I run a small web development firm. There are seven of us specializing in html design, website maintenance, PHP MySQL programming, email marketing, pay per click (Google Ad Words), tech support, server maintenance, email consultation and search engine optimization. Where possible, we try to spread the specialties around.

I’m the search engine optimization specialist. I have little tech facility but have skills in pattern manipulation and recognition. Engaged in search engine optimization (SEO), I weigh the specific variables the search engines use to decide how to rank a website and then design the site and provide links to the sites in ways that encourage search engines to give them higher rankings.

About seven years ago, I sort of fell into this portion of my profession as a result of creating high quality local retail directories for Chicago and local towns. I created the directories, loading them with links to local business websites to funnel traffic to my client websites. I’d give my clients free ads within the directories. The program worked well.

Over time, the directories themselves achieved higher and higher rankings in Google. They commonly ranked #1 in Chicago, making my clients happy, but they were also ranking in the top 10 in the United States. For example, when Googling “Chicago crafts” or “Chicago catering,” my directory pages would rank #1 or #2. Googling “crafts” or “catering” would also bring top 10 spots.

Late one night, unable to sleep, staring at columns of information on my monitor, the obvious jumped out at me. The sites I’d created with the most incoming links, linked in very specific fashions, were achieving the highest rankings. It was perhaps seven or eight years ago that I received this revelation, a rather prosaic insight today. Still, the SEO information services that I subscribed to hadn’t yet noted what I discovered.

Assigning links in clusters and focusing on specific pages, I was soon achieving top 10 spots in Google for terms like mortgages, airline tickets and lingerie. Creating a directory of directories, Greentithe.com, I was able to siphon traffic to directory pages stuffed with commercial affiliate agreements that generated over $20,000 for environmental organizations. I was having fun.

On November 15, 2004, Google changed their algorithm. Google began to heavily penalize for deliberate link manipulation using the techniques I had grown to rely upon. I was encouraged to be less overt and instead focus on the most effective techniques to simulate random linking behavior.

In evolutionary biology, an astonishing amount of professorial attention has focused on the degree that variation is random when progeny proliferate. Darwin famously proclaimed in his Origin of Species that variation is random, laying the foundation for the fundamentalist polarity of evolutionary theorizing populated by Neo-Darwinians, sociobiologists, evolutionary psychologists and their allies, the social Darwinists. If the genetically inheritable features of offspring that a bonded pair creates are not influenced by the environment, then we can ignore the interconnecting subtleties of life. We are born by chance and survive if we are strong or clever. Relationships don’t matter, unless they manage to help you to survive.

Google has evolved. Originally, the variables Google used to determine rank were relatively transparent. Specialists like me, uncovering the patterns, used the knowledge to provide benefits to our clients. Google now seeks to offer enviable rankings to only those sites that don’t obviously rely upon the skills of a professional to achieve high positions. Google rewards websites that reveal that they are popular (many incoming links), with that popularity derived from seemingly random assistance from many sources. Signs of nonrandom intervention from a professional are rewarded with a penalizing drop in ranking.

In the world of the web, high rankings are achieved by websites simulating random interconnectivity. Patterns in interconnection are interpreted by search engines as deliberate, nonrandom intervention.

In the world of fundamentalist evolutionary theory, evident random variation in the features of progeny is assumed to be evidence that the environment (characterized by profound interconnectivity) has no influence on the features of individuals during their own (or their parent’s) lifetime.

As the cat-and-mouse Google and optimizer game unfolds, an evolutionary trajectory has been established. There are, of course, intelligences at both sides of this debate. The nature of this relationship drives the optimizer to simulate random connectivity when in reality the connections, the links, are becoming more and more deliberate. Optimizer intelligence has discovered that it is far more effective at achieving its goals if there is no intelligence interpreted in its actions. One intelligence simulates random to achieve success. The other intelligence penalizes evidence of deliberate behavior. In evolutionary theory, there is what has been called runaway sexual selection, where a unique feature becomes heavily reinforced by both selection for a very particular target feature and selection for those that have a taste for that target feature. We are observing runaway random selection where exhibition of the deliberately created display of simulated random behavior has become a highly valued trait, driving the behavior of both the selector and the selectee.

The evolutionary fundamentalists have been fooled into thinking that evidence of random suggests absence of deliberate intent. It’s the same scale of mistake that religious fundamentalists make when they conclude that a mythology, deliberate intent, is not random. Intelligence naturally simulates random behavior in the same way that intelligence naturally makes a metaphor that is not the thing that a metaphor represents. At the root of both processes is a deep compulsion to play. Play is a central feature of neoteny.

Random and incomprehensibly subtle and complicated are not the same things. When incomprehensibly subtle and complicated achieve a successful reproduction of random, one might say, “Let the play begin.”


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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 12th, 2008 at 6:41 am and is filed under 10-The Web, Biology, Neoteny, Play, Sexual Selection, Web. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
1 Comment so far

  1. TCM Web Design Solutions on June 12, 2008 11:32 am

    Interesting – It will require more thought on my part though – I am a little slower than most.

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