March 26th, 2011 / 11:49 am

Pleasing the Spiders OR Google: Oprah+[current event], Facebook

<meta name=”keywords” content=”search engines, better than people, angry writer, depression”>
<meta name=”description” content=”Who needs fans when you have Google?”>

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<h2>Pleasing the Spiders OR Google: Oprah + [current event], Facebook</h2>

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<p>Google’s index is made up of billions of web pages, making it the largest web page database, and possibly the largest knowledge repository, in the world. Google currently handles 70% of all search engine queries. As of October 2010 Google has scanned over 15 million books. The term “what to read” is searched 60,500 times monthly. What happens when humans are no longer necessary tastemakers? Being a hipster will no longer mean having access to early Domino and the Cheese Willys tracks. Being a hipster will mean having access to something–anything–not catalogued by Google. (Don’t panic, hipsters; I made up Domino and the Cheese Willys)</p>

<p>Search engines utilize top-secret algorithms to provide users with relevant information based on search terms. Anything online is susceptible to Google’s search spiders, which includes every story, every poem, every essay ever posted online. Is the next step in creative writing then to produce content with the search engine in mind? Will meta-data be its own keyword rich bank to be used as bait for inbound links? Will every other word be hyperlinked in hopes of attracting returning links? What will this do to our already dwindling attention span? Or, more optimistically, have our attention spans evolved to properly accept so much stimuli?</p>

<p>But despite the obvious cringe factor (ads in eBooks frightens me), I am less pessimistic about what will come from the first author to truly tap into the growing eBook medium. Think what Mark Z. Danielwski would have done with House of Leaves if the eBook platform was viably open for development. Until something big happens, though, I fear we will have to endure a lot of failed attempts (no hyperlink necessary; use your imagination).</p>



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<p>This is a gust post by Caleb J Ross as part of his Stranger Will Tour for Strange blog tour. His goal is to post at a different blog every few days beginning with the release of his novel Stranger Will in March 2011 to the release of his second novel, I Didn’t Mean to Be Kevin in November 2011. If you have connections to a lit blog of any type, professional journal or personal site, please contact him. He would love to compromise your integrity for a day. To be a groupie and follow this tour, subscribe to the Caleb J Ross blog RSS feed. Follow him on Twitter: @calebjross. Friend him on Facebook:</p>


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  1. Stranger Will tour stop #6: HTMLGiant | Caleb J Ross The World's First Author Blog | calebjross

      […] here to read the guest post. Also, don’t forget that if you comment on all guest blog posts, you will get free […]

  2. gavin

      because I’m pretty technologically stupid, it took me a while to get the title here: but now I’m smiling.

  3. Henry Vauban

      in the future, all writers will have to know html.

  4. Anonymous

      Everyone online is susceptible to Google… unless you insert the line of code that tells Google to not index the page.

  5. Caleb J Ross

      But even that isn’t guaranteed. Google will still usually unleash its spiders on a no_follow page. No one is safe.

  6. Anonymous

      The company I work for has roughly 2 million records in its database, with about 55,000 marked as inactive and harboring no crawl codes. Zero of them are ever referenced by Google or any other search engine.

      It probably doesn’t help that your whole concern about a future of SEO-friendly writing doesn’t make any sense to the way that search engine algorithms work. If you have a story on a website, what’s contributing to its SEO goodness aren’t the words in the story, but the description and meta data put into the header of the page by whoever posted it. It wouldn’t have anything to do with the story, and it gives writers no incentive to search engine-optimize their writing. The questions you ask are, in fact, so wildly out of step with logic and the way that the internet and search engines work that I honestly cannot tell if this whole post is facetious or just uninformed.

  7. Caleb J Ross

      You are just plain wrong. Search engines absolutely do not rely solely on meta-data. That’s absurd. Perform a search on Google, use the site preview tool (the magnifying glass next to each search result) and you’ll see that search terms are being pulled from content as well as meta information.

      And what about inbound links, which are a HUGE factor in ranking. Inbound links have nothing to do with meta information.

      Now I wonder, is your reply facetious or just uninformed?

  8. Anonymous

      You can stop wondering: my reply was just not read correctly. I didn’t say page content counts for nothing; I’m saying, for a story on a page on someone’s website, the words in the story are going to do nothing worth mentioning for the page’s search ranking, unless someone is specifically looking for words that appear in the story, which isn’t exactly in line with the Spider Overlord vision of the future.

      I mean, this is my job. This is literally what I do for a living. Content is only going to come into play for searches that involve specific phrases to be matched, but questions like “what to read” or “great short story” are recognized as topic searches by search engines and rely more on meta data and total click-through in results, and will likely never have an actually story itself as a top result, just pages that compile lists of things to read. So fine, you’re right, people could very well write stories with the aim of high search result ranking in mind, but they would have to write a story that’s disguised as an article compiling the best of something.

      Inbound links are helpful, sure, but as inbound links get weighted values depending on the originating site, there’s no way to artificially bump that up by including links in a story—which doesn’t guarantee any reciprocal inbound links anyway. The kind of HTML horseshit you’re suggesting could be problematic for writing in the future does not take into account the refined complexity of search engine algorithms, which have been and are still taught on a daily basis the difference between junk sites, junk links, and worthless search results. That’s their job. It’s what they do for a living.

  9. Caleb J Ross

      I think you need to re-read the original post. The entire thing is about writing content to adhere to specific search terms. Therefore, if someone wants to try and rank for terms like “what to read” or “great short story” they would need to be conscious of writing a story that is rich in those keywords (as well as doing other SEO off site and on site tactics to enhance relevance).

      The entire post is about a fear that writers would some day have to consider engine spiders when writing, and therefore might not be so concerned with the story itself.

      I think what you did is find a post about SEO and then jump all over it with your (apparently limited) knowledge of the topic in order to project a sense of superiority. Re-read the post and try again.

  10. Omar De Col

      meta ass data

  11. M. Kitchell

      in 2011, the first comment on every htmlgiant post will simply be somebody who wants to tell you where and how you are wrong.

  12. Anonymous

      you’re wrong… outside, cuz it’s raining.

  13. Anonymous

      whoa, whoa, whoa, hipp! take your ‘knowledgeability’ elsewhere! just where do you think you are!

  14. Anonymous

      caleb, reading your responses, i’m incline to think you’re an AI. they’re not matching up with hipp’s points, like, at all.

      /i’m serious.
      //up for a turing test?

  15. Anonymous

      also, this is actually what this site needs more of: fuckin’ balls to the walls critique. though, i’d add, the more justified the better.

  16. M. Kitchell


  17. M. Kitchell

      wtf is “this” in your sentence? my comment? hipp’s idea of entitlement in the fact of the ideas in (i.e. THE POINT OF) the post?

      obviously the only reason comment sections exist is so anonymous readers can point out typos.

  18. Caleb J Ross

      Why is hipp and harmonious_monk the only responders without links to their pages? Same person?

      My points defend my original post. They don’t match up entirely with hipp’s points because hipp wasn’t responding to my original post. I was trying to bring the “conversation” back to the post. Hipp seemed more interested in discussing SEO in general terms, not my point that writers may one day have to be aware, and perhaps write specifically knowing, that their work will be crawled by search engines.

  19. gavin

      I was first and I’m still smiling.

  20. Anonymous

      What I’m saying—and what you’re not hearing, because you’re busy telling me I haven’t read your post and don’t understand it, because it’s so clever that I could never ever parse its brilliance—is that the fear is idiotic because that’s not how search engines work.

  21. Anonymous

      You’re not responding to the fact that that isn’t how search engines work and that tailoring a story to attract spiders is not only a bad idea in terms of writing but would not make any significant difference to the number of hits the story gets. There would be no noticeable benefit to doing it—because it wouldn’t work—so the question is moot. That’s the point. Yes, if that was how things worked, sure, you’d be right to worry about the possibility of writers cowtowing to search engines; but it’s not, so it’s a ludicrous fear. Do you understand why I’m bringing up the mechanics of SEO now?

  22. Anonymous

      Also: seriously? You have such trouble believing that two people would be on the opposite side of the argument from you that we must be the same person?

  23. Anonymous

      You know, you’re right. When people use bad logic on the internet, we should all just let it slide. That’s the kind of world we want to live in, right?

  24. Anonymous

      “…idea of entitlement in the fact of the ideas in the post”? I’m sorry, but that sentence is way above my pay grade.

  25. Anonymous
  26. Anonymous

      ‘links to their pages’? you mean… i don’t have a slew of pointless vanity profiles for you to pick over? my bad, i guess. also, i have no idea who hipp is. maybe he’s you, caleb?

  27. Anonymous

      this = ‘somebody who wants to tell you where and how you are wrong’

  28. Anonymous

      That is awesome. But of course I would like it, since we’re the same person.

  29. Anonymous


  30. Caleb J Ross

      Please send my condolences to your SEO clients. You are telling me that search engines don’t crawl content. So, someone searching for noir story with thieves and bars would never result in a story that contained the words noir, story, thieves, bars? That’s wrong. When coupled with other on site and off site tactics as well as rich keyword integration, it is entirely possible that a noir story about thieves and bars would populate in the search results for said search query.

      You seem to think that I suggested searching for “what to read” would populate in a short story or something. Not at all. I used that example to show that people are in fact using search engines to try and find something to read.

      So, my suggestion still stands. Please re-read the original post and tailor your comments accordingly.

      Again, if responding to articles without reading the articles is a common thing with you, please send my condolences to your SEO clients.

  31. Anonymous

      Yeah, the point is that any single story would not be able to amass the necessary SEO juice or inbound links to put it ahead of, say, a list of the best noir stories, in the case you just gave. You can continue arguing about it all you want. You’re continually painting me as the one who doesn’t understand why failing to listen to what I’m trying to explain and dodging deftly around the simple truth that it wouldn’t work with a story in any way that would really increase traffic to the page, so people won’t do it. It’s been fun trying to explain the same thing to you over and over again, but I think I’ll go do something more productive now, like clean the microwave.

  32. Caleb J Ross

      I do suppose that if you treat your microwave with similar responsibility as you do to the articles in this blog then the appliance is likely in need of a major cleaning. Good luck with that.

  33. Anonymous

      I hope you give your prose more consideration than your comebacks. I suspect not, though. It’s not surprising that you got your book to the top of Google’s search results for the title, given the breadth of your knowledge on the subject. Oh wait, my mistake, it’s one blurb and a whole lot of results for the new Woody Allen movie. What a shame.

  34. Caleb J Ross

      Stranger Will actually is at the top of the search results. Thanks for the compliment.

  35. Anonymous

      A blurb for it is the top result, as I said. Nothing else comes up for two pages. You’re an expert, so you probably already know this, but try searching for it when you’re not logged in to your Google account, which reorders results based on your history of click-throughs. Thanks for playing the home game, though.

  36. Anonymous

      I’m unsubscribing from this thread now since otherwise I will continue to try to get you to understand what I’m telling you. I figure I can use the extra time to regrow phantom limbs and cure childhood obesity. You know, something marginally better for the world at large than sniping back and forth on a blog.

  37. car blogger

      I need to know whether a comment through disqus is followed by google spider or not.

  38. Ten Everywhere: Caleb J. Ross and the Stranger Will Tour For Strange

      […] HTML Giant site  – What is the one thing that you have written that will never be found by the Google search spiders? CR: I wrote this amazing flash fiction piece called “the rel=”nofollow”” attribute. Good luck, Google. […]