Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Gagging on Google Search and News

Some people make too much about being at the top of the Google search engine. As someone previously obsessed by the company's algorithms, I can tell you first hand that any approach to trying to be in the top 10 is a waste of your efforts. The Tux Reports Network has four sites in the top 50 for Tablet PCs. This site is consistently in the top 10 for key searches. However, the name change of the site cut over 1 million pages from the Google Index and the pain was all psychological. Eventually, everything settled down and I have faith that Google will properly index the site. It's their problem and not mine.

Maybe you aren't convinced because I mentioned only one incident of my being stupid about Google. Here is another story. Tux Reports was originally a site trafficed by 20K to 50K visitors per day. If you go there now then you'll see old forums that were installed a few months ago. Posts from 2003 are still hanging around. I destroyed the full site about five years ago, wiping out reviews, a large wiki, knowledge databases, etc. I just wasn't interested in Linux. However, I am interested again. And so, I'm rebuilding the site. A total of 20 people go to the site each day. Yes, I'm one of the 20. Eventually, I'll build the site as I want it. Maybe. Maybe not. But the site will not be a regurgitation of other sites. I've learned that lesson - write your own material. Say your own ideas and not thoughts copied from others.

What about Google? Will they eventually index the sites? Sure Google drives traffic but so do many other search engines. But content is more important than search engine placement. People will find you if you have something interesting to say - and you say it well. Actually, other bloggers linking to your stories is far more important than Google. Consider TechMeme, Digg, and other aggregators, too. They actually drive more traffic than Google search.

Google News used to be a good source of traffic for this site - until I asked them to change the name from Tablet Questions to Technology Questions. Instead, they dropped the site. After spending months of being upset, I came to the realization that Google News just doesn't matter. Yahoo News receives four times the traffic - and with reason, too. Google News can't figure out why it exists. Check out the sources and you'll see a mixture of copied stories, repeat headlines, and little or no structure. This is by no means a slight against the nice people at Google but Google Goo is spreading and slowing down the progress of the Internet. The company really doesn't care about bloggers or websites or improving their own search capabilities.

How would I change Google News? I'd ask the engineers to tweak the product for speed, add more sources, and hire editors to monitor story links so that the front page stories are fresh. After all, TechMeme usually runs the technology stories a full day in advance of Google News. This is because of the sources. Next, I'd take a page from some of the social networks and allow people to submit individual stories. Yes, I know about the submit a source link but I'm talking about the missed opportunities of finding one good review from a little site and making sure it hits the front page. Imagine the interest if the little guy was able to get onto the front page and compete with the NY Times or Washington Post.

In the end, though. Google is not the answer and I do not plan to hold my breath. I learned the hard way that the best writing is done when you have something to say - and want to say it - so that others can be helped.

So - how am I going to help you? Here are some tips for getting to the top of Google (in case you do care).

(1) Ignore the tips from Google's Matt Cutts. These tips are simply general and common sense. They will not get you to the top.

(2) If possible, write your own code for the website. I tend to use open source projects and get sites opened quickly. However, simple HTML is also an easy way to get Google to recognize you. The simpler and cleaner the code then the faster you reach the top.

(3) A site map is vital.

(4) Remove spammers quickly. I hate spam because they waste hours of my time. Get rid of them quickly.

(5) Make  sure that you design your site the way you want it and don't worry about Google. Along this line, skip the glitz and just keep things the way you want.

(6) Have fun. The site is yours and so you should enjoy it.

(7) Don't worry about mistakes. Who cares? You are human. Be human.

What happens if Google never finds your site? Tell me about your site - and if your site is worthy then I'll link to it. Why not? The Internet started as a means to communicate and share. Even if you are gagging on the Google Goo, 'll share.