Webmasters Need To Take Responsibility
I’m going to dance all over my BFFs territory here and comment on the heated WebmasterWorld thread going on that questions Google’s relationship with webmasters. Thread and fire starter The Shower Scene penned a provocative first post suggesting that webmasters are completely "under the Google mindshare", guzzling up that delicious Google kool-aid. Yum.
The Shower Scene, who needs a seriously shorter name if he’s going to continue to be all smart and insightful, made several noteworthy statements in his post calling out webmasters, telling them that Google has them under their mindshare, that Google’s guidelines do not define ethical SEO, that they’re too busy drinking the Google kool-aid to really think about their sites, etc.
It was a good slap in the face for webmasters; however, they totally didn’t get it.
Forum members missed the point and started bitching and ranting in "agreement" about how Google is too powerful, owns 80-90 percent of the Internet, etc. I don’t even have to finish because it was the same whines we hear all too frequently.
The whole thing reminded me of Context Web’s recent Brain Exchange where prominent SEOs and a misplaced blogger commented on that very subject. You may remember that my stance was, no, Google is not too powerful, webmasters are just falling idle and letting Google be their everything. I think The Shower Scene and I would get along just fine. (Ignore how that sounded.)
The truth is webmasters have become very Google-centric, which has enabled Google to soak up an enormous amount of market share, which in turn makes users more Google-dependant and the whole things just continues to grow and get more incestuous.
This is webmasters’ fault, not Google’s.
It’s also not Google’s fault that webmasters have taken Google’s guidelines and hung them on the wall like some sort of message from God. Google’s guidelines aren’t commandments. They’re guidelines depicting what Google finds important in ranking Web sites for their engine. That would be the search engine that Google owns and you’re trying to be a part of. They’re merely there to help confused site owners.
The problem is a lot of sites get the majority of their search traffic from Google so we’ve all become a little Google obsessed. I don’t think you can blame Google for that. It’s not their fault you get more traffic from them. It’s the others engines’ fault, because they suck in comparison. Don’t attack Google for being good and adequately serving your needs; harass the others to step it up.
And what would be the alternative? For Google NOT to offer guidelines? If Google didn’t release guidelines webmasters would be all over them crying for more transparency, whining that Google is threatening their businesses by not telling them what they’re looking for. Is that better? Of course not. But since there are guidelines, the argument is reversed – Google is telling us what’s ethical and how we should run our Web sites. Please. Don’t blame Google for your shortcomings as a site owner.
It really is a shame The Shower Scene’s post was taken out of context because webmasters’ responsibility in the world of Google is a conversation that needs to take place.
Instead of doing their own research and testing, webmasters rely on Google, with its obvious bias, to tell them what’s right and wrong in search. We believe everything we hear from Google Groups and every word spoken or hinted at by Matt Cutts or Adam Lasnik. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t. These are clearly valuable resources, but they’re not the only resources out there.
TSS offers us all something to think about:
Today’s webmaster is so compliant, complacent, and utterly sheep-like they are willingly surrendering highly personal data to Google without understanding how it ultimately benefits Google far more than it benefits them. The toolbar was pretty invasive, but webmaster central is a shameless data grab. Old ladies resist when someone snatches their purse. Today’s webmaster lacks the will to resist and the intellect to understand what Google is doing to them. Do you understand the irony of a search for “Webmaster Central” leading to several web pages that benefits Google instead of websites that benefit webmasters?
Use Google, but don’t just use Google. Or if you do decide to be Google-reliant, don’t complain that you’re wrapped around their finger. You created that environment.
Ask questions. Do your own research. Test what your users want. Don’t sleep with Google’s guidelines under your pillow.