Who Stands to Lose and Who Stands to Gain?

Mr. Caputo, what are the aims of SEO Chat, and who is the site’s target group?

Caputo: SEO Chat (www.seochat.com) is dedicated to assisting business owners both large and small as well as marketing specialists perform search engine optimization on their sites. We offer free tutorials, articles and news – all SEO related – as well as a very knowledgeable and active discussion community.

Does Google have the right to suppress the pages of manipulators in its hit list – in other words to react with manipulation itself?

Caputo: Well, I believe it’s their game so they get to make the rules. We aren’t forced to use Google, there are alternatives currently out there. But I should preface that by saying if Google isn’t careful the market share they currently enjoy can be trimmed dramatically – an accurate comparison might be the battle a few years ago between Netscape and Internet Explorer – and we all know how that turned out.

How realistic do you think is this danger for Google?

Caputo: I would like to say it’s a distinct possibility but reality prevents me.

Who dictates what is right and wrong in search engine practice?

Caputo: The prevalent mentality is much like the wild wild west. SEO your sites as much as you can so long as you are getting positive results and not being penalized. There is a very fine line which is continually blurred by the various search engines on almost a daily basis. It is a delicate balance between optimizing your sites for the search engines, but also ensuring effective usability for your readers – and sometimes these two principles conflict greatly. It is critical for any organization which takes SEO seriously, to ensure that their sites and SEO principles meet with the ever-changing rules and guidelines set forth by the different major search engines.

The trick to this is a constant, ever changing equation which must be looked after on a day to day basis. What might rank at the top of a particular search engine one day might be totally out of the database the next day. Currently the search engines are making their own rules as to what SEO practices should and shouldn’t be allowed in regards to their own engine. But perhaps an independent organization or maybe even one which has representatives from all of the major engines could get together to form a similar consortium to the W3. In theory I think it would be a fantastic idea.

Have other search engine providers taken similar steps to those taken by Google in the case of BMW?

Caputo: A major corporation being kicked out of a search engine is a rarity and I believe one of the reasons why the BMW case made such a big splash across the SEO community. In general large corporate websites tend to have their search engine results given preference or priority when queries return results so I am sure the small to medium sized businesses saw this as a minor victory for them.

In the Chinese case, it’s not Google making the rules but an authoritarian regime forcing Google to manipulate their search results. Why is Google so much afraid to lose users in China?

Caputo: China is an emerging market – the largest reach of voice on the entire planet. That alone is probably a good enough reason.

Does SEO Chat see itself as a kind of democratic counterpoint to the almighty Google?

Caputo: In a certain way yes: We are an independent organization which is privately owned with absolutely no venture capital monies so we are able to write about anything that we feel is pertinent to the SEO community without fear of reprisal.

What can Google learn from SEO Chat?

Caputo: It’s unclear if Google wants or even considers it necessary to look towards communities like SEO Chat for guidance. I do believe that opening a dialogue with sites such as SEO Chat would only benefit Google in the long run by being able to better get a finger on the pulse of the search engine community. The users of our site tend to be in the trenches, they are enthusiasts who do this for a living because they love it – and quite often great ideas and thoughts are generated by such a demographic.

What role does the optimization of search engines other than Google play in your work?

Caputo: We do have other categories and forums devoted to MSN, Yahoo, Ask.com, etc., but even to this day Google related content tends to dominate all others. Perhaps that will change in the future, but for right now Google content remains at the forefront.

Do you fear – or perhaps hope – that search engines with better indexing than Google, for example Ask.com or the new meta search engine Metager2, could soon overtake Google?

Caputo: Personally it scares the living daylights out of me that Google retains a 70-75-percent market share of all internet searches processed. I believe that this is way too much power for any one entity to have. I would love to see a much more balanced dispersement of searches across say five or six major search engines. Currently if Google updates their algorithm as they are accustomed to doing every few months some minor companies might go out of business as a result. That is the kind of impact any search engine which maintains 75 percent market share has. No matter who the company is, that amount of power is often best shared.

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