Before this week, Google was always just... Well, Google. King of kings in a realm that is not fond of regulation.
And as far as we knew, despite our sometimes desperate pleas, Google has never really tried to be a regulator.
The search engine provided no filtering process or rules besides the frequently referenced but almost mythical "algorithm" and a user's ability to make his search more concise if he wants it that way. The genius of its design has always been its user-friendly ability to suggest what a person wants. So, when a user broadly searches "Aaron Rodgers" because he specifically wants updates on Rodgers' progress in practice coming off of his recent injury, Google will instead take such a search query at face-value and provide a diverse array of content to the user.
In an ideal world, it would almost be considerate. But alas, such idealistic concepts are completely wasted on the web, a place whose content ecosystem has been overrun by the brainchildren of too many cynical, Silicon Valley scumbags.
And, more times than not, a simple search query like the aforementioned will lead to a result - or multiple results - like this.
As Bleacher Report founder and resident Twitter troll Bryan Goldberg has stated in the past, since his site's content is so "different" from that of journalistic entities like CBS Sports, SI, ESPN, AP, etc., Google has been able to more easily crawl to Bleacher Report's content since its inception in 2008.
When the site went public, B/R's platform was fresher and better geared towards search than most others in its genre and had a crew of Google-obsessed minions assigning asinine topics based on popular searches to a legion of as many as 6000 writers in 2010. Trending Google topics are still the backbone of Bleacher Report's assignment sheets going into 2014, but now, the site's 1000 daily articles are produced by a small "staff" of only 1000 writers. Through this still existent legion of writers, Bleacher Report was and still is able to usurp a number of online articles that might have catered to a Google user's search query better.
The battle for Google in the sports world was won years ago.
Bleacher Report's "different" content was pumped on a larger scale than any of its competitors. Equally important, but regularly unmentioned, was the typical Bleacher Reporter's perpetual quest for greater exposure or a more secure, paid position. In that pursuit, the writers not only produced the content, but they were also the backbone of Bleacher Report's backlinking strategy.
Forum posts, tweets, Facebook posts, Reddit links, shares from reputable websites, etc.
Convinced his work was more his creative property than Bleacher Report's, each Bleacher Reporter was fully motivated to promote his content beyond the realm of just Bleacher Report. In late 2010, 75% of the naive dreamers were cut. Less than two years later, Bleacher Report was acquired by Turner for just under $200 million.
The backlinks, like the articles, still exist for the most part.
The tactics that Bleacher Report has always employed were not and still are not classified as "black-hat" SEO tactics by any stretch, but the story of how the company built itself into an online behemoth within its genre almost solely through search sounds awfully familiar... Via Reuters yesterday:
If you try to game Google, you're bound to get burned. Such is the case with Rap Genius, a site that hosts and explains lyrics to songs and copy from other texts.
In an attempt to rank higher in Google search, the site solicited bloggers to link to Rap Genius pages in exchange for exposure via Rap Genius' social media channels. While Google generally views backlinks from reputable sites as a positive ranking factor, paying for backlinks is commonly considered an unacceptable SEO strategy.
I, like so many others, do not know why Google chose to make an example of Rap Genius. I, unlike so many others, do not think this is the beginning of a great cleanup campaign. More than likely, Google is just flexing, but still... Maybe, just maybe, Google is actually listening.
So, while many folks continue to fight the good fight for general web searches on Google to be cleaner, The BRR will be examining an even more pressing issue today; one that has been bubbling just underneath the surface of the SEO-whoring conversation...