal connections on the internet. The internet no longer feels made for humans—but for machines.

To excel on Google, you need to worry about SEO optimization. To make it on social media, you need to satisfy the algorithm. Post at the right time of day and get immediate reaction to improve the shelf life of your content.

It's impossible not to feel like a hypocrite anytime I criticize the state of the internet. If it's so bad, why do I still participate?

Because, as I've said numerous times, I still naively hold on to the hope of that return to the human web. But perhaps I'm little more than a fool.

Ah, there goes that cynicism again.

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