Google as Predator: The Evolution of Search by David Sewell - BrightonSEO 2014


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In his talk for BrightonSEO April 2014, Fresh Egg's SEO consultant David Sewell likens Google - and the evolution of search in general - to the evolution of the relationship between predators and prey in the animal kingdom.

Briefly, his talk covers:

• What search looked like when the internet began
• How Google changed the search landscape and continues to evolve
• How to spot a predator in the context of search
• How Google’s predatory behaviour impacts businesses and the business environment
• Seven strategies for survival

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Google as Predator: The Evolution of Search by David Sewell - BrightonSEO 2014

  1. 1. Google as predator. The evolution of search. BrightonSEO Dr David Sewell SEO consultant, Fresh Egg
  2. 2. In the beginning… A collage of the wildlife found in one cubic foot on the reef near Moorea, French Polynesia © David Liittschwager/National Geographic.
  3. 3. Yellow Pages SEO… Submitting sites to search engines. 1998 2000 1994 Lycos and WebCrawler first to trawl the ocean of websites Yahoo! only returned results from its directory, so browsing directories was often more efficient than searching by keywords to find all appropriate sites Google sold search terms for 2004 21st Feb 1998 Pay-for-placement Bill Gross said: “This is an opening shot of changing the search engines from a white pages to a yellow pages”
  4. 4. Algorithmic SEO... Manipulating web connections 1998 2000 1994 Google used PageRank, and people preferred the minimal interface and results 2004 Yahoo! had bought: Inktomi, AllTheWeb, Overture, AltaVista launched engine replacing Google’s search engine underneath Microsoft began showing results from its own crawler MSNBot
  5. 5. • You no longer needed to submit your site • The clutter of a web portal was gone • Google made it possible for sites to be found on the net without buying keywords • The results were varied and good • SEO became a booming business… Google solved a problem.
  6. 6. • SEO businesses filled the net with spam • It was too easy to ‘game’ the PageRank algorithm… But Google also created a problem. • Keyword stuffing • Linkfarms • Webrings • Reciprocal links • Anchor text • EMDs • …
  7. 7. • An increased ability to understand queries and the web • Human evaluators and Google spam teams working together • Scoring unique, fresh and relevant content • Machine learning • Classification To identify spam, Google evolved. Rosey-lipped batfish Stargazer fish
  8. 8. Characteristics of a predator. Superior capabilities.
  9. 9. • Sharp senses • to find their prey: echolocation, vision, audition, magnetism, olfactory sense • Extra abilities • to capture prey - teeth, claws, venom • Agility and Speed Characteristics of a predator.
  10. 10. • Sharp senses • Caffeine, Percolator, Chrome, android, Google Glass, spam detection (Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird… Authorship ?) • Extra abilities • Dremel, Pregel, Streetview & navigation, images, videos, speech recognition, knowledge, machine reasoning, lots of data, ngrams… • Agility and Speed • Google fibre, 100ms load time, VP9 video format Characteristics of a predator.
  11. 11. Signs of predatory behaviour. A changing environment.
  12. 12. How to tell there is a predator about… • Antagonistic reactions - one side benefits • A losing side is evidence there is a predator • Interactions - force a dynamic ecosystem • Migrations, prey develop symbiotic relationships • Predator Impact – noticeable change in population • Decline, or get fitter to survive, changing size or shape Impact of predators.
  13. 13. The search environment is changing… • Recipe search – 24 February 2011 • Image sorting – 5 September2011 • Flight search – 13 September 2011 • Personal search – 1 October 2012 • Knowledge graph – 16 May 2012 • Knowledge graph carousel – 8 August 2012 Signs of a predator.
  14. 14. • Extinctions e.g. blog networks • Prey is increasingly easily consumed (Twitter bootstrap, SEO friendly frameworks, SEO plugins) Google: Eat you, sir? Site Owner: Yes. Eat me. Google: Yuk! With a gammy leg? Site Owner: You needn't eat the leg, Google. There's still plenty of good meat. Look at that arm… • Technical SEO - • Optimising for Google (instead of optimising for visitors) Impact of predators.
  15. 15. Signs of a predator. • Compare functionality
  16. 16. • Flight arrivals box Signs of a predator.
  17. 17. Matt Cutts – Older sites won’t always keep their rankings sites-wont-always-keep-current-rankings-182743 Cutts advises taking a ‘fresh look’ and constant tweaking Google is ingesting everything… Google wants everything you can give… Google may drive your site to extinction next… Signs of a predator.
  18. 18. Predator prey relationships. Impact on prey.
  19. 19. Age of Fishes - Extinction over millions of years Predator prey relationships - Lotka-Volterra cycles Time Population
  20. 20. • Where are we in this cycle? Predator prey relationships. Time Population Somewhere here
  21. 21. • What has Google realised about the environment? Predator prey relationships. The need to diversify after eating all the data Population Time
  22. 22. Recall the beginning… A collage of the wildlife found in one cubic foot on the reef near Moorea, French Polynesia © David Liittschwager/National Geographic.
  23. 23. Predator changing diet and environment. Rare pink handfish – Tasmania. Photograph courtesy of Karen Gowlett-Holmes.
  24. 24. Predator changing diet and environment. Rare pink handfish – Tasmania. Photograph courtesy of Karen Gowlett-Holmes. • Robotics – 8 companies bought • Boston Dynamics, Bot&Dolly (robot arms), Holomni (legs), Meka robotics (environments), Redwood robotics (telepresence), Industrial perception (warehouses), Shaft Inc (bipedal robots) • Google Glass – what are you looking at ? • Driverless Cars – where are you going ? • SlickLogin – sound based data security (Israeli defence) • Nest – are you at home ? • Google Lens – your physiological state ? • Google Fibre – let Google connect you • Green Throttle – entertainment systems • DeepMind – machine learning • Titan Aerospace – solar powered drones
  25. 25. Stop being prey: protection from Google. Strategies for survival.
  26. 26. Stop being prey. Run from the predator… Walrus and the Carpenter – Alice in Wonderland – The Walt Disney Company. Wile Coyote and Road Runner – Looney Tunes – Warner Bros.
  27. 27. Is running our only option ? How can we survive in this environment ? What can we learn from nature ? Strategies for survival.
  28. 28. Become a predator – play the same game 1: Think like a predator Dionaea muscipula, fastest plant closing in 100ms, by Kaim-Martin Knaak
  29. 29. 1: Think like a predator
  30. 30. • Re-imagine something, do it better. • Make acquisitions in related or ancillary businesses to improve product offering • Make acquisitions in new markets to increase market share Ask: “What would Google do next in my particular sector?” 1: Think like a predator
  31. 31. Partnerships – work together to beat the predator 2: Symbiotic Partnerships Clownfish and anemone – Samuel Chow.
  32. 32. 2: Symbiotic Partnerships
  33. 33. Tips to help identify partners: • Look at your business upstream and downstream • Find partners with deep knowledge of your sector • Look at customer segments and associated brand preferences 2: Symbiotic Partnerships
  34. 34. Starve the predator – change the environment 3: Change the environment Spodoptera exigua feeding on Nicotiana attenuata, Wiki: PLoS Biol 2/8/2004: e250
  35. 35. Change the environment: 3: Change the environment Xbox – TV SmartGlass Apps Real World Interactions Sound Data Layer
  36. 36. Go boldly into : • Alternatives delivery: Sound, SMS, NFC tags, iBeacon • Real world interactions: AR and CAVEs, bump contact • APIs – share your data behind the scenes • Be device ready – from 4k screens to pebble watches, in car systems to entertainment consoles and games • tCommerce – advertise in sync with TV programmes 3: Change the environment
  37. 37. Buy some extra time by distracting the predator 4: Distraction Octopus vulgaris squirts ink – by Theasereje. Common Seastar – Asterius rubens by Herbythyme.
  38. 38. Secret Project ‘purple’ 4: Distraction NFC vs iBeacons Creative Legal challenges (anti-trust cases)
  39. 39. Tips: • Be sneaky - add secret features • Distract Google with the ‘standard’ web content • Offer a rich, personal experience by context or behaviour e.g. visit frequency, location, device, weather, local events Build customer loyalty AND stop Google replicating your site 4: Distraction
  40. 40. Evolve faster than the predator 5: Stay ahead Scalar patterning of a butterfly’s wing – scales detach easily to escape spiders’ webs by Janice Carr .
  41. 41. 5: Stay ahead
  42. 42. Tips: • Stay ahead of Google – e.g. property search • Offer services related to customer need – what they want, in a form they can use, wherever they are • Learn from community advocates and use this additional knowledge to inform business developments • Store information from your sector for future use 5: Stay ahead
  43. 43. Carry a payload – use the predator to your advantage 6: Carry a payload Xylocopa violacea vibrating wings at flower causing harmonic resonance of anthers, by Thorsten Wagner
  44. 44. Use Google to your advantage: 6: Carry a payload
  45. 45. Use Google to your advantage: • Photosphere • Phototour Built using Panoramio or Picasa • Earth Tours • Floorplans • See Inside • Trekker 6: Carry a payload
  46. 46. Ideas for selective information dispersal: • Look at ways information is displayed by Google Make data available to Google in an appropriate format - Hack the Knowledge Graph to define entity relationships Use: tables, books, scholarly articles, videos, music, images, PDFs Don’t give Google your knowledge… give it what you want it to display for you… • Use digital curation to your advantage – modify visitor behaviour, send to other marketplaces where your brand is better exposed. 6: Carry a payload
  47. 47. Stay hidden – make the predator look elsewhere 7: Hide Anthocyanins camouflage the plant, keeping insects away by Ivona Sandru
  48. 48. 7: Hide
  49. 49. Force Google to look elsewhere: • Keep best content from Google behind a login or pay wall • Obfuscate internal links using javascript • Make more services available to those logged in • Use other channels hide the ‘crown jewels’ from Google. 7: Hide
  50. 50. P…Become a predator R…Form symbiotic relationships E…Change the environment - starve the predator D… Buy some time by distracting the predator A…Stay ahead of the predator T…Trick Google into carrying a parasitic payload - make the predator an unwitting part of your business lifecycle O… Obfuscate, stay hidden R… Run…. Seven strategies for survival.