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The Importance of Humility in SEO
tedster




msg:4483483
 11:49 am on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Let's face, there is only one person in the world with the "highest IQ". For the rest of us, we are not the smartest person around. For most of us, the average search engineer at Google IS smarter than we are. Fact - it's a job I can't do. I don't think I could even get through the first interview.

So we need to stay realistically humble when we analyze what Google is doing or even trying to do. Otherwise we're going to make TERRIBLE SEO DECISIONS, based on our own blind spots rather than the real situation. Or even worse, we'll spend all kinds of energy assuming we can't do anything about our situation. Then we just whine and wring our hands, but we don't start winning again.

The biggest error I've seen is assuming we can read the hidden intentions of any other individual, and especially those of a corporation. This is dangerous territory. It's where we have a strong tendency to project our own hidden character onto another, rather than seeing the situation clearly. And with so many people inside a corporation affecting the group's action, it gets even worse.

--------

For me, doing good SEO work means accepting and knowing that these two shortfalls are mine: I'm not the smartest cookie in the jar, and I can make big mistakes trying to read the motives of others.

By admitting that others are smarter than I am, I am challenged to continue to learn new things. So I study patents from Google, Bing and other Information Retrieval scientists. They are doing the hard work that's on the edge of human cultural change - and I want to know at least something about it at that purist level.

Then the science work gets translated into a pubic search engine service through a large company - because that job TAKES big resources these days. Cuill learned that lesson!

So I do try not to project my own shortcomings onto that corporation. Corporations in any field are a human challenge whenever they hit a certain scale. New effects appear that can look like "evil". Google is doing better than most at keeping that cr@p under control, but still they do create some effects that can feel harsh on a personal level.

It's easy, in a frustrating situation, to lose track of the fact that Google doesn't focus on me - that they're focus is on THEIR user base, just as my focus should be on mine. Emotion will not resolve an SEO problem - that's a fact!

And for me, this approach has worked so far. I have a career that feels like a blessing most of the time. And I can stay relatively balanced at work and still "have a life", too.

We are all in a competitive-cooperative ecology with Google. It's not just a competitive or cooperative situation - it's both, all the time. That much understanding, just on its own, has enough to humble me and keep me from becoming either a fanboy or a whining critic. It keeps me in a place where I can be productive.

I hope that sharing my thoughts on these issues can also help you.

[edited by: tedster at 12:24 am (utc) on Sep 25, 2012]

 

timwilliams




msg:4483490
 12:02 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

The biggest error I've seen is assuming we can read the hidden intentions of any other individual, and especially those of a corporation. This is dangerous territory. It's where we have a strong tendency to project our own hidden character onto another, rather than seeing ther situation clearly.


That's a fair statement.

Leosghost




msg:4483493
 12:08 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Whereas
that they're focus is on THEIR user base
is an assumption based upon Google's PR output..
bhartzer




msg:4483495
 12:14 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Great post. We are not going to be smarter than a search engine engineer, I admit that. It seems as though some web asters are more about finding holes in algorithms than anything else.

If it is a losing proposition, then why are we still optimizing for search engines and not optimizing for users?

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:4483499
 12:18 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

If it is a losing proposition, then why are we still optimizing for search engines and not optimizing for users?
Perhaps because optimising for users often doesn't bring in enough users. ;)
netmeg




msg:4483501
 12:31 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Amen. My own personal corollary to that is to focus on what I can control, and not obsess over what I can't. When it comes to Google, there's not a whole lot I can control. I can maybe influence - but I can't control.

It is what it is.

aristotle




msg:4483524
 1:38 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

For most of us, the average search engineer at Google IS smarter than we are. Fact - it's a job I can't do. I don't think I could even get through the first interview.


Tedster - If Google is like most big corporations, the search engineers have to spend most of their time trying to deal with idiotic directives and decisions coming down from management. I doubt that most of the problems with the algorithm are their fault.

netmeg




msg:4483525
 1:39 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Google is not like most big corporations.

Ralph_Slate




msg:4483528
 1:50 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Honestly, this reads like a repentance to the Gods to try and avoid their wrath. It really strikes me as funny how many people speak about Google using similar language.

I understand your basic point, but I would not grant Google God-like status. It is very possible, even likely that their engineers make mistakes, especially as their algorithms get more and more complex.

engine




msg:4483536
 2:11 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

why are we still optimizing for search engines and not optimizing for users?


I presume you meant that as devil's advocate. ;)

Leosghost




msg:4483537
 2:11 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

It really strikes me as funny how many people speak about Google using similar language.

If one watches Googles's many facets ( not just their search engine ) one realises,( many years ago now ) that this is precisely their objective, to appear omnipotent, omniscient, mysterious, to be spoken of in hallowed tones, to require appeasement..they have learned their lessons, from religious history, very well..;)

tedster




msg:4483558
 2:48 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

to appear omnipotent, omniscient, mysterious, to be spoken of in hallowed tones, to require appeasement

I'd never think that about any human being or collection of human beings. That's dangerous and leads to cultism way beyond fanboy status. All hail SkyNet!

TypicalSurfer




msg:4483560
 2:50 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Humble thyselves before the google-god.

Roaming Gnome




msg:4483562
 2:54 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Honestly, this reads like a repentance to the Gods to try and avoid their wrath.

They control the majority of SE traffic, so its understandable to want to please them. :) It sucks, but its like complaining about your electric bill.

Although there are a few other alternatives, you end up having to pay them to maintain a comfortable living.

I like Bing, but solar power isn't cutting it for me.

Leosghost




msg:4483575
 3:25 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

<slightly OT>
Then the science work gets translated into a pubic search engine service through a large company - because that job TAKES big resources these days. Cuill learned that lesson!


Your inadvertent "typo" / "slip" there ( the missing "l" ;-)) ..is probably much more accurate than many would acknowlege as to what modern culture has become and what the largest proportion of searches are really about.."the elephant in the room"..pron and s_e_x related searches :)



G also knows what each person searches, even in "private mode"..and who they are ..again they learned what are the levers of power, and how to apply them, and to whom , from religious history..

Hence probably, the very minimal "slaps on the wrist", they receive for lawbreaking..in return for not leaking search history of the names of the mighty..

They are not about focusing upon their users, other than as part of a series of studies of what makes societies "tick", what motivates them and their members, and how they can be steered and influenced ..

The search and many other things are now merely the sideshow ( that nevertheless provides the income for the experimentation ) and the various baits placed before the "users", and the users reactions to them tell the plex many things..very many which the users keep hidden ( in every day society and family etc ) about themselves..

They know that the average user does not care for the most "in depth" answers to many questions ( and with an average adult reading level of a 10 year old ? , would not understand the "in depth" replies ) ..the average "user's interests" ( meaning the average human ) have changed little, if at all in the last few thousand years..

It is fascinating watching them do it, offering, recording, sifting, and molding society, never before, has a secular power arisen with the ability to shape the future that they have..

</slightlyOT>

claaarky




msg:4483606
 4:45 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

Amen Tedster. Anyone who has my balls in a vice the way Google does deserves my respect (well, deserves cautious treatment).

Thankfully I think Google is now moving in a direction that is much easier for ANYONE to understand (not just SEO's). It's not easier to crack, more complex than ever, but a simpler concept to digest because it's in line with the real world. I think that will eventually help people come to terms with the frustrations and direct their efforts to more productive things.

Did I just fall into the trap of thinking I know it all? LOL.

netmeg




msg:4483621
 5:31 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

I don't see anyone granting Google god-like status. It's just a question of being realistic. It drives me nuts when people anthropomorphize Google. They're not out to get you; individually they don't even know any of us exist. They think only in terms of numbers (statistics, percentages, etc.), because they pretty much have to - taking into account the human element would have killed them off long ago.

So you do what you do, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. And you don't take it personally, you either figure out your next step, or you move on to something else. Or you find someone to hire or partner up with, and see if together you can make it work. And sometimes, in extreme cases, if you can't make it work, you get out entirely.

I myself have gotten entirely out of a lot more niches than I've stayed in, over the years.

londrum




msg:4483662
 8:12 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

For most of us, the average search engineer at Google IS smarter than we are.

smarter at what? everything?
okay, they are probably smarter at maths and SEO and stuff like that -- the things that they have actually been hired for. but i'm not going to put them on a pedestal and say they are all super smart and we have to bow down to their knowledge about everything else -- including cutting edge stuff on the edge of human cultural change. (did you really say that?) its a search engine for chrissakes. its the sites in the SERPS that are doing that, not the index that lists them.

By admitting that others are smarter than I am, I am challenged to continue to learn new things. So I study patents from Google, Bing and other Information Retrieval scientists. They are doing the hard work that's on the edge of human cultural change.


half of the patents that companies like google do are more to do with making money, and blocking other companies from profiting from their employees work. they try and patent stuff like browser buttons and dropdown boxes. or a small piece of code to show a video 2 seconds quicker. not exactly the kind of stuff that will further human civilization.

--

its posts like this make me wonder whether there are people on here who get paid by google to say nice stuff

tedster




msg:4483701
 9:49 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

its posts like this make me wonder whether there are people on here who get paid by google to say nice stuff

And it's comments like that that are one reason I wrote the post in the first place. Does a forum stuffed with paranoia and critical complaint sound like a reflection of the real world? Does that kind of crap help anyone do better SEO work?

The willingness to wallow in that kind of emotional swamp is killing off good webmasters and good online businesses.

netmeg




msg:4483714
 10:17 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)

(Not to mention genuine forum discussions)

SnowMan68




msg:4483721
 10:30 pm on Aug 10, 2012 (gmt 0)


The willingness to wallow in that kind of emotional swamp is killing off good webmasters and good online businesses.


Glad someone finally said it. It feels like this is what the thread about Google Updates (Jan, Feb, Mar, Apr, May.....) are all about now. Every once in a while someone will chime in with an actual change happening.

scooterdude




msg:4483757
 1:07 am on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I am really sorry to read the OP, I was going to post stronger wording, but will desist

Are you serious, or is this a jest?

londrum




msg:4483822
 12:55 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

i think people have a very inflated view of what google are trying to do (or are even capable of). many times in the last year i've seen people on here talk about google's "AI" -- using that exact phrase -- as if their algo actually has a real intelligence that's capable of learning, like a human. they dismiss examples of lousy SERPs by arguing that Panda was a real watershed, and is still at the early stages of "learning" what people want.

okay, you can look at it like that if you want. that makes the google guys look super smart, even when the SERPs return spam, srappers and ten pages from a single site. other people (most of joe public) will just see it as an example of lousy SERPs, which needs fixing.

when they have to digest as many pages as they do (how big is the internet now? a billion billion pages?) even I think that it's unrealistic to expect the very best page to float to the top for every single search. especially when you consider that a large part of what makes a site "good" is nothing more than personal opinion. google almost have an impossible job. it's like trying to list the 100 best songs of all-time. there is no right answer. and there never will be. if we are sitting here waiting for the ultimate SERPs then it's never going to come. no matter how smart the google guys are.
they might be the most intellegent company in the world, but can they honestly know what my favourite site is going to be just by me typing in the phrase "buy red widgets". of course they cant! its impossible. intelligence has got nothing to do with it. its an impossible job. all they can do is return a list of sites that i might like, based on data they've collected from other people and me. you are expecting too much if you think their index will ever be more than that.

as for all that talk about "doing hard work on the edge of human cultural change", and all that balony, jeez... google is a company like any other. they exist to make money. anyone who studies the SERPs year after year will see a general trend towards showing more and more google products on the first page, ahead of other sites. i doesnt take a genius to see that, or to work out why they are doing it. they are doing it because they are a company like any other. its the same with privacy. they are pushing up against the fence to see what they can get away with. to make money out of all the personal data they possess. you can call that "doing hard work on the edge of human cultural change" if you want.

[edited by: londrum at 1:01 pm (utc) on Aug 11, 2012]

atlrus




msg:4483823
 12:55 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

It seems there is not a month in with Google is not being fined for misuse of personal data or some other shenanigans.
I don't understand how anyone could begin to justify the company with the motto "Don't be evil", yet they can't seem to get out of court for even a minute...I don't know if "they" are smarter than me, but they are certainly more evil :)

atlrus




msg:4483824
 1:00 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

google almost have an impossible job. it's like trying to list the 100 best songs of all-time. there is no right answer. and there never will be.


The "funny" part is - I googled "100 best songs of all-time" and the first results was "500 Greatest Songs of All Time"...If that's not indicative of the Goolge's smarts, I don't know what is.

Why did I google it? Because I was 100% certain the result will be wrong...

londrum




msg:4483831
 1:12 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

you have to forgive obvious mistakes like that... because their AI is still at the baby stage. it's still learning what people want.

tedster




msg:4483837
 1:45 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I also think it's also a mistake to compare a corporation to a person. If you never worked with a large group of people, you may not appreciate what kind of issues come up when things scale large.

However, you can even begin to see the issues if you try to manage a group of just a couple dozen individuals. When you hit groups of a thousand or more, management of all the unintended effects becomes a huge job - one that no corporation has been on top of, IMO.

As is often mentioned here, the mandate for a public corporation to make quarterly profits for stockholders is a source of trouble for ANY public company. There is "evil" in that structure itself, it seems to me.

However, the reason I wrote this post was to point out what our job is, as SEO practitioners. We can't do what we can't do - for example, we can't change the way corporate law is written in time to save our own businesses. So we need to know what areas to chill about so our heads are clear and we actually CAN work our own businesses with some clarity of mind.

scooterdude




msg:4483860
 2:25 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

I think you're getting too close to Google , your posts are sounding more and more like one in awe of a higher 'entity'

Consider re reading your OP,

londrum




msg:4483861
 2:31 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

i get it, you are using the old "its the not the king, its his evil advisers" argument. no matter what the king's government does, you can always blame it on the people around him.
no matter what google does, you can always blame it on their need to please the stock market. the underlying core is still good.

so dont worry about it... that is what you are saying. sometimes google have to do some stuff that we dont like. but we cant do anything about it. so just chill out and carry on.

indyank




msg:4483875
 4:37 pm on Aug 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

To be fair, unlike other corporates, Google is more used to being loved and spoken in high esteem than being criticized for their actions as an ENTITY. I would say that they need more criticisms to improve themselves as an entity and in their actions.

I also don't see anything wrong in understanding the real intentions behind their changes. Sometimes we may be right and sometimes we may be wrong, but I wouldn't agree that understanding the underlying driver or objective isn't going to help.It would definitely help in laying down our assumptions and we always have to work with some positive and negative assumptions.

Corporations in any field are a human challenge whenever they hit a certain scale. New effects appear that can look like "evil".


In most corporations, the workforce is just an implementation tool and the vision or underlying objective is determined or laid down by a small group of people. For example, Amit has the dream of making google an answer machine that can answer any question. He wants to make his so called childhood dreams about star trek become a reality in some form. He doesn't care that in attempting this, Google might sound more monopolistic (dictator?), thereby forcing several third parties to oblige them, though they really don't want to. The small group of people, who have the real power, is in agreement with his dreams and believe that it would be beneficial to the corporate as well.The rest of the workforce is just a tool to help them realize this dream or high level objective. So blaming the bad effects (for the users or the webmasters) on the workforce would sound more like an attempt to pass the bick.

This 73 message thread spans 3 pages: 73 ( [1] 2 3 > >
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