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Monday, October 6, 2003

HTML Purism

Today at work, I was reminded again what a powerful tool Search Engine Optimization is – it makes a very great argument to introduce the W3C to a customer*.
HTML purism is all about following standards. And following the W3C accessibility recommendations. Incidentally, those two will make sure your site works well with the search engines.
It’s incredibly hard to list all the 100 different browsing situations where a client-side navigation solely based on JavaScript utterly fails... but it’s very simple to just mention the fact that the Googlebot will be kicked out if you do that bad thing**. Because behind the Googlebot, there’s a whole lot of people who are actively looking for something, ready to spend money; kick out the Googlebot, and you throw away money.

*I’m working on a site with over 50,000 pages contained within several markets. Even though I wasn’t exclusively hired for SEO, I take this as a great opportunity to tune the traffic, and to help bring in customers. At the same time, purifying the site will get it even more ready for the future, and help those browsing within an exotic context. Before SEO, it took a lot more work to understand why purism makes sense in the long run. In a way, Google is pushing standardized HTML more than anyone else.

**In one sentence: client-side scripting is evil. Wherever possible at all, use server-side scripting. It helps everybody, including the Googlebot.

For more, see my previous post on HTML, XHTML, CSS and SEO Purism.

Free Speech and Google Blogs

Some Google-blogs are covering the Google AdSense restriction to not talk about Google AdSense.
Which, in fact, I signed months ago. I also signed something similar concerning Google Answers. To make all this perfectly clear, I recently put this into my footnote on this page: “This is an independent Google Blog; I’m not working for Google. I’m a Google Answers Researcher and I show Google AdSense ads on my page, and these two are the only topics where I would restrict myself in writing, or ask permission for more in-depth posts.”
And I mentioned, on July 4th, this year: “The first rule of Google AdSense... is not to talk about Google AdSense (not when you’re participating in the program).”.

Does this mean that Google bought my opinion?
No, it doesn’t. It means I ask for permission before I publish information on these two topics, AdSense, and Answers.
In fact, I’m pro-Google on many issues simply because I chose to blog about what I love best online. This aside, I still want to write objective criticism, and I might not love all that Google gives to us. I also decided to blog about what I think is one of the most important things online at the moment, and which therefore deserves to be watched.

Last time I wrote about AdSense, I asked Google for permission to write an article that would be rather positive (not to please Google Inc., but because that’s what came out of an objective analysis... I was really incredibly happy to use this kind of advertising system for my weblog) – one that would be rather positive, but that might also include some fair negative points as they would came along. Because objective information is the most important thing. So we mailed back and forth, and finally, they allowed me to cover the subject. Without them wanting me to send the final draft, or any draft at all. (The same happens for Google Answers. I discussed the basics of the format when I started, but not the result.)

So what is my personal rule to follow?
If something on Google AdSense or Google Answers would bother me so heavily that I’d want to cover it even though I’d not get permission after asking for it, I would still cover it. And thus risk losing my right to use the system and provide further inside information to it. However, in general, I’d rather provice objective information in such a fair way that nobody gets hurt, and keep the chance to talk about it from an insider’s perspective.

Still, I will carry my footnote; I’m not completely independent when I cover Google AdSense, or Google Answers. In a way, this just means I won’t tell you it sucks as long as it doesn’t clearly suck. (And it doesn’t suck, too. Neither did it make me rich so far. Nothing even remotely close to that.)

As to anything else, just look up my Google criticism on items such as censorship and geolocation. I don’t shy away from Googlebashing where I see it necessary. Trust me, if Google turns evil, you will be the first to know here. I just don’t think it happened so far, even though many people started spreading the rumor. In fact, it’s the second-album syndrome. The kind of fear to lose something to the masses that you thought you could keep yourself. The kind of feeling to put something down for that reason, to move on to the next thing... until that one gets heavily popular again. If AllTheWeb’s the techies darling right now, then not because it’s better – sorry, it’s good, but not that good – but because it’s relatively unknown outside the world of SEO and heavy research.

All that being said, would I rather have Google allow people to talk about AdSense, or Google Answers, even though they’re participating in those programs? Yeah, I would. But when I sign a contract, it’s my choice. Somehow it strikes me as childish to sign a contract and complain about. Hey, then don’t sign it. Your call. You might even protest heavily. But do that before signing, and not afterwards. Don’t accept the rules freely, and break them later in some kind of heroic act of free speech. If your life doesn’t depend on making money from Google AdSense or Google Answers, then go for free speech and lose the money.

Well, and that’s the end of the small interlude regarding Google blogs, and free speech. Back to the usual program. Googlebashing. When I see the necessity, that is...

Update: Quite a bit has happened since I wrote this post and I now think a bit differently – e.g. I wouldn’t ask Google for permission to cover anything AdSense-related (and I’m also not a Google Answers Researcher anymore).


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