Facebook Users Do Not Censor Themselves

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You know how in ‘real life,’ people typically say things that are appropriate to the situation and actually think before they speak? Facebook is exactly the opposite of that. To quote the recent hit “The Social Network,”

“It didn’t stop you from writing it. As if every thought that tumbles through your head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared.”

People post whatever is on their mind, whether it be offensive, in poor taste, or just stupid. It’s as if the veil of anonymity prevalent in the old internet has somehow carried through to the present, even though any veil, especially on a site like Facebook, is purely imaginary. Status updates frequently contain questions as to why the other half of the population (and political spectrum) is so unintelligent, though usually in far more colorful words. Flame wars generally ensue.

And we all have the friends who want to share EVERY hill and valley of the emotional roller coaster that is their life. While I appreciate their candor, sometimes I wish people would only say things they would say to each of their friends in person.

So what does this mean for marketers and businesses? It means that people will say whats on their mind, good or bad, and that they will be honest. It doesn’t so much create new opportunities so much as it provides further evidence of what we already knew: people are going to talk about things that they experience whether you are involved or not. This might be a great or awful experience with your brand. It’s your choice whether you participate in the conversation.

This observation also made me wonder… Which way is internet culture swinging? Towards self-censorship and professionalism, or towards complete free expression and possible recklessness? What are your thoughts?

Directories and Content Farms are a Waste of Human Effort

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“It would actually be better to have companies LITERALLY just hand Google wads of cash in order to get their search engine placement.”

We have all been there… You Googled a question, clicked a promising looking result, only to find that it was essentially a page with nothing but your question on it. There isn’t even an answer… Just the question. The site Fixya, for example, Loves to

return results like this. How is this highly rated enough in the search engine to show up? Well, it is a large, “popular” site, and it has the exact term you were looking for. But is it useful, in the sense that it was what you were searching for? No. It’s just another search engine. And the results, as you can see, aren’t that good.

SEO marketers have all also experienced another worthless piece of the internet… Online directories. You know the kind… DMOZ wannabes, or even DMOZ itself. There are hundreds of thousands… maybe millions of them out there. And we as marketers spend a lot of time submitting our sites to them.

But here is the question. Who goes to these sites to get information? What benefit do these provide to users? Unless you are an SEO marketer, probably none. I don’t think a single clear-headed person has gone to a directory to find what they are looking for since probably… 1993. They simply aren’t used for anything except inbound links.

Directories hardly even give benefit to MARKETERS anymore either. Why? Because everyone does it. And if everyone does it, nobody benefits. It’s a textbook example of game theory… You have to do it, because if you don’t, you get left behind. Now it is just an immense body of work for marketers to go through and add their sites to all these directories. Work that provides no real benefit for the human race.

So why do the search engines put up with these sites? Google has recently received flack for posting results leading to content farms and the like… They have since changed their algorithm to lower the occurrence of these results, which is a step in the right direction.

Those changes might take care of part of the problem for sites like fixya and others that don’t actually answer your question. But what about directories? What has been done about them? They don’t show up in search results anymore… But could more be done? I think it can and should.

I think the search engines should no longer give SEO credit to directories. Sites should not be ranked higher because every worthless directory has them listed. I guess I can’t fully expect Google to give up on its baby, the DMOZ, which admittedly is the best of the directories. Of course being the best online directory is a little like being the best intramural softball team at a community college… Not that hard to do, and even if you win, nobody cares.

I think Google has taken a step in the right direction, but search engines as a whole I think have a long way to go. Giving credit to companies just because they have put the effort in to these directories, which provide no real benefit to anyone, is completely arbitrary and pointless. It would actually be better to have companies LITERALLY just hand Google wads of cash in order to get their search engine placement. It would be the same as now, only we could skip the step of someone having to actually put the links on a site that no one will ever see. Clearly this is not what I am suggesting, but hopefully you see my point.