The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Stupid Google Tricks

Posted on | February 13, 2011 | 23 Comments

“Being ranked in the top 5 for something on Google and being ranked 25th or 125th can be the difference between selling your crappy website to AOL for $315 million and going out of business.”
James Joyner, Outside the Beltway

The fact that a major corporation like J.C. Penney was willing to pay money for Web geeks to make sure they were the top Google result for phrases like “grommet top curtains” ought to tell you how important the Internet has become to commerce. Reverse-engineering the Google algorithm is the sort of knowledge-is-power formula that any student of human nature might have predicted would swiftly be hijacked to serve selfish and/or malevolent purposes.

The whole point of “How to Get a Million Hits” was to demonstrate that blogging isn’t rocket science, and to share a few simple ideas from my Underpants Gnome Theory of how it works.

That’s why, as Rule 3, I recommended Memeorandum as a source for political blog fodder. (Which is where I found Joyner’s post.) Memeorandum is an exceptional tool if the question you’re trying to answer is, “What are other bloggers are blogging about?”

They’ve got an algorithm over there, and one of the ways you make it onto the Memeorandum aggregation is by acknowledging them as a source. Because their choices are determined by an algorithm, you’re not at the mercy of some human “decided” who might play favorites.

You can use Memeorandum as a guide to where the blog conversation is heading, and also to find other bloggers you might want to link and quote. A relatively small group of bloggers who are (a) all getting blog fodder from a common source, (b) frequently linking to each other, and (c) collectively directing a fair amount of traffic to Memeorandum, can thereby become a sort of “center of gravity” in the blogosphere.

Jimmie Bise once dubbed this concept The Million Hit Squad. It is sort of a “gaming the algorithm” trick, except that it isn’t a secret and is intended to produce a kind of win-win result: Memeorandum gets more traffic, and the bloggers who use The Rules get more linkage, because they are engaged in mutually aggregating each other’s commentary. If enough bloggers follow that method, it would also give conservative sites more weight in the Memeorandum algorithm which currently tends to show more Left-leaning blogs (and their pet topics), for reasons that need not be discussed here.

Of course, to succeed with that concept, you still have to bring some element of skill and knowledge to the ‘sphere, and be able to contribute new information to the conversation. Here I would recommend a simple idea: Use Google News searches to expand your aggregation.

For example, I used Google News to find this relevant New York Times story from last week:

[A]n art and science at which The Huffington Post excels [is] search engine optimization, or S.E.O. The term covers a wide range of behind-the-scenes tactics for getting search engine users to visit a Web site, like choosing story topics based on popular searches.
Because Google is many Internet users’ front door to the Web, S.E.O. has become an obsession for many Web publishers, and successful ones use the strategies to varying degrees. But as newspapers, magazines, blogs and online-only news sites increasingly compete for readers, they are making it more of a priority than ever and adopting new techniques, like trying to maximize pass-alongs on social networks.

That article offers a revealing insight into how people who are in the business of generating page-views — whose jobs are dependent on success in that endeavor — do what they do. Even if you’re a dinky new blogger nobody ever heard of, you can adapt such advanced methods to a small scale.

Note that I have now, in a single post, combined multiple elements:

  1. James Joyner’s quote.
  2. Link to the article Joyner was commenting on.
  3. Link to Memeorandum.
  4. Link to a related news article.
  5. My own original contributions to the conversation.

It’s the value-added concept of customer service, applied to New Media. And it’s not rocket science. You can become your own traffic-enhancement expert.


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