Search Daylight

Welcome

Article from Issue 243/2021
Author(s):

The big search engines have way too much power over the business world. It almost doesn't matter what your business is. Almost every industry has some kind of online presence – either to sell directly or to provide information to users in need of addresses and product details.

Dear Reader,

The big search engines have way too much power over the business world. It almost doesn't matter what your business is. Almost every industry has some kind of online presence – either to sell directly or to provide information to users in need of addresses and product details. If you need acupuncture services, for instance, you will likely type in "acupuncture" with the name of your city to find the services in your area. When the results pop up, the top three names on the list will get most of the clicks, and the first on the list will get the most of all. Getting to the top (or near the top) of that search list is therefore vitally important for any company.

This need to ascend the search ladder has resulted in a system of "search engine optimization" practices that range from the arcane to the comical. We get letters every day from expert "bloggers" offering to post free content on our site if we will link back to their sites. Although they don't mention it, the purpose of this game is to juice up their search rank. Some of these "experts" are actually part of the Open Source community, which might make some sense (if we did that kind of thing), but a few are pretty far afield. One guy said he read all the content on our website, and he knew we would just love his article on interpreting dreams. (Uhhh, we do Linux dude?)

There is a system for how to pump up your search rank, of course, but it has all been derived by something close to trial and error. Search engine optimization is a bit of a black art, because no one but the search vendors knows what the engines are actually doing. A big company can hire experts to ponder and perfect the search rank game. Small companies often get left behind – partly because they lack the expertise, but also, who has time to think about such things with only a few techs running the whole IT operation?

This disparity in time and attention for the mystical game of search optimization is one reason why I applaud the recent guidelines published by the European Commission promoting more transparent search platforms [1]. The guidelines call for the "main parameters" used in search rank algorithms to be made public. Of course, there is much more to the search formula than the main parameters, but the hope is that better knowledge of the parameters will even the playing field, making smaller companies more competitive and reducing the ability of vendors like Google to feature their own products and services at the expense of competitors.

There is some question of what this development will actually mean in the real world. The European Commission has some power for managing and regulating the business environment in the European Union (EU), but the system is quite complex and bureaucratic, and it remains to be seen whether Google and other search vendors can find their way around the need for changes. According to reports, the transparency guidelines are supposedly voluntary, but they represent a roadmap for companies to comply with the transparency requirements of the EU's Platform-to-Business (P2B) regulation, which would prove to be the real enforcement mechanism [2].

But before you pop the champagne corks, keep in mind that this new openness could also have some downsides. In theory, more knowledge of algorithms could lead to more gaming of the system by websites, which could lead to less useful search results, at least until the search vendors adapt and innovate, which they should be doing anyway.

In the long run, it seems better that the Internet, which was built on open standards, should not be under the control of big, weird secret formulas maintained by private, self-interested corporations. The European Commission got this one right. The new guidelines are certainly not a complete solution, but they are a positive first step.

Editor in Chief,

Joe Casad

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

SINGLE ISSUES
 
SUBSCRIPTIONS
 
TABLET & SMARTPHONE APPS
Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF:

Price $2.95

News