Technical SEO:

Search Engines’ Power Over What You See and What You Don’t See

rtowe January 23, 2015

Internet’s Search Engine Governance Part I

A Comparison to George Orwell’s 1984

I spoke at an American Lawyers Event in San Francisco. My audience was a room filled with CMOs from law firms – all sizes. My topic was a comparison of the rise in totalitarianism in George Orwell’s famous book, 1984, to the Internet’s search engine governance of today. I thought it was a fitting topic for the 30th anniversary of the year the book was intended as well as the current state of today’s Internet. Interestingly enough, there is a totalitarianesque control over what is shown and not shown after a queried search by an internet user.


First let’s take a step back to high school government class and review the term, totalitarianism. It is the “absolute power by state or governing branch.” It is also “the character of an authoritarian individual, group, or government.” If you google the term “totalitarianism,” the first result is a Wikipedia article that includes the “Big Brother is Watching You” image from 1984. Typically, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler come to mind when reflecting on examples of countries under totalitarian governance. In the present, North Korea’s leadership like Kim Il-Sung, Kim Jong-Il, and Kim Jong-Un oppress citizens through censorship, propaganda, and torture. While users don’t experience pain from torture when searching for something, the SEO consultants and website owners who take SEO into their own hands experience quite a bit of what feels like torture (not to make light of the aforementioned form of torture in North Korea) on a very small scale in comparison at the hands of the search engines.

Internet Search Engines aka Big Brother

In George Orwell’s 1984, little is known about the Inner Party and Big Brother. This mysterious “party” governs the “proles,” also known as the other 97% of Oceania through rewriting history and regulating the spoken language. Similarly, search engines and their imposed algorithms are equally as secretive and cryptic. SEO experts and strategists can only speculate about the inner workings of Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, and other algorithms that are imposed. Through these algorithms, Google, Bing, and others, govern what is seen and what isn’t seen by the search engine user. How you handle your pages’ SEO determines if you end up atop Page 1 or Page 2 and beyond, the Internet abyss.

How to Abide by the Search Engine Rules

From George Orwell’s 1984, the line “There are three stages in your integration…there is learning, there is understanding, and there is acceptance,” should be a website’s SEO expert’s words by which to live. Google, Bing, and the other smaller players, have the ability to monitor and control all things digital within their reach. Learning what is acceptable practice or “white hat” and what is unacceptable or “black hat” is crucial in the rise to the top of page 1. White hat practices include quality content, correct markup, effective mobile strategy, and accurate meta-data. Black hat practices include methods like keyword stuffing, purchasing and swapping links, and cloaking. If these are unfamiliar to you, the website owner, or the SEO person in charge of your website, understanding through research and education is mandatory. Constant re-education and acceptance of the rules by which your website must live, is imperative if you want to eventually find your site on page 1 in ranks.


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