Examining last week’s Verge-vs-Sullivan “Google ruined the web” debate, author Elizabeth Tai writes:
I don’t know any class of user more abused by SEO and Google search than the writer. Whether they’re working for their bread [and] butter or are just writing for fun, writers have to write the way Google wants them to just to get seen.
I wrote extensively about this in Google’s Helpful Content Update isn’t kind to nicheless blogs and How I’m Healing from Algorithms where I said: “Algorithms are forcing us to create art that fits into a neat little box — their neat little box.”Is the Internet really broken?
So, despite Sullivan’s claims to the contrary, the Internet has sucked for me in the last 10 years. Not only because I was forced to create content in a way that pleases their many rules, but because I have to compete with SEO-optimized garbage fuelled by people with deep pockets and desires for deep pockets.
For digital creators who prefer to contain multitudes, Tai finds hope in abandoning the algorithm game, and accepting a loss of clout, followers, and discoverability as the price of remaining true to your actual voice and interests:
However, this year, I regained more joy as a writer when I gave upon SEO and decided to become an imperfect gardener of my digital garden. So there’s hope for us yet.
As for folks who don’t spend their time macro-blogging—“ordinary people” who use rather than spend significant chunks of their day creating web content—Tai points out that this, statistically at least a more important issue than the fate and choices of the artists formerly known as digerati, remains unsolved, but with glimmers of partially solution-shaped indicators in the form of a re-emerging indieweb impulse:
Still, as much as I agree with The Verge’s conclusions, I feel that pointing fingers is useless. The bigger question is, How do we fix the Internet for the ordinary person?
The big wigs don’t seem to want to answer that question thoroughly, perhaps because there’s no big money in this, so people have been trying to find solutions on their own.
For more depth and fuller flavor, I encourage you to read the entirety of “Is the internet really broken?” on elizabethtai.com. (Then read her other writings, and follow her on our fractured social web.)
“The independent content creator refuses to die.” – this website, ca. 1996, and again in 2001, paraphrasing Frank Zappa paraphrasing Edgar Varese, obviously.
Hat tip: Simon Cox.