Tom Foremski let loose with a long list of complaints about what a pain it is for publishers to make their content palatable for search engines. His basic point is that people think of Google and other search engines as being magical in their ability to find the right information, but in fact people have to do a lot of work to make search engines work. Does he have a point?
The truth is that content publishers do less work to be found in search than to be found any other way. Yes, Bill Hunt and I wrote a whole book of search marketing tips for those that want to do the work. And if you want to do the work, you’ll get an edge. But all of that work is optional. If you don’t do any of the work, some content publishers (and blogs are a great example) will get about the same traffic. If you use the right words in your titles and your copy, that’s the most basic thing to do. Most bloggers do this stuff automatically.
But let’s compare the work involved with search to the work involved in getting your content found in other ways.
So how long has it taken for Tom to build up a big list of RSS subscribers? He had to learn to use his blogging software and make sure his feeds were working and set up categories and moderate comments, and do lots of other stuff. And how many people would have found Tom’s blog without search?
Or maybe people directly typed in Tom’s URL. How did he get that message out there? How much time and money would it take to get his URL plastered in places his readers would see. I bet he has never taken out a single ad that shows his URL. And how many PR stories has he worked to get written to get his URL out there? Maybe none, because it is a lot of work.
How about links? How much work is it to get other people to link to your site? You’ll get lots of links from writing good content (just as you get lots of search traffic the same way), but link campaigns are a lot of frustrating work. Most people don’t bother. How many of Tom’s links happened because linkers found Tom through search?
I think Tom’s error is that he is holding search to a higher standard than everything else. In truth, getting attention for your content takes work—lots of work. But using the Tom Sawyer dictum, Tom Foremski enjoys the work of blogging, of writing good content, and speaking his mind, so he doesn’t see it as work. But he doesn’t like the other stuff—that seems like real work to him.
My advice to Tom is to stop doing the work. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. I bet you won’t notice much difference. But to say that search is broken because it is too much work is silly. Search actually works quite well without publishers doing any work at all, which is unlike a lot of the other ways of getting attention.