Thursday, May 3, 2007

Use SEO Responsibly!

You ever hear the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely"? This phrase always seems to come to mind when I think about the power that those knowledgeable in SEO hold over those not so knowledgeable. It's actually a little frightening to me.

Although I've only been at this about a month and a half, I've already come across a few instances of the SEO community gaming the system, or basically Googlebombing. There was the Stephen Colbert incident- Jonah Stein (forgive me if I'm wrong and this campaign did NOT originate with Jonah) decided that Stephen Colbert should be #1 on Google for "The Greatest Living American" (there, I helped)! I thought that was funny as hell and proved that Google still hasn't really fixed that pesky little problem of googlebombing. The most recent one I came across has to do with the Ask billboards - you know, those billboards peppered throughout the U.S. that don't seem to make any sense at all?


Quite honestly, I don't think anyone quite gets Ask campaign - as a matter of fact, I can't quite figure out if that first one is a bit offensive to me or not, because I just don't get it. (Feel free to explain it to me if anyone else does).

About mid April Randall over at XKCD wrote a post about the Ask viral campaign and how so far it goes nowhere - Google it, and you get nothing from Ask about it. Instead, a bunch of blogs are as puzzled over the campaign as I am. Makes it a pretty crappy campaign so far.

So in the spirit of Googlebombing (sort of), Randall asked his readers to link to his blog using those billboards as anchor text, so when someone types it in, his site'll pop up. So far it's working fairly well - and it's not even really the "in crowd" of the SEO community participating!

This situation in and of itself isn't bad - it's actually pretty funny, and Randall's site is great, and definitely worth repeat visits. But it got me to thinking about the potential crap storm that the SEO community really could stir up if they wanted to. Really, if everybody worked together, we could probably get to the #1 spot in Google for just about any keyword.

Will this power be used for good? Hopefully. Will it be used for evil? Hopefully not. But it's why I always think about that whole "power corrupts" thing - if one well known SEOer came up with a clever way to beat out some company for the top spot in Google, it could easily be done, regardless of what the consequences would be to said company/website. Yes, I realize that a Google ranking shouldn't make or break a site, but the fact is, many sites erroneously build their profit/livelihood whatever you want to call it, on Google rankings.

Basically, SEOers could really screw a lot of people if they wanted to. For the most part, the community seems like a fairly peaceful and friendly one for as short a time as I've immersed myself in it. I mean shoot, even the idea of that much power has half of me cringing about the ethics involved and the possible consequences, while the other half of me is mentally rubbing my hands together and laughing maniacally at the thought of what we COULD do. Creepy.

Anyway, this is just something I've been thinking about, and I'm kind of curious to see if anyone
has considered the implications. I guess maybe I'm just a worrier....