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The Republic of Google


The founding principal of all search engines is that they intend to provide us with the most relevant information to our keyword search.  To do so, they’ve developed those tricky algorithms that SEOs spend the better parts of their lives trying to break down.  These algorithms are mathematically based on the principal of collective intelligence, which assumes that the group best understands what is best for the individual.  The principal is democratic, and search engines are designed to assess the collective ‘vote’ of internet users.  However, SEOs are well aware that search engines do not tally a democratic vote, rather, they tally a republican vote based on the vote of ‘elected’ sources.  It is generally the most popular websites that are ‘elected’ to the top Search Engine Results Page (SERP) positions.  You may ask, “Isn’t that ‘election’ based on a democratic vote?”  The answer: not exclusively. 


The concept of the Google Republic appears in James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds, which explores the relationship of crowds and decision making.  As it turns out, and perhaps much to Aristotle’s chagrin (Aristotle considered Democracy a poor form of government), the average of a crowd’s collective decision is almost always nearly as accurate as that crowd’s most intelligent individual’s decision.  This means that collectively we are extremely intelligent when it comes to non-emotional decisions.  It can be inferred, therefore, that the  best keyword search result should also be based entirely on the ‘vote’ of the public.  Instead, Google places a substantial amount of weight on links. 


Links are the political equivalent to the electoral college, meaning they are votes from select individuals (webmasters) whose votes are considered more important than those of the common individual (websurfers).  In recent years, the concept of the electoral college has come under attack, and approximately seventy five percent of the American public now questions the presidential decision made by the 2000 electoral college, which, incidentally, went against the collective intelligence of the public. 


What more republican concept than Page Rank?  A hierarchical system designed to give seniority to the eldest, most popular websites.  Well, I’ve been to a few nursing homes in my day and I can tell you that the eldest does not always make the best decision.  I also attended high school and can tell you that the most popular is generally not the most intelligent decision maker.  So why should Google’s ‘democratic’ process give weight to these websites, which represent only a small portion (the old and the popular) of the public as a whole?  Given the democratic principle that all sites are equal and the knowledge that the collective decision is generally the best, shouldn’t all links be equal?


The unfortunate answer is no.  The reason: people will and have abused the principal of link equality.


Although Google, as with all hopeful ruling bodies, set out to create a true democracy, they’ve discovered what all ruling bodies eventually discover:  when given the opportunity, some individuals (black hat SEOs creating link farms, for instance) will always manipulate a democratic system for their own gain.  So why not eliminate the ‘electoral college’?


To some extent, Google already implements the practices necessary to eliminate the need for links (the ‘electoral college’ of search engines).  Aspects of their algorithm qualify a site’s relevancy based on contextual results and a page’s bounce rate.  If we are to assume that a page with a bounce rate of 100% scores a ‘not very relevant to the search phrase’, then can’t Google just rank a site based on its bounce rate for a specific keyword?  A page with a  bounce rate of zero would be ranked highest for a specific keyword phrase; a page with a bounce rate of one would be ranked second, and so on and so forth.  That would, after all, be the most democratic method of providing results and measuring the ‘vote’ of the public.  Unfortunately, it would also result in an internet riot, with sites shuffling so rapidly from one position to another that SEOs would never sleep again.


What Google has learned is what history has taught us: all intended democracies eventually become republics.  And, although they’ve done their best to integrate a democratic system into their republic, until someone solves the quandary of how to create a true democracy, we’re stuck with the Google Republic.



Geoffrey Hoesch is the owner of Dragonfly SEO.







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