Why “search engine optimisation” is an evil

We all want our words to be heard.  Our carefully crafted essays to be found.  That means that they must be visible in Google.  It is, indeed, for no other reason that I have devoted a couple of days of my life to doing some work on the old Tertullian Project files.

Increasingly it is only commercial sites that a Google search returns.  If you search for some out-of-copyright text, available for nothing online, you must first scroll past half-a-dozen adverts for people offering to sell you that, and then page through bookseller sites.  Google gains revenue if you are foolish enough to buy; but real people lose time and energy and money.

But once you start to look at the techniques needed for search engine optimisation, and the endless tweaks and nudges necessary, a conviction comes over you: that all this is evil.  For who has the time to do all this?

I’ve just seen some stuff telling me how I can improve my hits in this WordPress based blog, in respect of just one “problem”.  I’d have to install two plugins, activate them, and check whether or not they mess anything up.  Not too onerous; but impossible if you just sit at home with a text-editor.

When the WWW started, we were all equals.  We all created our HTML in a text editor like Notepad.  We all got traffic equally.   A corporation had no advantage over a man in a bedroom.  But now… not so.

The people who get the hits are not those who have something original and of value to offer.  They are those with the resources to do all the SEO tweaking necessary.  Effectively it privileges the corporation at the expense of the ordinary man or academic.  For the latter simply cannot keep up with all the effort needed.

I do not know the answer to all this.  But the web is a much different place to what it was.  We now have an effective monopoly in place, no different to the old Bell monopoly.  The events of January 2021 and the coordinated attack on Trump revealed that, for practical purposes, access to the web is controlled by a cartel – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter – who can and do coordinate their control of the internet.

The answer must be the same as in the days of the old Bell monopoly.  It must be broken up.


9 thoughts on “Why “search engine optimisation” is an evil

  1. Who will do the breaking up? All the corps you named are actually funded via black money/intel services. The internet and “personal” computers were the DARPA hook. Now that they’re product is ‘indispensable’ they show their true faces. I know when I’m searching for something I have to go through many pages of ‘hits’ before I find something of possible interest. In fact, there are certain sites I can no longer find unless I have the exact address. I’m ‘retired’ and have more time than most people, but it is a big time consumer. I only stumbled upon your blog because I was looking up Tertullian.

  2. Agree. I have as strong a sense of outrage at Microsoft; actually, stronger. One thing I can share, however, is that my first resort for obscure volumes and/or single quotations is inevitably my last resort, as well.

    I live and die on archive.org. If I’m looking for a whole volume, archive.org can be maddening, because what’s entered must be EXACT. Forget an article or spelling, you don’t know is in a title, and move on: no hit. In that regard, Google Search is much more forgiving. I enter what I have and in the search bar, and 90% of the hits are where I can buy whatever it is I’m looking for. BUT, IF in Google Search I put in an errant title, and key in “archive.org” as the last piece of info, I get what I’m looking for — possibly, but rarely — with Google first asking, “do you mean [ _____ ]?”, whereupon, after asserting by clicking on the corrected title or line, I’m brought ONLY to archive.org. and there it is. Always free. The worst it will ever be is that I can only borrow it for two weeks, rather than download it, in full. Always, free.

    When I absolutely have to have whatever the volume is in my hands, between Thriftbooks.com and eBay, I’ve never NOT found what I’m seeking.

    My experience w/Thriftbooks.com is that if you indicate you want to be on a wait-list, they absolutely will contact you as soon as a copy is available. BTW, they even tell you how frequently a copy of a particular volume appears in one of their warehouses. If readers don’t know about Thriftbooks.com, know that they are absolutely faithful to commenting on the condition of a book. Prices are low, “Like new” really is pristine. “Acceptable” has been so, many hundreds of time for me, except once. I said so. I was credited for the purchase within ten minutes, w/a ‘keep it.’ Depending on the modest amount of any order, postage is usually free. Every so many purchases, you get a free book of your choosing under $8 USD. Again, prices are very reasonable. The company buys up college/university and school district libraries.

    If I need to so state, I am not affiliated w/Thriftbooks.com except as a faithful customer. I do hope, however, this serves as help to one or more of your readers who may not know of it.

    BTW, Dr. Pearse, this isn’t available. The htmls/links don’t copy as such to this page.
    Gospel Problems and Solutions
    by Eusebius
    Gospel Problems and Solutions
    Temporarily Unavailable
    2 people are interested in this title.
    We receive fewer than 1 copy every 6 months.
    Added to Wish List

  3. Facebook and Instagram are no different. They literally “limit your reach” unless you pay them off. Half the people who literally want to see your posts won’t see them unless you pay them off.

    I don’t see an easy way to solve it. The companies are financially incentivised to operate like this.

  4. Let us not forget that Google’s quasi-monopoly is due to the fact that we all stopped using Lycos, Altavista and the rest and started using Google because Google was better. Nor let us blame Google for wanting to make money: if it didn’t, we wouldn’t have it. If you believe capitalism is evil, you have a point. Otherwise, one has to accept that the side-effects of commercial processes, deplorable though they may be from our point of view, are not the result of deliberate wickedness. No one at Google is intentionally making life difficult for us. And — credit where credit’s due — they have made a vast amount of the sort of material you mention freely available on Google Play. This is so counter-intuitive that no on would think of looking for it there, but if you want a full set of Fabricius’ Bibliotheca Graeca, for example, there it is in all its glory. But you have to search for it on Google Play itself, because its content does not come up in regular Google searches. Don’t ask me why.

  5. Altavista and Lycos were poor, I agree. Google has done an immense amount of good, it is true. But I think that any company that becomes a monopoly always ends up doing the sort of things that work against the public interest. (I don’t blame them for wanting to make money in the least.) I think that is what is happening.

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