Mike Levin SEO

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Quality vs. Quantity And Being The Best In The World At Something

by Mike Levin SEO & Datamaster, 04/21/2014

It’s time for me to write on the quality vs. quantity of content question. It will evolve into why I got out of the field of SEO, am why I am currently focusing on my own Linux distro (Levinux) and application development for Google Glass. For the particularly insightful, you will notice that I’m switching from socially rather invisible tech endeavors to much more high profile, noteworthy, and perchance positive socially redeeming ones. For those who “get it” at this point, you can just stop reading the article. For everyone who doesn’t see the connection, keep reading.

In the days of easily manipulating Google search results, quantity mostly won. Every published page was another chance to exact-match target another variation on your keywords. It was like playing slots vs. Texas Holdem. Every page of your site had a small but equal chance of being served in search results, but it was a rather blind process. That’s why I made the HitTail website to help web publishers choose their next blog post subject with special knowledge that it will perform well—converting the process from slots to a little more like Blackjack. But still, I always advocated writing-well for long-term sustainability.

Nonetheless variations on the process of winning through copious (often automated or outsourced) writing resulted in trashing up the net—referred to as a cesspool by Google’s Eric Schmidt back in 2009 just before what marketers have come to know as Panda.

Now, due to Google’s anti-spam initiatives nicknamed Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, times have changed. Those who were never in SEO have already adapted to social media, intuitively knowing the power of personal reputation and brand inherently trumps the 15-year run of an anomalous spam-rewarding engine. Your gut just tells you that the power of the grapevine—”they told two friends, and so on and so on”—is just more powerful than tweaking titles and meta tags to compete over stepping into the path of searchers.

For those who didn’t already know this intuitively, they just need to be aware that the pendulum always swings in the other direction. Now that much of Google’s revenues come from large budget advertisers, they no longer rely on the unwashed masses of small long-tail publishers who made a few bucks off the AdSense network. With that removal of survival dependence on a somewhat shameful secret (Google was in large part build on the effort of the system-gaming spammers they today penalize), quality is staged for a massive comeback.

Today, you game the system by being simply awesome and noteworthy, letting the diversity of google-like search system and Facebook-like article sharing amplification systems work their magic. You don’t need to know all the various ever-shifting ever-changing reputation amplification systems in detail. You just need to keep your most important URLs forever unchanging and to a minimum, make sure everything you do leaves clues on how to find them, and then systematically increase the QUALITY of what you’re doing instead of the quantity.

Google still rewards spammers, but you have to either be particularly skilled at it and willing to be penalized when caught, or you need to go for such small specific keyword traffic-grabs that no one really cares. And according to the rules of following the path of least resistance, the general advertising and marketing public is more powerfully invented to focus on a smaller number of higher quality URLs that align with more competitive keywords and be in it with a genuine voice for the long-term. The world is becoming just too competitive and the search filters just too good to allow anything but the very best to rise to the top.

The strong filters keeping garbage from floating implies that a sort of shutout momentum exists among the “made men” and women who have been at it for awhile. Their long-running and outstanding reputations effectively block any newcomers from breaking into search results, right? Thankfully, there are systems to compensate for shutout momentum and it goes something like this: there are true influencers out there whose special skill they have to offer the world is actual high quality curation in their field of interest. Pinterest is full of this sort of folk, but so is Reddit and YouTube. These super-curators have the ability to help newcomers break through this barrier, if only the newcomers could be discovered in the first place.

Thankfully, these super-curators need currency. And they look for that currency in the form of new discoveries. There is great clout in being the first to discover something and advocate it and shout off the top of mountains that they discovered something awesome. And so the onus is on the person doing something awesome to still do just a little basic search engine optimization on just the right keywords to be discoverable. Then, you float a few test balloons—each one remarkably high quality and worthy of amplification. Quick daily blogging becomes fewer thoughtful and amplification-worthy blogs. You can still blog daily if that’s the type of publication you’re running and that’s what people expect of you. But if you’re simply doing something awesome that is itself not writing and blogging, fewer articles where you take the care to say what you really want to say is better.

Eventually, these super-curators who themselves still perform highly specific off-the-radar low-volume searches will discover you. If you are sufficiently awesome, they’ll pop you into Pinterest, Facebook, Reddit or one of those other amplification machines to see if you’re worthy of reaching greater potential. They’re “floating” discoveries in front of their peers.

Initially of course this helps only the most boorish and kitschy Gangnam-style pop-culture spectacles, but over time it also let’s true quality get discovered and pinned to the top. It’s a long process, but I’ve begun preparing for it a long time ago by taking inventory of what I have to offer to the world, and what I’m going to inevitably want to do most regarding my child’s education, and where I stand to be worth the most professionally and in industry. I synthesized all of the above, and realized this little side-project preserving the merits of the old-skool approach to programming was of potentially massive interest. It seemed the path less traveled, and I think it will make all the difference.

So my “thing” is very self-referential. It’s using tech to tech the non-technical with some interest and propensity for becoming technical how to do it in a truly old-skool fashion that’s going to actually last forever, because most computers in the future aren’t going to have regular screens and keyboards. You’re going to have to log in remotely if you’re going to want to program or use them in any fashion outside the very carefully controlled consumer experience that their manufacturers have planned for you. It’s an odd thing, but old-skool lives on in “The Internet of Things” because of the cost-reduction and resource constraints of embedded systems. Just like working on your own car has gradually gone out of the hands of do-it-yourself tinkerers and into the hands of authorized mechanics who have the right diagnostic computer to attach, so is the ability to tinker with general purpose computers gradually going away… except among those who still know how to connect.

Therefore, my purpose is first to show people how to connect to devices old-skool (through serial terminals or secure shells). That’s the first step in teaching the herded-flock that they need not be cattle. Anyone can become the cowboy, and eventually the rancher, then the land-owner, and so on. It’s the art of cycle-breaking, but breaking a cycle born of habit or lack-of-knowledge can be one of the hardest things to do.

I’ve never been one to take the easiest path. I discovered this was a trait of my late father as well. My Aunt and cousin once laughed over the topic saying of something had to be done, my father would find the most difficult way to do it. This was a revelation to me and took me years to discover what was really going on. My father was following his passion in little things. When I felt the pendulums swinging from SEO and system-gaming technical savvy to reputation and genuine voice, I took inventory of what I had to offer the world. And it was my ability to occasionally distill the very difficult down to easy concepts with a certain relish for letting newbies flood into fields hitherto dominated by jealous gatekeepers.

Here’s a secret: the field of tech is full of idiots. The distribution of intelligence I’m convinced follows just about the same curve as any other cross section of humanity. You can go an awfully long way learning just a few tricks. There are a few truly inspired techs changing the world at the top of the bell curve, and a few mathematical geniuses working in the spy business and as Google employees, but then most of the rest of the field of tech comes in somewhere between auto mechanics (actually quite good techs) and pizza delivery boys who can keep enough straight in their mind and action to keep the pizza flowing.

And so, my purpose is to open that door and invite you into that side of meaningful and powerful tech. I say this because there is another sort of less powerful tech: the snide YouTube commenting gamers who think because they grew up seeing game consoles evolve from platform games to 3D reality engines and decked out their PCs with NVidia GeForce GTX cards, they know something better than the average Apple consumer. They’re wrong. They follow tech the way others follow their favorite music bands or sports teams. They’re consumers until they execute some of their own code.

I’d go as far as to say the Apple folks are better equipped to go technical, because at least they’re on Unix. Being a genuine tech is so tied to the old ways of doing things. Even Steve Jobs knew this when he started Next Computer and bought back the assets of the NextStep OS when rejoining Apple. His friend Stephen Wolfram of Mathematica fame (and now Wolfram Alpha) made sure Jobs “got” the importance of good underlying tech for the education market. In one word, this meant: Unix.

Telling the history of Unix is something I think I can do better than most. Skimming over the history of Unix and showing people how to really start doing interesting things quickly is also something I think I can do better than most (watch my Levinux videos). And finally, wrapping it all up into a nice clean package and site is something that I’m currently learning to do. It’s a bit difficult for me, but I’m seeing a lot of positive signs. First, I start writing articles like this so the Reddit and HackerNews crowd who have the ability to give me a little boost perchance discover me while they search on obscure but still quite important topics.

I think I can be the best in the world at letting newbies with technical propensity into the world of old-skool Unix/Linux server, starting out with some fun and easy Python web development.