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Is Google Killing SEO?


It just occurred to me that Google is killing organic SEO. Google's paid search algorithm is allowing the user to be the ultimate SEO. Based on user search behavior -- the type of links clicked on and the amount of time spent on a landing page after leaving Google -- your paid search ads become more relevant, undermining traditional SEO efforts to bring client sites to the top of the SERPs.

Google's paid search algorithm acts almost like a rating system. Google will discover the most popular sites based on user preferences, allowing it to serve highly relevant results based on paid search landing pages. As a result, search engines will likely start serving more sponsored links, and the organic links will start to fade away.

GoogleBot likes info
The object of B2B and ecommerce commercial websites is to sell products and services online. These sites have an increasingly difficult time ranking well on Google because the GoogleBot eats up information and spits out products and services. Therefore, organic links are becoming less relevant and have low quality.

The antidote to low-quality organic links is pay-per-click advertising and strategic ad placements such as links on great information sites. These promotions are very effective, especially when displayed on vertical search engines (VSEs). In fact, this could become the ultimate way to do SEO in the future.

Saga of the broken algos
I'm not the only guy who sees a weakness in the Google search algorithm. In his article, "Are User-Generated Websites Breaking The Search Engines' Algorithms?" Tim Daly suggested that paid search listings could become more relevant than organic listings because of the emphasis on inbound links in search algorithms.

Google rewards sites with links coming from important, authoritative sites. The company's reasoning is that a site with numerous quality inbound links must be popular, ergo it is a quality site. Sites with higher PageRank scores are given higher rankings than those with a lower PageRank. Once Google gained popularity based on PageRank, all the other search engines followed suit, so this ranking system dominates. Perhaps at the time, it was an excellent ranking variable, but it's becoming outdated today.

As Daly shows with his example of Wikipedia's dominance in the SERPs, an abundance of quality links does not necessarily an authoritative site make. This is a subjective take, based on the weight given to inbound links by Google's PageRank. As demonstrated by the questionable accuracy of some Wikipedia content, it takes more than links alone to prove authority.

Bridge over troubled waters
Research shows that general search engines are losing ground to vertical search engines (VSEs). Outsell reported a 31.9 percent search failure rate among business users on major search engines. This means that roughly one-third of user queries yield unsatisfactory results.

Convera went further by saying general search does not meet the needs of today's business and professional users. General search queries result in time inefficiencies and unmet needs as critical information becomes increasingly difficult to find quickly on the web.

In contrast to general search engines, vertical search engines have built-in preference mechanisms and are constantly rolling out improved features. In my opinion, bidding is the best qualifier. VSE users naturally weed out faulty search engine algorithms. Clients bidding high on irrelevant keywords for the sake of attracting traffic would have their budgets zapped, resulting in a dreadful ROI, and business users wouldn't stand for this.

VSEs also have built-in merchant rating systems similar to those of a power seller on eBay. This further refines the search relevance.

Next: General search dilemma

Return to Page 1

General search dilemma
As users continue to get non-relevant results, their confidence in organic listings can evaporate. In turn, this may cause users to rely more on sponsored listings and/or vertical search engines. The potential dominance of sponsored listings in the SERPs was touched upon before by Kevin Lee, who reasoned that the relevance and popularity of sponsored links would nudge search engines into including more sponsored links in the SERPs at the expense of organic links. 

On the other hand, the threat of user abandonment may propel general search engines into improving their SEO algorithms, particularly the over-reliance on inbound links. They know that if they don't, users will migrate to the verticals.

Verticals can deliver
Verticals are a pure capital play. We all know the marketplace will ultimately decide for itself. However, it's my belief that paid search on verticals is one of the best forms of capitalism. By the process of elimination, companies with the best products and services will always be able to outbid competitors that offer lesser value.

Let me elaborate. Say you are trying to be top dog by buying high-traffic keywords. However, the No. 3 bidder has better products. Your No. 1 listing will have its budget zapped and get good response, while No. 3 works its way to the top of the bid, also getting a good response from the user audience. No. 3 will never quit that bid due to the excellent ROI. It's the best of all worlds.

Verticals protect your listings
A vertical search engine will have human editors screening listings and keywords. We will not let a company like Amazon purchase the keyword "wholesale jewelry," as Google does. If you don't sell the product, you can't buy the keyword. All listing statements must be directed to a landing page that displays the product. Deceit is not allowed.

Equally important, the management of most verticals has experience in the industry they represent and they know the customer. I can't begin to tell you how huge that factor is when it comes to the resulting customer loyalty and trust

Verticals do more
A vertical search engine can easily adapt as the industry changes because content is focused on one industry, not the entire universe. That allows it to address the concerns of the marketplace quickly.

Vertical search engines offer promotional products and services that are highly relevant to the users and customers they serve. They also offer content, blogs that users can contribute to, along with news that is relevant to the industry.

Vertical search engines have a sales staff pounding the phones all day, very aggressively, pursuing new business. This creates relevant content in the SERPs for the users.

Vertical search engines can form partnerships at the drop of a dime and tailor products to the precise needs of their industry's customers. VSE can attract highly qualified traffic though niche branding initiatives, marketing efforts and partnerships. A VSE can partner with trade shows and magazine publishers, encouraging its customers to cross-promote them by letting their customers know they can be found on the VSE and are rated as a Top Ten Super Supplier on the VSE.

In other words, VSEs dedicate all their resources toward procuring niche traffic for their users. Verticals don't want to take over the world; they just want to monopolize one industry and make it the best it can be.

Battle for dominance
Who will be the ultimate winner in the SERP turf battle? Right now, organic links still dominate. When search marketing first debuted, organic SEO was the only show in town. When sponsored links came into the fold, they were treated like the neglected stepchild.

Paid search has come a long way since, surpassing SEO in search marketing revenue. What we really need in the SERPs, general or vertical, is quality organic and sponsored links. Let's hope Google comes up with an SEO algorithm that produces quality organic links to match its quality sponsored links.

Jason Prescott is CEO of JP Communications. Read full bio.

Jason A. Prescott, CEO of TopTenWholesale and Manufacturer.com, directs a network of vertical search sites, advertising networks, and product sourcing directories customized for wholesalers, retailers, importers, discounters and auctioneers.

View full biography


to leave comments.

Commenter: Tom Crandall

2007, June 21

Google's organic search algorithm does an incredible job of positioning the most relevant pages and they know this. This is their "bread and butter." This is why the masses use Google. Their paid search business is nothing without their proficiency to provide the best organic results. There is much more to linking than meets the eye--it is no longer "one link equals one vote" in the eyes of Google. Review John Faris' article last week on iMedia to gain a better understanding of the complexities involved. In the consumer retail sector, people look to paid search for "the best deal" and rely on organic for research and due diligence--specs, colors, stats, you name it, organic will always outpace and be more relevant than search ads. Paid search is gimmicky, and web savvy consumers understand this. The trick is to convert a searcher with one short title and two lines of marketing copy. The landing pages that feature the most influential and relevant copy, as well as pull marketing assets, such as free catalogs, recipes, free reports, white papers, etc, will get the lowest bounce rates and highest quality scores. Another can of worms in this discussion is the difference between generic and branded searches--but either way organic will continue to command more click-throughs and feature more relevant content, thanks to Googles emphasis on inbound links in their search algorithm.