The Second Page of Google
What is the relation between the content quality and Google's page ranking? Why do people spend money to be ranked on Google's page one? What search forms are becoming increasingly popular?
We all know the joke that already started getting on our nerves.
- What is the best place to hide a body?
- The second page of Google.
Although a bizarre one, this joke actually tells the truth. If you really want to be noticed, it is only Google's first page that enables visibility. The second, the third and any subsequent page classifies you into the category of UWO - unidentified web objects.
How many search results are there actually?
I recalled my first-time internet connectivity, back in 1997. It was the time of notorious student protests in Belgrade, when I got my first Pentium PC which made me terribly excited. The annoying buzzing of a dial-up modem was a token of initiation, a ceremonial entry in the www realm. As far as I can remember, I piled up my whole family to witness that glorious moment.
Back then I was immersed in the field of dreams and psychology. Freud, Jung, etc. I remember well that the term "dream interpretation’’ at that time yielded up to 100 search results. I used to brag to my friends of downloading complete web-based material related to dream interpretation.
I would print some, and store others on hard drives or floppy disks. I guess that kids today consider these as the stories of ancient times. Nevertheless, there was something romantic in all that fuss which is difficult to grasp now. On top of that, you had to switch off advanced options in settings (images, flash, video), so that the website could load faster for you to reach as fast as possible what you are interested in the most – a quality text and content!
Today, when I type the same term, I get 273,000,000 results nominally! So, no more bragging about downloading the entire dream-related material, I get it. It would take my whole life just to scan all these pages.
Yet, it tickled my curiosity, so I decided to check how far I could get with search results. To start with, it is very difficult to navigate through the menu, the search results page numbers are at the bottom and you can click one at the time.
The very fact that the page numbers are at the bottom, rather than at the top, is pretty indicative. As if they tried to hint - seek no further, all that is worth seeing is on the first page. But I was not lazy and I arrived to the 21st page, only to receive the following notice:
Jackpot! There is still a chance for the idle ones like me.
They might show me other results as well, I am determined to see result No. 273,000,000, even if it takes a month to get there.
I was taken back to the beginning and then I had to click the results page again, skipping up to 5 at a single turn. I managed to reach page 40 or something and then I hit the wall.
The end. Caput, No more.
There is no explanation, apology, nada.
40 pages x 10 results, it totals 400 search results shown! Where are all these 273,000,000 results promised? At least they could say that they show no more than 400 to avoid overloading their system and servers.
Master your SEO if you want to be a CEO
From practical and commercial point of view, it is pointless to expect any result if you do not rank on the first, maybe second page. But, is ranking the ultimate indicator of text quality? How do they relate to each other?
To be ranked on page one for specific keywords, you have to try hard (SEO), and often to invest a lot of money in content promotion (AdWords). Naturally, there are quality backlinks and content relevancy. Also, a number of technical issues need to be catered for, such as responsive design, well chosen keywords, etc.
If you think it's all about money, you are mistaken. It is actually pure science and people who are very good at this are extremely well paid and in high demand among head hunters.
You may have an exceptionally good content, which could easily be published in a scientific paper or a publication or aired on TV.
For instance, on page 10, I found this BBC documentary about dreams which is fantastic https://documentaryheaven.com/dream-interpretation/. But the quality itself will not help you rank higher among search results, and unless accompanied with someone's recommendation or the exact link, the odds are low for such a material to be found by browsers.
On the other hand, it takes efforts and money to rank among the first 10 results which accounts for more than 90% of total clicks (CTR - click through rate). And a strictly prescribed form needs to be fulfilled as well. In that manner, Google positioned itself as a sort of a censor and authority that decides which texts will be visible to readers, thanks to its algorithm.
Sale is its ultimate goal. Otherwise, if an advertiser fails to rank well and sell its product, it will not pay promotions any more. Big G doesn't like that at all. Their goal is to make money, not to make you well informed and educated.
Even worse, we are forced to consume the content with the highest marketing and commercial potential, and its quality is strictly measured by the number of clicks. Shallow and superficial news, advertorials, infomercials and other stuff intended to turn readers into buyers.
Is it ethical? No.
Is it convenient and profitable? It certainly is.
That's why Google is one of the wealthiest companies, they live of advertising revenues, just like its brother Facebook. It would be more honest if they told us there were only 10 pages with search results for certain keyword. Either you are in or out. Without making a hustle about millions of results.
If you don't know the exact addresses of non-optimized websites, it is virtually impossible to find them. We will be pretty soon unable to find content if it has no commercial purpose. Technically speaking, you can do a hell of a job with SEO and regularly update your posts, but if you don't boost it (promote the page) or if you have no referrals from influential websites, it will inevitably drop to the second, third page, and soon to nothingness.
Therefore, the Internet will no longer be free knowledge base. Authors will have to give up the idea of building websites, they will have to publish their texts on well positioned web pages instead and to write guest posts. However, guest posts are subject to restrictions and editorial policy of such blog site/portal owners… It means there is no free flow of information, even though it is available as never before in human history.
Of course, those who are interested in something specific will always find a way to get to the information needed. It is still possible to buy books, to find scientific magazines on Google Scholar, watch some TED talk or read something useful on portals and blogs. But that choice is getting narrower, even though it never seemed that big, paradoxically. It is getting pretty tough to escape the mainstream.
How to get their eyeballs?
The rumour has it that even novelists take care of optimizing their book titles and specific passages, in order to rank better in search results.
I wouldn't be surprised if a famous young scientist in the near future decides to pay some $100k to Kim Kardashian for instance, to copy a link to his scientific paper on her Insta story announcement. It would be good value for money. Or in our case (in Serbia), Stanija, Luna Djogani, Zorannah, or any other local influencer.
I can imagine CERN boosting its posts in Daily Mail, within an article about the latest Royal Family scandal, under the title "5 DIY methods for particle acceleration".
I am joking, of course, it would be poor targeting of audience which would not yield the expected return on investment, but you get the idea...
I've heard of instances where people used digital marketing to announce an urgent call for help, for helping a sick child, etc. posting such call on influencers' websites and using the keywords which were not appropriate to the situation. They were driven by a desperate need.
The attention is what gets paid today. Everything is measured by the number of visitors, followers, subscribers. It is enough to consider local or global youtube channels and you will grasp the point. I have already learned to avoid clips with millions of views. I realized that the quality is in inverse proportion to the number of views, save for rare exceptions.
It is additionally complicated by the fact that Google is YT's owner, and it encourages viewing of videos. They indeed have a monopoly in text and video searches which is too much for a single company. At the same time, the regulation is still in an inception mode, which gives them an unrestricted power.
They have recently announced that they will no longer promote the content related to conspiracy theories, anti-vaccine, flat-earth movements and other nonsense. We should be grateful for that, indeed.
They have obviously realized that they could make little to no profit there, as the idle and semi-literate people search that organically. So they have no commercial interest there, since there are no advertisements.
How much are we all annoyed by inserted ads in the middle of an interesting clip on YouTube?
According to all rules of permission-based marketing, unplanned disruption of a consumer in a specific process is completely unacceptable. It can only serve as an additional deterrent.
Then why YT insists on ads that must be viewed in the middle of a content we do care about? Do they want us to turn our backs on them? I can hardly believe that their top-notch designers and marketeers have failed to notice how irritating this function is. Or maybe they are getting ready for launching a paid ad-free version? Or maybe, driven by the desire to increase profits, they have deliberately inserted a commercial intemezzo where we cannot avoid seeing it.
Power goes with responsibility
To my mind, advertisers are losing just as much as regular users, and there is only one party that has a win-win situation, we all know which. Rating, clicks, views... Youtube is currently ranked as the second most-used search engine, right after Google. It means that the profits are huge and that they couldn't care less for user experience. They are like "If you know better, you are free to leave".
Maybe there are not much alternatives in online realm and Google is still the most convenient option, for millions of reasons. There has probably never been such a useful and omnipresent tool in human history. Such power should be accompanied with great responsibility. And the awareness of its effects upon users.
The rat race is a vicious circle and I think that the tech industry is beginning to realize this. They are increasingly concerned with user's well-being and they develop services that set user's welfare as their ultimate goal. Let's hope they are sincere in these efforts and let's support them to persevere...