Canary in Coal Mine VS. Boy Who Cried Wolf

    January 2, 2007

Back in September I posted that I thought it was somewhat sketchy for Google to recommend there photo search when a person searched for Istockphoto and got flamed for it.

Recently Blake Ross, the creator of Firefox, said similar. Because of Blake’s market position, the exact same story was credible, important, spread, and is something Matt Cutts needed to make multiple blog posts about.

Based on the credibility and market position of an author certain stories may be important, or may be worthless. Even completely true stories may still cut at your credibility if you don’t later reference them again to remind the dismissive parties of how their thought process changed over time.

The media is largely owned by conglomerates tied to banks, geared toward selling ads and their business agendas, manipulated every day, but most authorities would like people to blindly trust the media as a representation of truth, even as that same media wraps self serving messages in a self-aggrandizing article that dismisses their competition.

Search is also a topic that is easy to love, but SEO has been painted as a scourge on the web. Any authority or authority based system has to pretend that they hate market manipulators to justify their own legitimacy, market position, and how they got where they are.

SEO is largely based on speculation and predicting market trends that most people do not see, so it is easy to be seen as having little credibility, so long as your brand is focused on SEO, even if you are 100% correct. At least one board member of a major search engine has called me for investing advice, though I guess it would be a bad idea to blog any specifics on that.

It is quite ironic that the main reason this site was worthy of press attention is because I was sued by an unethical business, and I can even get interviews published in the London Times as an expert on Black Hat SEO largely because I own the matching domain. But even after about an hour of talking, showing highlights of how search engines pay for much of the spam, and how they don’t stop paying for it even after they catch it, all I could get was a few sweet soundbytes like:

“Who is and who isn’t a black hat is dependent on what Google says is black hat,” said Wall. “They would certainly class me as a black hat.”


And then you remember that stories need to sell ads. To do that they exposure. To do that they have to be controversial. They have to be pitched, sold, and then the matching facts have to be collected. Rarely is there ever enough column space to risk challenging conventional wisdom if you can be controversial and conventional at the same time.

Knowing that the whole polarized black hat vs white hat garbage was going to get more and more self serving press was probably smart marketing, but is it SEO? And, if a site that cost me a half a day and under $100 gets me featured as content in the London Times (with an HTML link) is that efficient marketing?

A year and a half ago I predicted that Google would eventually create an automated commodities trading platform where they could leverage their pure data. Since then Google has leveraged their market position and used predatory pricing to become a large payment processor. Just about anything without a brand will eventually be commoditized by cheaper communications, search, more efficient markets, and other forms of automation that are good enough. Google has already won the web. Don’t be surprised if you see Google Checkout offline in 2008.


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Aaron Wall is the author of SEO Book, an ebook offering the latest
search engine optimization tips and strategies. From Aaron
gives away free advice and search engine optimization tools. He is a
regular conference speaker, partner in Clientside SEM, and runs the
Threadwatch community.