Google Says, “Don’t Forget Your Keywords So Our Software Gets It!”

Popular Mechanics, of all places, has an exclusive, rare interview with Udi Manber, the head of search quality at Google. You’d hope that if anybody understands how the Web and search should work, it would be this guy.

Sadly, you would be wrong.

In an ideal world, writers and publishers would write and publish as they always have — with an eye on quality and a focus on what the subject matter is, writing for whatever their target audience is. In health, this is a very specific language, worded and phrased in such a way to make sure that people understand sometimes complex topics, since their very lives may be at stake. Books have been published for centuries, and this quality and style of writing — for our intended audience — has stood the test of time.

Enter the World Wide Web and search engines. Suddenly, it’s not good enough simply to compose well-written articles for our intended audiences. No, you have to stuff your articles with “keywords,” so the dumb search engines — including, apparently, Google — can figure out that your article has to do with Topic X. In fact, because of how dumb search engine technology is today, there are millions of websites (and thousands of new ones created every day) whose sole purpose is to try and game the system.

And it’s no wonder… Because here’s the quote from the head of search quality for Google:

Do you find that the content on the Web is evolving to be more search-engine friendly?
It’s hard to say. It’s definitely still lacking. I wish people would put more effort into thinking about how other people will find them and putting the right keywords onto their pages.

I’m sorry, what? You want me to write my content with a sensitivity for man-made software programs to better index it?!?!

I have a better solution, Google (and every other sad excuse for a search engine online today). Why don’t you create software that can understand the content and context of an article I write — for humans (not for computers!) — and do a much better job indexing that article than you do today? Why don’t you stop asking publishers to write for your search engine, and instead take into account that publishers and writers write and publish for people, not software.

I think it’s insane that the head of search quality for Google is asking publishers and writers to “think about the poor search engine” and ensure the right keywords (in the right quantities, of course) appear on your page. And that’s why keyword stuffing pages are so popular (and fairly well-ranked for many searches).

Tell ya what, I’ll keep writing pages for humans, not search engines. I hope Google figures out a way to index those pages regardless.


Posted in: trends & principles





4 Responses to “Google Says, “Don’t Forget Your Keywords So Our Software Gets It!””

  1. todd says:

    I’m going to make a cardinal sin and comment without reading the article, but my guess is he’s talking about the keyword meta tags, not keywords within the article.

    Blog software doesn’t always make these tags easily available, however and your point is still a valid one.

  2. Susannah Fox says:

    Speaking of Google, I just got back from a star-studded panel on consumer education and privacy (OK, DC-level stars). AOL has rolled out Mr. Penguin to help consumers (points for cuteness) while Google has rolled out a YouTube channel (points for meeting people where they are). But those presentations were overshadowed by Peter Swire‘s assertion out that unless privacy is baked into the code, all the education in the world won’t help consumers.

    Why do I bring this up here? Because it’s the code that matters in health & health care, too.

  3. John Grohol says:

    True. Security and privacy need to be baked into the code from the beginning, for best results.

    Asking patients or consumers to read 5 sentences, much less the more common 5 paragraphs, on privacy issues is challenging.

    Because they’re all too often written by lawyers, for lawyers and corporations’ sake. Not for consumers or customers or patients.

    It’s all connected…….

  4. Todd, I do some SEO (search engine optimization) at work and I occasionally roam the SEO blogs, so I know a little not a lot about this. But I do know Google’s algorithm now gives preference to articles that have the keywords *in the text* near the top.

    I see Udi’s comment as a big blinking arrow pointing to competing search engine developers: develop algorithms that work demonstrably for a particular discipline, e.g. medicine. From what Dr. John says, a smart medical search algorithm would have substantially different rules than Google’s general-public rules.

    And, btw, since (the last I heard) 98% of Google’s revenue comes from ads that they place in response to their keywords, they just might optimize their results in favor of whatever leads to the most ad clicks. That might seem strange, but you’d be surprised how clever (and business-like) (and effective) they are.

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