Since movies can wait 10 or 20 years to produce a sequel, I thought that it wouldn't be so out of sorts writing a sequel to a post from 2002. Back then, Google was the rising star, there was a lot more competition in search and GoTo dominated the PPC market. Only a few things have changed since then.
Six years ago I wrote a post about what I wanted from Christmas from the search engines. I thought it would be a good time to revisit what I asked for back then, whether it happened or not, whether I really wanted it (20/20 hind site) and perhaps ask for a few new things.
1. Build your own technology, don't just backdoor another search engine's results into your own.
Back in 2002 Yahoo didn't have it's own algorithm and they, among others such as AOL and Netscape, were using Google's results to power their own searches. They were supposedly placing their own spin on the results but they were just about identical across the board.
So what's different today? Both Yahoo and MSN have developed their own search technologies but they don't have anywhere near the search audience that Google commands. In 2002 we were looking at a Google monopoly as other search portals continued to regurgitate Google's results. Today we see a near total dominance by Google despite the competition.
Competition is good, but something needs to happen. These competing engines need to find a way to cut into Google's lead and steal market share. I won't tell them how to do this, as I'm sure they have teams of people trying to figure it out, but I can certainly see the upside of a Yahoo/MSN merger.
2. Easy spam reporting.
In 2002 I asked for a way to easily report spam to the search engines. Well, we got it. Now I'm not so sure it was a good idea. Honestly, I'm still mixed. Have I reported sites as spam? Sure, I had to test it, right? Actually, I have reported one particular site several times because they were obviously spamming the results with multiple garbage sites. It's been a few years and to date those sites still take up space in the SERPs, even while providing little value to any searchers.
Now where I have real a problem is when Google is asking people to report paid links. I can justify reporting on-page spamming. The site owner, if they want to be found in the search results, has the responsibility to make sure their site conforms to the search engine's guidelines. However, links coming from other sites isn't something that can be 100% controlled. How hard is it to pay for a link campaign for a competitor then simply report them for spamming? There could be good ROI in that.
Furthermore, this is really little more than Google admitting that their algorithm cannot fix the problem with paid links so they want us to do it for them. By getting people to submit link spam reports Google is trying to fix their results without fixing their algorithm.
Well, I wanted it and now I got it and I guess I have to live with it.
3. Clear Definition of SPAM.
I'm not sure we've ever had a clear definition of what spam is, though this may be as close as we'll get. Though by now I think most people have a pretty good idea of tactics are considered spam. You can find a list of such tactics here and here.
At this point, do we need anything more than that? Probably not. I think anybody can figure out what they should and shouldn't do.
4. Don't Sneak Advertisements Into Search Results.
Back when this was requested, PPC was dominated by GoTo which became Overture which became Yahoo! Search Marketing. At the time, GoTo was selling it's paid placements to other engines who were incorporating them into the search results, often without any indication they they were paid for listings. Google was the only one displaying ads in a way that made it clear they were paid ads.
Since then the engines have just about stopped displaying paid results mixed with the natural results, segregating them in a "sponsored ad" section of the SERPs. This is no longer an issue.
5. More Pay-For-Inclusion.
In 2002 I was a strong proponent for Paid inclusion. The spidering and indexing capabilities of the search engines weren't what they are today. Paid inclusion made it easy to ensure that your pages were in the search indexes, but didn't influence the results. You still had to optimize.
Today, paid inclusion is all but dead. If you can't get your pages in the search engine indexes, the fault is likely yours, not theirs. The engines are able to grab new content quickly and revisit older content on a regular basis. It's just a matter of making sure all the pieces are in place to allow the engines to find you and revisit often. I'm very glad that paid inclusion is a thing of the past.
My 2008 Christmas Wish List
So what do I want for Christmas from the search engines this year?
I won't be greedy, three is enough for this year for me. What about you? What do you want for Christmas from the search engines?
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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