Google Blogoscoped

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Road to SEO Enlightenment

Reading certain newsgroup postings on search engines – the kind that go like “How should I spell my product on my web site to get best results in Google?” – I find there are three steps of knowledge in the game of SEO (Search Engine Optimization):

Step 1. One puts up a web site and doesn’t care much about Google and others. A lot of time is spent shaping the content, with the target audience being humans. Effectivity: 80%

Step 2. One realizes much traffic comes from search engines and starts to care about Google. Now, a lot of time is spent (rather, wasted) on over-optimizing content, the target audience being searchbots. Effectivity: 50%

Step 3. One realizes best content brings the most backlinks, and that backlinks are most important for Google rankings and Google keyword association. Once again, a lot of time is spent on bringing the best content to a human audience – knowledge of SEO rests in the back of the mind and is applied where appropriate. Effectivity: 100%

I found these three steps to englightement outlined for SEO true for many other situations in life. (The Hegelian dialectic describes similar.) People who know next to nothing are often better off than people who know a little, but not a lot. Only those who learned a lot can make conscious efforts to go back to actions also taken by those knowing nothing.

Let me give you an example:

1. A new mother gives birth to a child. She’s quite young and doesn’t feel the weight of life upon her, and when she acts she acts upon intuition. She doesn’t have the whole day to fret about her baby nor is it the center of her life. Of course she loves her child, but she doesn’t take any extra steps to provide the best possible environment – she’s not overprotective. The kid will have a lot of learning and pain ahead, too – quite a good teacher one might think.

2. Now we have another mother. She’s a bit older and a bit more experienced, and a bit more intellectual. She read quite a few books about raising a child. She knows what food is best, and which toys are suitable for what age. In short she pampers her child and is extra-sensitive. She also takes away most of the pain. Is her child better off? Quite the opposite, her child is more sick than other children, and more dependent on mother for everyday tasks.

3. To overcome the flaws of the second mother, who was focussing too much on what’s right, one needs a conscious appreciation of the first mother’s way of life. Thus the mother of this third step will make her intellect force her intuition to make decisions.

Many other examples can be found in life all the time, without looking much – it’s enough to once have realized these three phases make up many roads to enlightenment. (Think of Picasso’s later aim to draw more naive and childlike; or an experienced writer whose tone gets less sophisticated and artificial over time and much more natural, becoming even more readable. Or the millipede who, after being asked how he could possibly handle a thousand feet with such ease, wasn’t able to walk anymore.)

What does this mean for SEO? Just this: rely on your intuition. As the saying goes, “a little knowledge is dangerous”. Repeating keywords, optimizing file names, pondering linking strategies: all these things are not intuitive to your business (or hobby site). The only intuitive thing is to create content relevant to what you have to offer, to give what your visitors ask for. Don’t be overprotective when it comes to your web site... that’s the only way it will surprise you by achieving more than you expected.

Infinite Categories

Some blogs explicitly label their posts using different category keywords. Such as “Tech”, “Fun”, “Art”, etc. This can be appropriate and often makes for a nice way for new visitors to explore an archive by following navigation links.

What you may prefer for your blog however is a site-restricted search offering the possibility to find infinite categories.
If you create a blog post reading “look at this fun Flash song containing Bush and Kerry” you immediately (and intuitively) filed it in 10 categories. Because every word you wrote can now be used as keyword to display this post in a search result later on. (The more important words here would be “fun”, “Flash”, “song”, “Bush” and “Kerry.)

While others may think you have zero categories, you know you actually have an endless number of categories. You understood the lower-case semantic web. (A web much more pragmatic than any meta-tagging efforts like RDF.)

Now if you want to provide visitors the chance to explore “sections” of your site, you can still take a small selection of important keywords and put them in a navigation bar. Each of these items would link to a search result; it would be a seamlessly integrated “guided search”. For example, a link would be “” and list all posts in which you mentioned “fun” or “entertaining”. (One may or may not display this as typical search result using a typical search URL. One can also use a more streamlined layout, and URL rewriting to completely hide the fact this is a search result.)

Of course, to make for the best search possible, one would use Google – possibly, the Google API, coupled with the “site” operator.

If you think about your site sections this way you will also feel comfortable optimizing for search engines. You understand your site navigation must extend to the Google search result as well, as it will be just as important as whatever navigation you provide on your own site.


Various sources report Google saw another backlinks update. To get an overview of your own backlinks, you can use FindForward's "Backlinks" search:

If you like the FindForward search box above, you can copy it onto your own site:

<form action="" method="get">
<input type="text" size="31" name="q" id="q" value="" />
<select name="t" id="t">
<option value="" class="normaloption">Normal Search</option>
<option value="restrict"> - Only English</option>
<option value="answer">Ask Question</option>
<option value="amazon">Amazon</option>

<option value="amazonrss">- Amazon RSS</option>
<option value="allaround">All-around</option>
<option value="grid">Search Grid</option>
<option value="chat">Chat Search</option>
<option value="rss" class="group">Weblog Newsfeeds</option>
<option value="noblog" class="group">Exclude Weblogs</option>
<option value="question">Get Questions</option>
<option value="world">Global</option>

<option value="person" class="group">Person Info</option>
<option value="thing" class="group">Thing Info</option>
<option value="image">Image</option>
<option value="file">Just Files</option>
<option value="meta">Meta Search</option>
<option id="optionSelected" value="backlinks">Backlinks</option>
<option value="centuryearly" class="group">1900-1950</option>
<option value="century" class="group">1950-2000</option>
<option value="directory">Directory</option>

<option value="old">Old Pages</option>
<option value="lucky">Lucky First</option>
<option value="wildcardword">Wildcard Word</option>
<option value="wildcards">Wildcard Phrase</option>
<option value="get-rss" class="group">- Get RSS</option>
<option value="get-atom" class="group">- Get Atom</option>
<option value="randomize">Randomize</option>
<span class="searchsubmit"><input type="submit" value="Find" /></span>


Google Meetup Groups

Here is a map of Google Meetup groups worldwide.

Gmail Contact Groups

Yannik M. shows a workaround to have contact groups in Gmail.

Anil Dash Looks Like Google

Anil Dash’s blog looks like a Google search result now. Anil is vice president of Six Apart, the company behind TypePad. [Thanks Dave G.]


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