Robert Scoble wrote about it more than six months ago, it is still valid today. Building social relationships such as the ones being promoted by the W-List is an example. Attracting targeted traffic from the social bookmarking sites is another. And there are also the new-generation crowdsourcing networks like Mahalo and TechMeme.
I’m not slagging Google — just our reaction to its influence. Take for example what happened this past weekend - more blogs were downgraded in Google PageRank (PR). ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Copyblogger by Brian Clark, two blogs that have RSS subscriptions in the order of over 43,000 and 33,000 respectively, where downgraded a couple of months ago. Andy Beard drew some inferences on Google's motives in a post back then:
Most people today will be speculating that it is all about paid links, or that it is a massive reshuffle in the PageRank algorithm. Some of the hits were certainly paid link or advertising without nofollow related.
Many of the reputable sources that have received a penalty are part of extensive blog networks, and they have one factor in common. They have massive interlinking between their network sites.
They may also sell links or advertising that passes PageRank on some of their less visible properties, but those properties benefit from the high pagerank sites that link to them, with sitewide links.
And more reasons are given in his post. Google was at it again this past weekend and this blog was downgraded from a PR6 to a PR4. What Google giveth, Google taketh away. As a Google customer, I did not get the memo on why the readjustment. This site has grown organically with what I call sweat equity, one link at a time from relationships built here and at other sites. I accept no advertising and do no pay per post. On the other hand, there are plenty of blogs out there that scrape my content and get favorable Google rankings.
This downgrade affects the blog's rankings that use Google PR, yet it does not affect the quality of what I am writing about for my readers. In fact, it is an encouragement to provide more useful content for those people who really matter to me: you. If you need a bullet list of reasons of why I see the future growth of personal media going elsewhere, here it is (extracted from a post I wrote at Fast Company in October):
- Google is a machine. A very smart machine, but a machine nonetheless.
- We are not machines.
- Google is teaching bloggers (and brand managers) to think like machines, not people.
- Most bloggers have no need for Google insofar as traffic goes. Yes, Google search results will bring some traffic to the PR0-PR6 sites which make up the vast majority of the blogosphere. Whether this traffic is of value to the blogger is another question altogether.
- Pro blogs and conventional commercial sites do need Google. Numbers matter in the sale of advertising and in click revenues. These sort of sites also tend to post frequently on a wide variety of topics, which makes them attractive to Google’s spiders. (I post regularly and on a variety of topics. Then again, Google spiders are not people.)
- Consider, however, a hypothetical PR4 or PR5 blog. We’ll say its about marketing and social networking. How much traffic will Google really bring them — 200 visitors a day? Probably less.
- Let’s go with 200 Google visitors a day, though I think most bloggers would be delighted with this number. Of this 200 visitors, 30-40% will bounce off the site immediately, not finding what it is they are looking for.
- Up to 50% the remaining 130 or so visitors will look at one page and leave forever.
- Of the 70 or so who are sufficiently engaged to read more than one page, perhaps 2% will actually comment or subscribe a blog’s RSS feed, which is the primary goal of most non-pro bloggers.
- Thank you, Google, for 1.4 quality visitors per day.
We need to think more clearly about the future growth of personal media, and the many ways of getting there. Why? Not only it is dangerous to rely too heavily on any one entity in any one space - competition and options are good for commerce - it is also restricting us to rules set by an organization that bases its value and living on something we do not see behind. It may be entirely different from ours.
We don't know whether Google's approach to innovation is a cause of its success or a product of it - a crucial distinction.
Unless you make money by selling advertising attached to digital goods, you may not be able to learn much from Google.
Google's use of powerful computers to collect and make sense of the operational and customer data flowing through the Internet and other networks provides a window into the future of many industries.
These are quotes from an article by Nick Carr for Strategy+Business on the question of using Google as a model for innovation. His conclusion is also my exhortation for us to think about if we are to spearhead the future growth of personal media. The underpinnings of business success remain fairly stable - work to serve your customers.
Where is that taking us?
UPDATE: See this article on the Google-itization of Facebook - is this a move in the right direction?