Google must sit around plotting ways to make search engine optimizers sweat. They’re like the Skull and Bones of the Internet: you don’t exactly how or why they do things, but they’re all powerful. That was the reaction of SEO’s to Google’s new promote button that shows up next to links in search results. It started with curiosity and then turned into apprehension. You can just hit “promote” and the site automatically goes to the top of the page?
Voila! Instant page rank! The age of search engine optimization is over! Well, not quite: the Google promote button is meant to be a personal button, a way to ensure that sites you like stay at the top of your search results. It does not mean a credit card affiliate can type “credit card” in Google, click their site, and think that this further optimizes the site for that search term. If anything, it’s just a way for webmasters to get a little ego boost seeing their results at the top of the page.
Or is it? Does the promote button have any SEO value? What if 100 people all click the promote button for a site or a site’s internal page. Will that improve the page’s search engine rank? By the same token, is this going to create webmaster wars where people are removing and promoting sites at will? If that’s the case, it’s a pretty worrisome development. There are already nefarious Digg providers who promise to create hundreds of Diggs for a page by using a cadre of contract workers – a development that could destroy the usefulness of Digg. By the same token, the Google promote button could take down SEO.
But it’s not time to get that paranoid yet (even if I did begin this post with a reference to Skull and Bones). Google’s not dumb: they knew this was an issue when they implemented the feature. And Google likes content-based results because it inspires more people to click on Adsense ads, giving Google revenue. If you’re searching for “Stereo” and the first ten results are articles about stereos – you might be more inclined to click the ad for an actual store. Google doesn’t want to curtail this process.
But like all things with Google, it’s still a bit of a mystery about how this will affect the SERPs and SEO. Currently, the promote and remove buttons are per-user: they’re not really a Digg tool or a web-wide Hot or Not tool. They’re just a way to organize your search results. But in the world of black hat SEO, if there’s a way to exploit this feature, it will be done. It’s early yet, so time will tell, but my bet is this remaining in its current per-user form: it better.