Regulating Search Engine Optimization

From an anonymous executive, today on Tech Crunch:

"Imagine, if you will, that the entire Internet is contained within a single continent. That continent is filled with countries, states and cities. Each jurisdiction is autonomous, relying on visitors to cross on to their turf to engage in commerce. Now, imagine if the only way to get into this continent involved just two methods: SEO and SEM.

Let’s further imagine that the borders to this continent were controlled by a single company. Let’s also hold that the rules for search engine optimization listings and search engine marketing were not only defined but were completely controlled at the whim of this single company. Of course, we all realize that word-of-mouth marketing and viral marketing also contribute to traffic to individual websites. That said, the primary methodology for all users to reach any individual website destination is still search, of either paid or organic listings.

Or suppose the paradigm is the streets of Los Angeles. Let’s imagine that in order to enter the city you had to pass through a single gate. And once you entered that gate, the streets you were or were not allowed to go down — and thus the businesses you were or were not allowed to visit — could be randomly blocked from your access. Blocked to a point where you might not even know they exist; whatever streets were available for you to traverse were in essence the only streets you knew where business could be transacted.

Whatever the scenario, it’s unsettlingly close to the situation that prevails today in search...

It’s now conventional wisdom that search engine optimization, representing the organic result sets on any search query, is more voodoo than science. Through an uncontrolled set of factors search engines determine which listings appear at the top and bottom of any individual query. In addition, consumer behavior dictates the top three results on any search page are all that matter. If you happen to own an online business, unless you exist within those top three, the amount of individual traffic you will obtain from organic listings is very, very low. As the proprietor of that business you may hire search engine optimization companies to assist in increasing your rankings on organic results, with or without success. And at any one time, the controller of these borders (that is, the search engine itself) can change and manipulate those rules – and that can substantially decrease or destroy all organic traffic coming to your website, without notice and without your knowledge..."

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