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Search Engine Land - Each of us must ultimately decide what we are and aren’t willing to do for our clients and content. Links may not be life and death most of the time, but for some of the people, some of the time, they can feel that way. If I waste two hours looking for the best vacation deals site, it’s one thing. But when I search on second stroke prevention, so that maybe I can learn a little and help keep my old man around a while, I like knowing my engine of choice can’t be fooled by a link builder.
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from TheMadHat 2358 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Hesitantly Sphunn just so I could point this out:"I like knowing my engine of choice can’t be fooled by a link builder."Yea...right. And in this case, maybe not by a link builder but the wonderful resource on secondary strokes...about.com

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from linkmoses 2358 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Hey at least for a change that Google result didn’t have a wikipedia entry in the top 5.  That alone is remarkable :)-e

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from TheMadHat 2358 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Good point. But they’re probably just making room for the future Google Knol entry.

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from toddmintz 2358 Days ago #
Votes: 0

While I agree with everything Eric said, it is the up to the web searcher to do a thorough enough job of research to be comfortable that the information found is indeed accurate.  If a web searcher is "fooled" once and takes a bogus site at face value without cross-referencing information multiple times at multiple "authoritative" sites, they share the blame for following bogus information.

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from MattCutts 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Todd, what about a query like [symptoms of a heart attack]? The searcher wants accurate results ASAP, and might not have enough time or patience to research the subject thoroughly. We think about searches like this and issues like this all the time, which is why Google may come across as humorless when we talk about some linking issues.I thought Eric made a pretty compelling argument. When you search, you don’t want a search engine that is "fooled" by lower-quality links. And if you’re trying to compete for search rankings fairly, you don’t want a site that takes short cuts to do better than your site. That’s why it’s so helpful to have great content first and foremost and then promote that content well as opposed to just building links to low-quality content.

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from TheMadHat 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@Matt: If you’re having "symptoms of a heart attack" are you going to jump online to look it up or call 911? Personally, I don’t think I’ll be that confident in a search engine in my lifetime. I could be wrong since your quest is to make the search results the most relevant, but there will always be someone around to manipulate them no matter what. I’m pretty sure you can’t hire every genius on earth... ;)

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from MikeDammann 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 0

This goes to show you the importance of branding, authority sites and resources out there which you can remember as being useful. I do agree that sometimes (not just when you’re in danger of dying), you simply go with whatever site you remember as being useful to you and skip Google.Let’s say I have a horrible toothache while on an SES trip in New York.I would not have the patience to Google it.I’d go straight to Dentists.com, even though they are engaged in BH techniques ;)

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from mooreseo 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 0

While I may not look up "symptoms of a heart attack" and I’ll call 911 instead, I know lots of people who did some research and, not knowing any better, took some advice that was not from an expert and ended up getting seriously hurt. While I agree that many people should research much more thoroughly before taking any steps of action, this is sadly not the case. Many assume that since it’s the #1 result, it’s the best. But those less-than-ethical techniques kill the quality content that has been buried. No one can find it. It’s incredibly frustrating. I always tell my link team that we have to research our client and understand their business, not just submit them anywhere. I tell my content team the same thing when they are writing for a client. It just goes to show that it’s never crowded along the extra mile.

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from Halfdeck 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"it is the up to the web searcher to do a thorough enough job of research to be comfortable that the information found is indeed accurate."The SEO industry would improve its reputation if it did not get defensive, shift blame, and advocate a one-sided "buyers beware" argument every time an issue comes up that hits too close to home. We’re all guilty of it.Granted, Google is as fixated on satisfying its user base as SEOs are fixated on satisfying clients, but while Google can afford to do the right thing (because its got enough money as it is - e.g. killing AdWord ads for queries like [buy links] or shutting down MFA Adsense accounts), some SEOs who are just scraping by can’t afford to choose which client to work with.

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from linkmoses 2357 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Part of the inspiration for this column was looking over my Mom’s shoulder while shied tried to use the default search box on her default AOL start page.  She has heard of Google, and when I asked her why she didn’t use it, she said she thought she was.  For her the entire search experience is synonymous with google.  She had no idea she was using a different index and algo.  I was trying to show her how to do some research for specific topics related to my Dad’s situation, so she could feel a bit more clued in.  Sadly, it was futile until I took her to Google, where her same searches yielded far more useful results.  She had no idea she could control which engine she used.She’s 80, and I bet this isn’t all that uncommon for older folks.Eric

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from bwelford 2356 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Unfortunately many of the perpetrators of the problem links won’t be reading any of this and wouldn’t care even if they did.

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from DariaGoetsch 2356 Days ago #
Votes: 0

In my prior career I worked as a supervisor for the elderly in skilled nursing facilities. My very independent seventy-two year old mother-in-law finally got around to getting a computer and using email, all of which intimidated her in the beginning. I imagine there is difficulty for many seniors of that era using computers and search engines. Eric I hope your dad is feeling better. I know it is scary to deal with strokes and the aftereffects of them.

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from TinPig 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

as long as back-links continue to carry significant weight in influencing relevancy, the system will be open to hijaking. there are simply too many ways to spam a quantitative system like this.

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from debram 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

"Hey at least for a change that Google result didn’t have a wikipedia entry in the top 5.  That alone is remarkable"YAY!!!  That alone is WONDERFUL!!!! 

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from superking 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

oh matt, i would be soooo happy if google kicked out that linking-factor out of their algorithms. your spam problems are only because you give links so much weight in your calculations.if you guys just came up with a ranking by the real quality of content google would just rock everything. until then it’s a link buyers/traders paradise and your "we kick linktraders"-policy is just a drop in the bucket. people can (and do) cheat your algorithm far too easy. and that’s frustrating if you play by the rules.kick that link factor and everything will be fine. for me there’s not much difference between buying links and making some viral shit up that’s then pushed through digg to generate backlinks. it’s the same shit - such links are no votes for the linked site.

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from elisabethosmeloski 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

really interesting perpective as always Eric. I have to believe the overall authority of the major medical/government sites will eventually weigh out anything a link builder could do - even a pro like you.  That said, I also find a that a disturbing lack of ethics is a bigger problem. But on the whole, I think most SEO’s are going to have a conscience when it comes to working with sites that could affect ’life and death’ situations. as for your dad - my thoughts are with him and you.  I can certainly relate, my father (only 54) recently had a ’mini-stroke’ himself, so the aftereffects and ’second stroke’ prevention is something we’re dealing now.

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from toddmintz 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Matt (I’m only now seeing your comment).Google has the responsibility to deliver the most accurate content to searchers including the devaluing of questionable links.Link-builders do have an ethical responsibility to choose what sorts of project to work on.However, searchers do have the ultimate responsibility to do enough research to make sure that the information they are getting is accurate and I do believe the number of "super urgent" searches are a very small number of the total whole.  As humans, we are ultimately responsible for the consequences of our own actions and that includes our actions online.  When I now Google "Symptoms of a heart attack", I see a paid search result ("Heart Attack Warning") that I that I don’t feel to be particularly authoritative nor up to the quality standards reflected in Matt’s comment.  To take Matt’s words to a logical conclusion, the paid ads should live up to the standards of the natural search results and we all know that a substantial percentage of less educated searchers can’t tell the difference between natural and paid results.

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from neyne 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 1

That is a very important point to make Todd. Or if we go back to the brain tumor examples Matt wrote about in his famous post, searching for [radiosurgery] used to bring up an ad for the infamous Gamma Knife which "we don’t want to see in our SERPs". And since "paid ads are the same as natural results" according to Matt, then you really get to wonder whether the problem is manipulating the links or the direction in which the cash flows...

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from neyne 2355 Days ago #
Votes: 0

and as for the article, I disagree with the assumption that we should be the ones that decide which content is good enough to be on the first page of SERPs. I am not talking now about the fringes and clear cut examples of queries like [OMG I swallowed drain opener what should i do] but who says that promoting a client that has a product that prevents the occurences of the second stroke does harm to users ? Maybe it really is a good product which will save somebody’s life and it wasn’t reached by the targeted audience, because Google would not let it be promoted in a way that its’ competition dictates ?My wife teaches a course at the university about using search engines and databases for evidence-based treatment (occupational therapy) and in one of the classes she gives a medical topic to her students to research, while having a site promoted to the #1 position for one of the main queries related to the topic. When the time of that lecture comes, she inserts the names of all the students on the page and watches the amazement on their faces when they discover the page. The point being, anyone can put a page on the internet and many can bring it to the top locations in search engines. The fact that an article is up there on a certain topic, is not necessarily a sign of its’  superb relevancy or authority. Critical thinking should be applied to real life doctors, let alone the internet based ones...

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