Google and BMW delisting fiasco shows stupidity of search engine optimization

Google and BMW delisting fiasco shows stupidity of search engine optimization

Summary: Let the search engines optimize themselves--web sites should focus on the user and not the searchbot

TOPICS: Browser

Google's delisting of BMW's German web site from its database shows the stupidity of both parties and the stupidity of search engine optimization (SEO) the way it is practiced today.

Google's mission, as it is often declared by CEO Eric Schmidt, is to deliver the right search result to the user--the first time. Let the search engines optimize themselves--web sites should focus on the user and not the searchbot.Yet it has delisted the web site because it had some invisible text on its pages that would make its site show up higher in search results.

So how will Google deliver on its mission? Wouldn't BMW earn a high rank of importance anyway because it is one of the largest car companies in the world? It is still of importance to many Google users but Google won't serve it up to its users!

Why did BMW use a very clumsy (and ancient) technique to show up higher in Google's search results? Probably because other, less important car sites were showing up higher in the search rankings than they deserved.

[This has long been a frustration of many companies: Google will list a small competitor much higher than their site--yet it is not reflected in terms of relevance and importance and number of customers.]

My view has always been: optimize your web site for the users--not the robots.

Then you will have users coming back, time and again and you won't have to rely on search engines to bring you your traffic because the users will know where you live. And they will share you with their communities and you will grow based on merit not on how well you've fooled the spiderbots.

If you have to rely on search engines for your traffic then you have a big problem because you become forced to play the SEO game and you risk being completely delisted.

Instead, put your efforts into making your web site a better experience for the users. Yes, do the basic SEO that Google recommends to webmasters--but then focus on content, content, content. That type of investment will payoff long term in multiples far higher than money spent on the latest "safe" SEO techniques, which change every few months  when Google optimises its search algorithms.

Let the search engines optimize themselves.

If Google cannot figure out that the web site is important, and that German internet users are more than likely going to be interested in it as a destination because there is a large population of BMW drivers--then it is failing at its job. And internet users will realize their experience at Google search is becoming less satisfying and they will move onto other search sites.

If we allow Google (and the others) to optimize themselves, it would save a tremendous amount of effort expended worldwide on SEO techniques that either try to trick Google's search engine to list a site higher than it deserves to be, or just to list it in the position where it ought to be.



Topic: Browser

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  • Automatic preference for bigger companies

    When I need a search engine the most, I'm usually searching for something small and obscure.

    It'd really piss me off if other companies ranked above me because they were bigger, and not because people were looking for them or because they had better content. If people wanted a BMW, they'll search for BMW, or just type in their bloody obvious domain name. If they search for "used cars", they don't want the site that sells "new BMWs" at the top of their results. This sort of abuse is what got BMW in trouble.
  • People wouldn't cheat the system if it wasn't so expensive

    Maybe if Google wasn't so busy choking the life out of small companies vis a vis the rediculous rates on AdWords/AdSense, then people wouldn't need to spend money on SEO. Face it, when the bidding hits $1 per click, which is quite common, even with a conversion rate of 2% (which is more than the industry eCommerce average), you need to be making $50 profit PER SALE just to cover the cost of advertising on Google. I've already written extensively about this ( and

    Even a big company connot afford Google ads for long in many cases, and since Google has been so busy "innovating" by creating "me too" software for the last two years, they haven't bothered to improve the basic search product, which is becoming increasingly spammed out and fileld with garbage. The biggest insult, is that it seems like half of the garbage filling Google's search results are sites whose sole purpose is to carry Google AdSense ads and make a money through deception.

    Justin James
    • Advertising

      Advertising on a search engine always seemed a little nuts to me. If you're selling what the searcher is buying, you'll show up in their search listings. If not, you've got no [i]right[/i] to show up in their search listing. Google works like a popularity contest (meaning that the more sites link to yours, the higher your ratings are). If you build up a good presence on the Web, you'll rank high. If not - not.

      In the case of car companies, it's really pretty simple: You put in BMW, Nissan, Chrysler, or Toyota (the ones I tested) and you come up with their official sites as the first hit. From those sites, which are usually US-based and in English, you can go to their global sites to get a more local version of the page.

      This "problem" is only a problem for advertisers, and only then if they want to wind up unreasonably high in the rankings.
    • So use a different search engine...

      Lotsa people complaining about GOOG, but continuing to use it. Use something else to search. I do.

      One footnote: The author is almost on the right trail here...but I don't see where BMW is wrong by putting keywords, etc. in their page. Their site is not less user-friendly because of the text page that redirects. GOOG has an issue with it because they haven't put the investment into making their spiders smarter...that's their job, not BMW's. GOOG, nor any search engine, shouldn't be putting the onus on sites, nor requiring them to design a certain way. The search companies are the ones that need to revamp their technology to handle all these cases. If they want to be in that market, they should be willing to do so.
      • I fully agree. In fact

        I taught a college class "computer use for managers", and the final was to find information on the internet. Questions were pretty simple, but they had to give a URL for their answer.
        Examples: What is Topiary? How many moons does Jupiter have? Where can I find a photo of Macchu Picchu? Where was the 1944 World Series played? What were Abbott and Costello's first names?

        I "fixed" the questions so that you HAD to use multiple search engines. Google wouldn't give you all the answers. Nor Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, or even HotBot or Lycos.

        The idea I was trying to get across was that in order to get good answers, you can't rely on one search.

        F4 4ever
      • A level playing field

        Not penalizing sites which try to "game the system" by tricking search engine algorithms will inevitably have the combined effect of increasing the total amout of webspam all over the internet (across multiple engines) and ensuring that small businesses will have an even harder time breaking into the top search results unless they invest in the worst type of expensive, risky (and unsightly) black-hat SEO necessary to rank in such an environment. It is unfortunate, but right now it is a reality.

        Though I admire your idealism: though I'm a search marketer, I too dream of a better inf0w3b ;).
        Stegosaurus Cowboy
    • Makes me wonder

      If their rates are so high - don't use them. I'd think that would be a big "duh".

      They DO seem to allow you to have some control over the costs (Maximum CPC and daily budget), though - BUT that bidding stuff on their FAQ rather confused me, so I'm still kinda ignorant about it.

      I'm sure the higher price is due to Google being - well, the more popular search engine. Which sorta makes it more valuable to put ads on there. The higher price could very well be just plain economics.

      BUT - you can always stop using it if the costs start outweighing the income.

      If they lose your business - well, that's their loss and how economics works - if you don't like it, feel free to stop using it.

      Remember: You vote with your wallet. If you are using AdWords/AdSense, you're essentially voting for their practices.
  • There's nothing stupid about SEO, unless it's stupid SEO...

    I feel that the author of this post is misinterpreting Google's efforts to clean up certain European-language search results.

    So BMW, according to this post, deserves to be ranked #1 for "neuwagen" even though they employed devious cloaking stuff that hasn't worked on the English-language Google results pages since 2001? No way!

    The whole point behind banning was to enforce Google's own webmaster guidelines. Basically, Google asks webmasters to build sites for humans, not robots. Does this line sound familiar?

    Even if everyone focused on good content and stopped splogging/buying links/creating stupid doorway pages/blah blah blah, Google would still have to assign a rank based on what it perceives as relevance.

    This post is self-contradictory. The author blasts Google for removing from its index, yet cries for webmasters to adhere to Google's own guidelines. The author wants Google's search quality to improve, but slams Google when it begins a milestone effort to clean up European SERPs (which is why this one banning has received so much attention, at a time when thousands of sites are banned from Google's index each day). Even if everyone played by the rules, Google's job is to take inventory of every website it can find, decide which ones are relevant for a particular keyphrase and assign a rank based on available quantitative data, using a proprietary "secret formula". In this system, there can't be more than one "#1" result. It would be nice if search results displayed competing corporate websites on equal footing, but barring revolutionary innovations, there's no way to implement this without undermining relevance across the board. If you think that web spam is bad now, just imagine...

    In short, the world is not perfect. It is unfortunate that we have to compete for visibility, but believe it or not that's the price we pay for better quality of search. The system sucks sometimes, but it's the best we got.

    I get the feeling that the author feels strongly about something, but his position is unclear. However, in fairness, the author raises good introspective questions about the nature of relevance itself. Asking ourselves "what is relevance?" is a good beginning for future improvements in the field of search technology.

    After all, it's only by questioning established practice that we can continue to innovate.

    If anyone is interested in Google's point of view, read <a href="">Matt Cutts' Blog</a>.
    Stegosaurus Cowboy
  • SEO *can* be stupid without being stupid SEO

    I agree wholeheartedly that the position of the poster is unclear.
    It's a poorly-written post, unfocused. And I think I take a
    different interpretation of its intent than you.

    His point that you ought not rely on SEO is valid, and it's one I
    repeat often to my clients. I can do SEO and do it well, but there
    are two problems: First, good, solid SEO technique won't
    necessarily help you as much as you think you ought to be
    helped by it; second, relying on SEO to drive your marketing
    plan is just plain bad strategy -- there are more effective ways
    to drive traffic.

    I think the last was his main point -- poorly made.

    I would add that you can do good, solid, rational SEO that you
    ought not to be doing, if it takes energy and resources away
    from more productive marketing goals. Site usability and
    readability are more important than SEO; no matter where you
    show up in the listings, it won't do you any good if you don't
    have those nailed. Get your marketing vision nailed first; then
    create your marketing artifacts and put your strategy into
    practice; then worry about SEO.