Please carefully read and understand the italicized paragraph below. Try to choke it down without howling with laughter, or falling off your chair, or lying on the floor in hysterics while flaying your hands and feet in the air.
Not that what the paragraph describes isn’t pretty jokey sometimes. In many cases regarding numerous websites, it occasionally approaches the dimensions of a cosmic joke. But it’s always a dark joke, never a ha-ha joke. And you’re not supposed to howl at black humor, the polite thing is to shake your head and quietly groan.
Here’s the paragraph …
“The software behind our search technology conducts a series of simultaneous calculations requiring only a fraction of a second. Traditional search engines rely heavily on how often a word appears on a web page. We use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important. We then conduct hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to the specific search being conducted. By combining overall importance and query-specific relevance, we’re able to put the most relevant and reliable results first.
That paragraph is an official pronouncement from Mount Google which may or may not be engraved on a stone tablet buried deep along the San Andreas Fault in Mountain View. It is definitely, however, viewable on Google’s Corporate Tech Information page, though without the boldface emphasis we added.
What’s particularly funny about it depends entirely on your point of view. Sometimes you’ll find no humor at all in looking at a list of query returns and comparing it to Google’s vow about “putting the most relevant and reliable results first.” What you’ll find is that the descriptive paragraph is exactly what it purports to be: A short form explanation of why one site returns at the top of page one and a similar site returns at the bottom of page 100.
Other times, with other search queries, the results will indeed be laughable. Sometimes the joke will be on one of your competitors.
Occasionally the joke will be on you.
This time, the joke’s on us.
Here’s the deal. If you search Google for the phrase “link management,” you’ll discover that LinksManager returns number 2, right behind a site called linkmanagement.com.*
Since you’re here, you probably already know that LinksManager is an editor-based link-management system and that LinksManager.com contains literally hundreds of pages, including blogs and Linking School articles, devoted solely to links, link management and related topics.
All of which has earned us the number two return position out of “about 350 million” when “link management” is Googled. Which is fantastic and an accomplishment we are both inordinately proud of and grateful for. Seriously. We are proud and grateful. Ranking ahead of more than 349,999,999 other sites for our most important keywords isn’t a big deal. It’s an ENORMOUS deal. A major benefit to our business and a huge boost to our egos.
Having said all that, let’s look at the number one return for “link management.”
Linkmanagement.com, according to its homepage, is a team of “productivity specialists, utilizing extensive experience and a unique blend of skillsets and expertise to assess and optimize productivity in organizations.”
It offers “a holistic approach to productivity optimization, instead of narrow focus on one area” and says that customers will benefit “from our knowledge and skills encompassing business, marketing and technology optimization.”
It is also, judging from the list of well-known companies on the “client” page of its extremely compact four-page website, quite good at doing whatever it is it does. One thing it does not do at all – at least according to its own website – is links. It does not acquire links, manage links, sell links, buy links, analyze links or provide any services whatsoever involving any type of links.
The text “link,” “link management” and all derivatives thereof appear on the linkmanagement.com website exactly six times – in the copyright notice on each of the site’s four pages and in the snail mail and email addresses on the “contact” page.
“Search-engine optimization,” “SEO,” “traffic building” and similar words do not appear on the site at all. Even the word “website” is totally absent, though the word “site” is used twice in connection with a display ad for a hosting service.
Since there is clearly nothing in linkmanagement.com’s visible content to justify a high return position for “link management,” it’s only reasonable to assume that of the “more than 200 signals” Google uses in ranking sites, the ones that brought linkmanagement.com to prominence are hidden elsewhere.
Maybe in the site’s meta tags, which are …
Title –Link Management
Keywords — ebusiness, business, email, marketing, technology, consultant, advisor, specialist
Description: Welcome to Link Management, the productivity optimization specialists
Working backward, we agree that the description meets Google’s “good practices for descriptive meta tags” specification because it does “accurately summarize the page’s content” about “productivity optimization.”
Likewise, the title – though it has nothing to do with the site’s content – can’t legitimately be faulted because it is derived from the URL.
And the key words – though arguably way overly generic in the use of words like “technology,” consultant,” etc. – are not at all misleading or trying to give the impression that the site has something to do with link management when it doesn’t.
Since the meta tags don’t seem to tell us very much either, perhaps the secret is in the PageRank.
Except that the Numero Uno return site in a search for “link management” seems to have a zero page rank and, according to the Google Toolbar, it doesn’t have any backlinks either. (Yahoo does report a handful of links for it, however.)
The moral of this story is that we cannot find any reason why linkmanagement.com is Google’s Number 1 return on a search for “link management” beyond the fact of its domain name and page title. But if that’s the case, content – as in the information provided to end users by a website – is not only not king, it is essentially irrelevant.
Moreover, we can’t conceive of any reason why the owners and operators of linkmanagement.com would want to return high in a search for “link management.” Whatever link management services they may have offered or planned to offer when they registered the domain name in 1998, they’re not selling any link management services now and they’re probably getting rightfully annoyed at the unwanted traffic looking for link solutions that Google is sending them.
If you think we’ve come all this way and gotten nowhere, you’re wrong. We’ve gotten right back to where we started. To Google’s Corporate Tech Information page, which also says that “we stand alone in our focus on developing the ‘perfect search engine,’ defined by co-founder Larry Page as something that, ‘understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.’ ”
Admitting that virtually nothing is or ever will be entirely “perfect,” we stand, almost certainly not alone, convinced that Google, if it is ever to satisfy Mr. Page’s ambitions, still has many rivers to cross and some damn high mountains to climb.
* Returns cited accurate and consistent throughout May, June and early July 2010.