In Hurricaneâ€™s Aftermath, Google is a Priority
It wasnâ€™t so much the inability to take a hot shower. It wasnâ€™t the inconvenience of having to run to 7-11 for coffee in the morning. It wasnâ€™t the fact that we couldnâ€™t wash clothes, couldnâ€™t watch TV or couldnâ€™t get cool (other than the cold showers.) We were learning to live with the sounds of generators in our neighborhood and we were acquiring a taste for warm beer.
The killer was no Google.
In the aftermath of a hurricane, itâ€™s easy to start appreciating the simple luxuries we take for granted. Hot water, air conditioning, email, gasoline, ice, garage door openers, overhead lights, alarm systems, electric guitars, CD players and batteries.
The local stores were pilfered of D batteries and ice on day one. I found D batteries yesterday at a convenience store. The clerk kept calling me â€œbossâ€ in that nondescript accent that conjures up images of a third world street market. No one else had them, and Boss could buy them for only $9.99 for four. I bought three packages and grumbled as I exited his store. People had apparently been loading shopping carts full of ice and batteries on the first day of no power, with no regard for others or for rationing. It was every man for himself and the tensions were mounting in the streets. Price gouging was widespread, and in a free market economy, thatâ€™s OK, even in times of emergency and natural disasters. The guy calling me â€œbossâ€ had batteries and no one else did and I needed them for my flashlights. So he made a few bucks per pack. I can forgive him that. He came to this country for the opportunities and opportunity knocked in the form of a hurricane. So heâ€™s got a little to learn about compassion and fairness. I sensed he was new to the USA, so I let it slide. I liked how his D cells were in a box behind the counter, with no prices on them, as if they were contraband or moonshine. He acted like he was selling me drugs. â€œCome back tomorrow for ice, boss.â€ Yeah, maybe.
But the power is on tonight. My days in the camp that has been my home are over. Thereâ€™s a fan behind me right now, cooling my wife who reads by lamplight. The dogs are on the tile floor, soaking up the cool. The beer is cold. The porch light is on. The windows are closed. The AC is on. And I got Google.
I sifted through the 70 some-odd SPAM letters my filters didnâ€™t catch. They didnâ€™t bother me so much today. It was almost like seeing old acquaintances you never really liked but are glad are still kickinâ€™. Same old tricks as usual. Misspellings of â€œViagraâ€ and â€œmortgageâ€ and â€œpenis.â€ They were kind of cute tonight, the silly bastards. Iâ€™m still not buying. I am not in their 2% expected return. But I hope they keep it coming. I like to see what new marketing tricks they have up their sleeves.
My most trusted friend, the one I turn to for everything, was the one I was most glad to have back. My Google homepage.
Even after days without power, itâ€™s still hard to break the habit of reaching for the light switches. You head to the bathroom and you naturally reach for the wall. â€œOh, damn, thatâ€™s right. DUH! No power.â€ And even after days without power, itâ€™s still hard to deny the impulse that says, â€œI need to Google that.â€
How did that happen so fast? It was only 5 or 6 years ago when we all started to avail ourselves of our Internet. Now we live by it. It is our research library, consumer advocate, shopping mall, bank, travel agency, postal service, job board, bulletin board, message board, soapbox, art gallery, butler, maid and servant.
And how do we get to all those goods and services? We search. Search is king and I know Iâ€™m not the only one who relies so heavily on it. We all have our favorite search engines and some are better for some things than others. I like alltheweb for a few things. I enjoy AltaVista for other things. But home for me is Google. It might be the simple page layout, the preschool primary colored logo and the lack of advertising. Itâ€™s friendly. It doesnâ€™t scream. It gets a little cutesy at times and that can get annoying. Iâ€™m talking about the ways they change the logo on certain â€œholidaysâ€ to reflect that holiday. Einsteinâ€™s birthday? Come on. But Iâ€™m a Google head and Iâ€™ll just groan and forgive the Google employees their silliness. I like that they work in a fun place. More of us should.
If the truth were told, Google is less of a friend and more of a slave to me. Itâ€™s not like I give anything back to Google. It asks nothing of me and does exactly what I tell it to do while expecting no compensation. And as that relationship has developed, I sometimes feel cheated when my slave Google doesnâ€™t deliver my expected results. But then again, I am not Googleâ€™s only master.
Google is becoming more and more a victim of the moneygrubbers and the con artists of late. I know youâ€™ve seen what Iâ€™m talking about. Iâ€™m talking about that first page of results that isnâ€™t exactly what you were looking for. For a while there, it didnâ€™t matter what I searched, the top result was always eBay. Find great prices on dermatologist at eBay? I beg your pardon. That was some tricky SEO going on there and I doubt eBay was directly responsible. But someone figured out how to land at the top for just about everything I wanted to find.
As an SEO guy, I want to keep my buddy Google honest. I want to find real results for what Iâ€™m searching for. I donâ€™t want to drive all over town, as it were, searching for D batteries, only to find that the only batteries available in my search results are overpriced. I want to get exactly what Iâ€™m after, with no hype and no lies, by at least page one of my search results. Youâ€™re the same way. You hate liars and cheaters and thieves, hiding things up their sleeves. You hate when they land in the top spots, paid for or not. And you learn to look past them.
So I started to wonder if maybe itâ€™s time we in the SEO world stopped expecting the top three slots for our clients. Maybe our clients need to be content with a top 10 placement, because in order to beat some of these clowns who are winning, youâ€™re going to need lots of money or lots of tricks, some of them perhaps not exactly ethical. Maybe by now, the searchers – you and me – know better than to look at the top spot. We know that the real meat of our search can be found a little lower. Weâ€™re trying to avoid the price-gougers, Boss.
Can we as SEO professionals guarantee the top spot on Google? Do we even want to?
Not having Google made me remember my friend fondly as the perfect deliverer of my every search. But itâ€™s not really. I hated not having my buddy at my side when the power was out. Googlelessness is a sad way to live. But as soon as the lights came back on, glad though I was to have my buddy back, I remembered the flawed slave it really is. Google answers to everyone, and not everyone is playing fair.
Guest Columnist Dave Wilkie is a vice-president and co-founder of Zunch Communications, Inc., a Dallas website design and search engine optimization services company.