Happy 15th Birthday Google. Now For The Next 15 Years!

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 09/04/2013

Happy 15th birthday Google. You now throw off the favorite way I had to describe my career in SEO over the past 14 years as 7-years in, 7-years out.

Now, I have to divide an odd number. Hardly anyone remembers or much cares about SEO before Google’s rise to search engine and online start-page, must go-to site, integral in research and societal development, attempted shaper of our lives the likes of which we haven’t seen since G.E. and Westinghouse’s heydays. The cradle-to-grave, diaper to daily news all-things-in-life company. The information age gave the industrial hard goods age a pretty big whallop. Both survived quite handily. Google won’t wipe out Walmart anytime soon, and Walmart could hardly get servers to perform instantaneous responses to inquiries of infinite sorts as handily and satisfactorily as Google.

Wait, what? 7 years out? What does that make you now? Well, the answer is just a valuable commodity who survived well in the field of SEO during IT’S heyday, and had the wisdom and ability to make the switch as the field gets shattered into a million tiny sub-specialties, each of which is kinda sorta important to some type of customer. Diving into those sub-specialties, and indeed knowing a few VERY well is a viable career path. I recommend it to a lot of people. Word-of-mouth local juicer. URL longevity technician. Analytics oracle. HTML5 and microdata optimizer. LOTS of choices here.

Take for example the eCommerce catalog-page spinners who can make vast multi-dimensional matrices of products by size by color and by every other attribute, and spun out a corresponding number of pages - in all possible word-arrangement orders (a secondary multi-dimensional axis resulting in millions and billions of pages for a typical catalog. They add very little real value to the web, yet they contribute millions or billions of questionable pages for Google to have to gradually process over time, attributing to a noticeable amount of Google crawling resources to be spent on garbage. Page canons was one particularly technical and effective and spammy form of SEO which I knew exactly how to do - in the coolest multiple XSL transformations it took to slice and dice and stylize pages into multiple optimally inter-linked pages that constitute a valid hierarchy appealing and useful to users - and in essence no worse than the zillions of poorly written dynamic apps out there that catch Google in spider traps. At least you know spun-out static pages to be finite in nature. They have an end (so long as your webserver is properly configured to report page-not-found errors (versus the alternative of always reporting “page loaded successfully” - a terrible SEO hack that separated the naive clever-boys from sane and thoughtful marketers.

For those not familiar with page canons, you basically write some fairly easy tech to spin out an exact-match stand-alone static HTML page for every possible word combination given the product names, models, attributes, and yes, even histories and reviews - so products and all their respective years-issued and archived historical no-longer-active SKUs (product IDs) should be perpetually exposed now too - on the off-chance the one-in-a-million search someone performs on exactly that will STILL lead to you, and perchance be up-sold to a new equivalent item in your catalog. Get the sale at any spammy SEO cost. Those days are over, thank goodness.

The clean-up has begun, and frankly I’m glad. I did not much like being one of those thoughtful marketers of the variety that imagined every clever-boy SEO trick, like altering Apache config files to never report 404 errors. As an SEO consultant, you have to “fess up” to all the clever-boy tactics that could be used to address some major client’s immediate SEO problem - but it was always at the cost of future kosher-ness. I tried to avoid suggesting any tactics to clients that would not bode well 6 months or even 2 years down the line, when Google FINALLY catches onto some trick or other, recognizes the signature of the technique, and dials-down the page’s effectiveness in search. If that trick got into your templates for the entire site, than the signature of that trick cuts across every page of your site, and your entire site’s standing in Google default search slip… as do sales… and the “feel” of Google’s true modern power is felt.

Google needs desperately to maintain that power. The world is gradually shifting… has already shifted… into a new set of cultural and gadgetry masters. Those masters are, in all likelihood: Google, Amazon… and probably Apple. And in a distant third is Samsung, Microsoft, and all those others who wish us to think they could change everything overnight if only IBM’s Watson could replace Google and all our smartphones… for example. Long-shots. It’s shaping up to be a Google vs. Amazon vs. maybe Apple world. And I’ll place my bets on all three. They each do a piece of the puzzle the others won’t master for years to come, and would never in a million years yield to the other as a concessionary loss to the heart-and-mids-of-commerce war.

In other words, Apple has a vast hardware and Information Age ecosystem and developer rewarding real, actual, billionaire producing economy today… now… onto whose bandwagon you could right now jump… if you will only take up Objective-C as your programming language. No thank you! And of course there are other factors. Underlying Apple’s computers are POSIX-compliant Unix… (solid computer-scientist-preferred systems with a 60-year history) and that is good. It makes them a more valid Information Age tool in the modern world than utterly proprietary Tool$. Apple managed to plant a solid foot in the FOSS world with Unix, their given-back Darwin derivative, and easy porting of Unix software, thanks to a bunch of repository systems, such as MacPorts, Fink and Homebrew (I like Homebrew). Those who denounce Apple’s entire platform over how developers make money in Mobile and protect your phone from shitty software, playing into unproven paranoid visions is just plain wrong. Uncle Steve was right about almost everything. I like using Apple equipment - including their ecosystem stuff. Mikey likey apps.

Hmmmm. Okay, to really make things fun and visible, I’m going to start separating out subject-matter that was done at and for work, to think through my programming projects, the “industry” and the world here at work, FOR work, and usually in vim in my Tiger code repository, from the stuff I do on my iPhone in Apple Notes to and from work. The material is subtly different and comprises two separate bodies of work. I am currently mixing them on MikeLev.in. But there is a certain desire to mix, given the continuity of thoughts. All grouping is arbitrary. The only natural sort-order is sequential. It’s the one grouping system that is overwhelmingly hard to dispute the validity of. This is ultimately why I’ve accepted WordPress’ default URL constructions and inherent difficulty in making blog posts adhere to more purely taxonomic URLs.

I was a Director of SEO here at my place of work for many years. Now, I am in a transitional state, to precisely what, I do not entirely know. But what I do know is that I want to instill an inextricable sense of accountability in my actions, even if it doesn’t look at the moment like I’m doing much. I am doing much. It is just difficult to see, because it is transitional in nature and takes a bunch of thinking, and a bunch of rewiring.

Little demonstrates the rewiring quite so dramatically as me giving up the Microsoft tools that made most of my 14+ years in SEO possible. I was an Active Server Page “Classic” guy. That is to say, I programmed in VBScript on IIS server (mostly up to IIS6), and used SQL Server as my primary database. I left that all behind for the most part for FOSS, Linux, Python, and the wonderful world of APIs.

The question now is whether the idea that I have with Always On Levin is really just the SAME thing as MikeLev.in. Why would I even register another domain for something I’m doing so well already? One channel! Don’t start making new channels and more management overhead before you have to. Just use the awesome WordPress instance that you use right now. Just keep doing what you’re doing.