Sunday, May 08, 2011

SEO (along with PageRank) has wrecked the Web

This thought has been going on in my mind for many days now, and I've finally decided to put it in words after reading the PageRank-busting post by Rich Skrenta today.

I have to agree with Rich. PageRank has indeed wrecked the Web. It has incentivized "publishers" to create utterly useless pages infested with paid links to other websites. As Rich said, the value that Google has attached to a hyperlink has had the side effect of encouraging the mushrooming of billions of trash-worthy pieces of content on the Web. The result? The Web has got wrecked. I won't be surprised if a future study reveals that 90% of the content on the Web is trash.

However, accusing PageRank alone of playing havoc with the Web would be an injustice to this arguably marvelous mathematical model. The other offended that has also played an important role in screwing the Web is SEO, or search engine optimization.

Without digressing into details of SEO, I claim that SEO is a major distraction for publishers that publish their content on the Web. Instead of focusing solely on creating quality content and writing what they want to write, these publishers also have to optimize their content for the major Web search engines [all of which employ broadly similar techniques to rank content]. This so-called optimization means that, in the case of news stories, both the title and the body of a news story is filled with keywords and phrases that help to jack up the visibility of that story on the major search engines. So, instead of giving a story a witty but obscure title, an author would rather include important keywords in it to attract clicks, virtually killing the title by making it mechanical [CPI is another culprit responsible for encouraging production of useless content, as it encourages publishers to use tricks to maximize page impressions].