Google Giveth, And Google Taketh Away
Friends, I’ve come here today to tell you that Google is fucking scary.
Remember a while back, when the Lady Gaga fans kept crashing my server? And I kept getting tons of comments on that one post I made about Lady Gaga that really should not have been that interesting in the first place, but for some reason was? Well the mysterious origins of all that Lady Gaga traffic has finally been revealed (sort of) and like all mysteries, it’s rather banal once unraveled. As it turns out, a confluence of three factors at one historical moment led to the escalation in Gaga traffic: 1) the apex of Lady Gaga’s album release and publicity tour; 2) an image I had on my post about Lady Gaga that was unusual, apparently; and 3) some changes in the algorithms governing the way that Google determines rankings in image searches.
I know — Lame, huh? Even the Digg effect is a less stupid explanation for the Gaga traffic than what really happened.
What happened was, Google was dicking around with its image system somehow (and, BTW, they appear to still be doing this, because my numbers are going up and down still as of the time of this posting). The initial changes led to my site going up in rankings for images some time in mid-November. Around that same time, Lady Gaga was really hitting her stride in the publicity game, and her star was really rising, so many people were searching for images on Lady Gaga and many of those people found my site through those images. Then, they read the post about Lady Gaga, became incensed, and directed their Gaga friends to the site to tell me about how I’m limited because I don’t see the profundity of lyrics like “I want to take a ride on your disco stick.” Then my server crashed. Then it crashed again. This cycle repeated for two months, at which point my traffic went waaaay down, so far down, in fact, that it led me to believe that there was some kind of thing I had done to get blacklisted by Google, because the traffic was further down than it had been before the Gagas ever appeared.
I don’t really know anything about SEO, so I wasn’t sure if this was something I needed to address or not. After consulting some real computer SEO geeks about this kind of stuff, it looks like all of these changes are to do with Google and not to do with anything that I’ve done or not done. So basically, I have to just sit back and see what happens: I don’t know if the traffic change up or down will be permanent or not. Either way, fluctuations in Google traffic do not affect my regular readership, who come here independent of Google, but it does affect how many new people come here because of a Google search on its own. This is a small portion of my readers, but it does count for some of them, particularly on the Tech page.
Why am I telling you this? Well, basically it’s just because the whole thing has made me realize how fucking scary Google is. I suppose I already knew this. But the gravity of it was not clear to me until these slight changes Google made, just on images alone, had a real impact on my life. I will continue to find readers and grow my blog independent of Google searches, but I think everyone needs to realize that Google has a breathtaking ability to increase or decrease your traffic, right now, every day, and there does not appear to be any kind of checks and balances system governing this power. That is fucking scary. For me, it just translates into page views up or page views down, or the amount of bandwidth I use in a month. But imagine if your business was dependent upon Google searches to get customers. Google can control where you show up on a search page, if at all — independent of whether your product is relevant to the user’s search. Google can change something and make you show up on page 14 instead of page 1, and cut your business by 75% overnight. And why would they do that? Well, if your business is cut by that much, you’re going to do anything to get it back up to page 1, right? Which means you’re probably going to be willing to advertise, right? Like, say, with Google.
And it’s not just searches, either. Google uses apps to track where you are and what you do, what you buy and where you go. All of this information tracking can have good, purposeful uses that will enhance your every day life. But it can also be bad, bad, bad. I’ve always liked Google as a company, by the way. But I have this thing where I tend to become distrustful of companies once they reach a certain level of power. There is something inherent to the corporate structure that tends to lead good companies to turn evil. Like Apple with iTunes. Like Amazon with its Kindle proprietary stuff and the ass raping it gives to authors on their commissions. Like
Microsoft — no, Microsoft was probably always evil. Anyway. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, as George Orwell says. I’m not sure what can be done about it, other than there should be some kind of common recognition that something should be done about it.