Slate: SEO, Superbowl

Slate has an awesome article up about the way that search engines are changing the way SEO works -- eliminating some of the more horrible SEO practices entirely:

In a follow-up to last year's post, Petchesky today observes that the Super Bowl SEO-trawling is looking a little sad this year. "It might be a lost art," he suggests. Either that, or it has been so well co-opted by the NFL itself that everyone has given up.

Petchesky may be right that "SEO-whoring," as he calls it, is on the wane. But he's got the wrong culprit. After all, it isn't actually the page that shows up first when you search "What time is the Super Bowl" (or "What time is the Superbowl," etc.) on Google. It's [...] not a link to anyone's website. It's Google's own "quick answer" to your search query. These answers predate, but are related to, the company's rapidly expanding "Knowledge Graph," a vast internal "semantic network" that links natural-language queries to facts about the world, culled from an array of sources that includes Wikipedia and the CIA World Factbook. The basic idea: Why force users to sift through a bunch of links to external sites when they just want a straight answer to a simple question?

Google's new anti-piracy initiative

Why, Google? Why would you do this to us? Alright, to be fair, Google's anti-piracy approach is not as inherently destructive to the basic nature of the internet as SOPA, PIPA, CISPA and ACTA were.  But Google's new approach, to punish sites that receive a high number of copyright infringement notices by decreasing their PageRank values and pushing them further down the search results, has some potentially serious consequences.

It would only take into account whether people claim a site has infringed, not whether the site has actually done so.  Bogus copyright takedown notices definitely exist.  And while the scale of i might not necessarily make it possible for individuals to deliberately target sites with legal content that they object to, it will likely punish websites that produce fringe content that is defensible but easy to attack.

Fair use of trademarks might result in takedown notices that are completely unjustified on the basis of parody laws, but it seems Google won't distinguish those from legitimate claims.  So, issues like Matthew Inman's recent controversy with FunnyJunk could have punished The Oatmeal for its criticism (though this system would likely also punish FunnyJunk for the initial art theft that started the controversy.)

I'm against this, because I'm against Google taking sides with the current legal zeitgeist, even though the people responsible for this decision must know that copyright reform would be better for the internet than reinforcing contemporary legislators' bad behavior.