Google is people. It’s not the Death Star, or some omnipotent force that can bend the web to its will. Its algorithms can only do so much against the onslaught of link buyers trying to game organic search.
And it needs a little bit of help. SEO guys will always be one step ahead of Google’s rules, but there are those of us who can help prevent, instead of punish, situations like JCPenney’s from happening again.
Most companies know very little about building a website, let alone proper SEO practices. JCPenney’s gamed search results, likely gained by an external agency without direct consent, were only manually demoted when the New York Times showed them evidence of such. Google’s anti-spam head Matt Cutts said that Google had caught wind of the tactics as recently as late last year, but hadn’t taken another glance since.
Google’s taken a lot of heat recently from various tech blogs, most wondering if their search results were still useful. But Cutts’s Dirty Harry move shows that they’re able to make drastic changes when they are alerted.
Google can’t solve this problem alone. One company can’t educate the masses about proper optimization any more than one black-hat SEO company is responsible for all the spam we see every day. Companies need to be educated on proper SEO practices, and with this education, they can begin to make smarter choices about their SEO efforts. Too few major sites aren’t getting much organic search traffic, proving that they have a bigger problem than paid links.
We all know that there are SEO companies willing to do whatever it takes to raise revenue for their clients. If any of us want a real improvement in the struggle to promote our clients to relevancy, it takes a conscious effort by all involved to the obey spirit of the rules. Bend, don’t break. Don’t turn the other cheek as a courtesy, because another non-denial denial is all we’re going to get. This crap is as old as search itself, and the only way to beat it is to join in.
Google has always wanted a social element. Perhaps opening their efforts to include others who share in their goal of a relevant, searchable web will allow companies to step up their own efforts and educate along the way.