There's no such thing as good writing

Don't waste your time trying to please Google

At the risk of being labeled substandard, I will dispel the #1 HubPages myth. We all need something to cling to, but enough electrons have been wasted by so-called experts.

There's no such thing as good writing. Google can't tell the difference between a 6th grader and a Hemingway.

In summary: the content of a typical hub purporting to help you get more readers:

  • Pick good keywords, whatever those are.
  • Don't stuff keywords, but no one knows how to not do that.
  • Get some backlinks, except when they are bad backlinks.
  • Create some incoming links, except when you shouldn't.
  • Write good.

The sad truth

Google can't tell if you're a good writer.

Good writing can't be quantified. For better or worse, 'goodness' will always be arbitrary. Goodness is qualitative. Google uses digital software to rank pages. Software can only measure quantitative things:

  • Number of keywords and frequency at which they appear.
  • Relative commonality of words.
  • Words length, sentence length, paragraph length.
  • Number of inbound and outbound links.

Google can't, and will never be able to, measure:

  • pathos,
  • humor,
  • accuracy,
  • sentiment,
  • imagery, and
  • message.

What makes good writing?

No one knows what makes good writing. Your high school Language Arts teacher has an opinion, but so does the Fashion Editor at Time Magazine. They are both right.

Google software does not even have an opinion. It has a computed result. Sure, that computed result changes over time, but implying that digital computations somehow 'evolve' to pinpoint good writing is complete badger spit. It can't happen.

Google doesn't recognize, it defines.

To appease a software program, you must provide proper discrete inputs. Since the program cannot measure how your writing makes your readers feel, forget about ever being able to appease those inputs through your good writing.

For better or worse, we have arrived at the point of writing to appease Google rather than to attract readers. Google won't send us any readers unless it likes us: our first priority must be to calibrate keyword density, sentence length, links, placement of ads, and application of big words. Hopefully the qualitative aspects of the writing can be preserved within that framework without too much of your soul slipping away.

We are left with a writing community drifting toward a style completely unrelated to content.

We are faced with 'good writing' being completely redefined. Expect high school English teachers to meld keyword density calculations into composition classes. No Child Left Behind will soon compel metrics for identifying effective backlinks.

The worst news: we don't know what Google wants

Only Google programmers know what Google wants to crunch in its algorithms. That information is probably strategically distributed such that one rogue developer can't spill all the beans. We can only guess at proper keyword density, word complexity, sentence length, linking quotients, etc.

If Google reveals their algorithms, the playing field levels. They will never do that. All they have is their mystery. The man behind the curtain is just running a big computer program. We'd love to pay no attention to him, but there's nothing else to obsess over.

We can only guess. And we will continue guessing.


The worse worst news: it's not going to get better.

Imagine that an uber-lucky SEO geek nails the Google algorithms via trial-and-error. She identifies the perfect combination of inputs to the Google software. All her customers rocket to position #1 overnight. She dreams of Internet riches and keynote speeches at Computer Science conventions.

Tomorrow, the social engineers at Google notice her success and, by tweaking one number on one screen, change the ranking algorithm substantially. In software development-speak, a configuration parameter is modified. No programming changes are required, no press conferences are held, and the entire online writing world is turned sideways.

Google exists for the purpose of moving the target. They have no intention of settling down in a two-story brownstone in a safe neighborhood with a reliable algorithm. They will never announce to the world that their page ranking processes have been perfected.

This will never end. We will never know who the algorithms favor and who is getting slapped.

My prediction

Eventually Google will bump into a competitor bigger than they. One particular organization, with lawyers and no concern for budget limitations, has a long history of pursuing computer companies engaging in so-called 'monopolistic' activities. IBM and Microsoft suffered mightily for (allegedly) attempting to control hardware and software markets. Google dominates the information market: bet on the US Government challenging the search engine industry, the tipping point coming when a Senator's wife can't get her salon ranked in the top 10. It will happen.

What can you do?

Basketball Coach Bob Knight offered relevant advice a few years ago, but we will not revisit his gaffe. Connie Chung made him pay a very high price.

All you can do is start your own search engine and put your pages at the top. In short order you'll realize the dilemma faced by Google. They are obligated to respond to constantly changing SEO strategies, market pressures, and profit margins. Can you do better?

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Comments 19 comments

JayeWisdom profile image

JayeWisdom 4 years ago from Deep South, USA

Nicomp...What a clever satirical hub with (sadly) a right-on-the-money take on Google's manipulation of HP writers! Love the phrase "badger spit", which is new to me. I don't think we have badgers where I live.

I'm not a "techie", so the only one of my hubs with good Google search engine placement landed there strictly by accident. I have no idea how or why it happened, but laugh every time I look at the traffic numbers. (I tried comparing all of its components to those of my other hubs, but only became frustrated when this attempt at analysis was fruitless.)

I mourn the sacrifice of "good" writing (which I recognize when I read it) to the gods of Google by those HP writers who struggle to appease the dreaded algorithms.


Felixedet2000 profile image

Felixedet2000 4 years ago from The Universe

Beautiful logic, this hub is very engaging. Nothing is absolute in life. Google will soon crash definitely. Everything keeps changing, but change never change.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

@JayeWisdom: Indeed, it's luck that gets a hub into the Google top 10.


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Very true and profound and well-written, nicomp, so there is probably little chance of Google loving this. But I do!.


psychicdog.net profile image

psychicdog.net 4 years ago

Heh Nicomp It's funny - I sometimes look at Google like a big parent that dishes out affection OR NOT to her crying little babies - there are over 200 million of them (websites that is). Everyone is trying to get some of Mummy's affection and crying when mummy can't give some much needed love - she does try to spread it out as best she can I think and she is trying to MAKE MONEY in the process. I've cried too but this big Mama doesn't actually owe me anything - I didn't start Google, I'm not related, she does a pretty good job of serving when I'm looking for things -I don't complain or cry about that! But if she doesn't rank me...why why why Mummy Google? Could it be that when people search for things my writing - no matter how good- doesn't always hit the spot as measured by the time spent on a site before GOING BACK TO GOOGLE to look again - It may be the SEARCHERS that determine the ranking as they demand Mummy Google give me what I want!


thephoenixlives profile image

thephoenixlives 4 years ago

"Google software does not even have an opinion. It has a computed result. Sure, that computed result changes over time, but implying that digital computations somehow 'evolve' to pinpoint good writing is complete badger spit. It can't happen."

If you would take this one paragraph and expand on it, you would see that they can indeed tell when users like a site.

If your bounce rate is high on several pages, Google knows your content sucks. Not enough pageviews, missing internal links to other closely related pages on the same site (subdomain/Hub account/site).

Google now considers links from subdomain to subdomain or to the same domain an internal link, so start sharing the link love with other hubbers if you write on a different topic on each hub, otherwise, your account is going down for a high bounce rate.

They have analytics, Google + and the chrome browser measuring user interaction. Every hub has a Google + button on it, so Google is spying on your traffic and their interaction with your content.

These are factors they can model algorithmically.

Write naturally and forget keyword density, you will not trip a trigger writing naturally.

There is no need for inbound links, you can get to the first page for most longtails with internal and related links.

Do you really think HP put that internal linking tool in hubs for no reason?

I would suggest staying on a specific theme or two and write related articles so that you can reference prior hubs within your account. This will build links naturally. Don't believe it? take a look at wikipedia.

So, now you can see that Google can measure your quality, in more than just writing.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

"Write naturally and forget keyword density, you will not trip a trigger writing naturally."

No. 'Natural' writing cannot be quantified. Google cannot model natural writing. We all have different styles. Some styles will offend the ranking algorithms. Some will not.

"If your bounce rate is high on several pages, Google knows your content sucks."

It absolutely does not know. Google doesn't 'know' anything. It only measures arbitrary metrics. You are anthropomorphizing a computer algorithm. 'Sucks' is arbitrary. Not everyone likes Shakespeare. Many people don't get Bob Dylan.

"Every hub has a Google + button on it, so Google is spying on your traffic and their interaction with your content."

So what? The +1 button is culturally biased and age biased. It's hardly a measurement of good writing. Clicking that button means something different to everyone. Your click may mean that you like the content, but not clicking it does not mean that you don't like the content.

"If you would take this one paragraph and expand on it, you would see that they can indeed tell when users like a site."

No, they can't. They can't tell if you actually read anything on the site, they can't even tell if you scrolled down beyond the top of the page. You may be staring at a video on the page: does that imply that you liked the text on the page? No.


thephoenixlives profile image

thephoenixlives 4 years ago

Are you that shallow? I said "you would see that they can indeed tell when users like a site" not good writing. Writing is in the hands of the beholder. They may not be able to see how far someone scrolls, but I bet they can though, try doing a search for visual website optomizer and you will see that one small javascript sniplet can detect scroll, clicks and how long they paused called a heatmap, but they can tell the time on the page, how many pageviews and so forth. This is shown in both webmaster tools and analytics.

"We all have different styles. Some styles will offend the ranking algorithms. Some will not."

Wrong! Absolutely wrong! Now, spun content can be identified with the removal of stop words, this is how they find duplicate content and is the whole purpose of the rel canonical tag, to attribute original ownership so they do not discount the wrong page and place it in supplemental results.

This is done with LSI, or Latent Symantec Indexing. It is character string analysis on steroids.

There is no cultural bias, but these factors tell them what's going on in a page, what links they click (check the Google Cache, they took a picture and know where everything is).

They have gathered from billions of pages and sites and have enough data to recognize when people "Engage" a site and it's content.

Now, as far as the culturally biased statement. If I have a site on rapping, only people who like, support or in the business will be doing searches for the related terms, so the content and style has nothing to do with it. They are basing the metrics on how related it is to the search term and calculating the average bounce rate.

So, if two sites are ranking for "P Diddy" and one has a 80% bounce rate and the other has a 30% bounce rate, i can bet you 100k that the one with a 30% bounce rate has the top spot and I would bet 50k that the one with a 30% bounce rate has better writing as far as the visitors are concerned.

Matt Cutts stated that there is a Direct Connection between good writing and proper grammar and PageRank (Googles measure of trust).

Google can spell, you can grade the wring level if you are signed in with a Google account on their results page. Do a Google search, look in the side navigation and click "show search tools" and you can grade the writing skills.

Before you start talking down to people, you need to know what you are talking about.

I know you will probably delete this comment, most do when they are wrong, so I understand.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

"Are you that shallow? "

No, just analytical.

"Writing is in the hands of the beholder. "

Now you're catching on.

"Wrong! Absolutely wrong! Now, spun content can be identified with the removal of stop words,"

So? You are asserting that spun content is by definition bad content. The same digital computers that spin the content also, according to you, identify good content. You can't have it both ways.

"There is no cultural bias, "

Of course there is. Different cultures view the +1 button differently. It's only an icon on a page. The user has to provide everything else.

"So, if two sites are ranking for "P Diddy" and one has a 80% bounce rate and the other has a 30% bounce rate, i can bet you 100k that the one with a 30% bounce rate has the top spot and I would bet 50k that the one with a 30% bounce rate has better writing as far as the visitors are concerned."

No, but you can tell yourself that if you like. All it means is that people probably left one page open in their browser longer than the other. It may be writing-related or it may be something else entirely.

"Matt Cutts stated that there is a Direct Connection between good writing and proper grammar and PageRank (Googles measure of trust)."

Honestly, what else could Matt Cutts say? He's just a little emotionally and financially invested. Please!

"Before you start talking down to people, you need to know what you are talking about."

Gotcha covered there. I do know what I'm talking about.

"I know you will probably delete this comment, most do when they are wrong, so I understand."

Now you're being condescending. Anyway, deleting your comment would be shallow.

=========================================

Here's a simple experiment... Google this (with quotes):

"to be or not to be"

The first result is Wikipedia. I rest my case.


thephoenixlives profile image

thephoenixlives 4 years ago

to be or not to be

So, how does that prove a point? they have a strong presence, are an older site with a very low bounce rate. They have more page views than just about any other site on the web. Seems to me they validate my point.

They have great internal link structure that supports a low bounce rate.

Again, validates my point.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

"So, how does that prove a point?"

It proves, anecdotally, that good writing means nothing to Google. It proves that page rank and bounce rate and keyword stuffing and trumps even Shakespeare.


thephoenixlives profile image

thephoenixlives 4 years ago

Whats the matter, Doublespeak? You say good writing means nothing? You can't have it both ways.

A site and it's content in any niche is quality based on user interaction with the site. If the keywords are more prone to get 13 year old females, then they measure these metrics based on that keyword and it's demographics compared to other sites competing for the said group of keywords.

But overall, quality of writing and grammar has a lot to do with the success of a website, and they tend to rank better, and even more with more general keywords.

I don't work based on anecdotes, I work on statistics and metrics.

Last I checked Shakespeare does not have a website, so he will never outrank wikipedia because he is dead, that means he can not register a domain.

What is so hard for you to understand about this?


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

"If your bounce rate is high on several pages, Google knows your content sucks."

No, they don't. That's the assumption they will assume, but it's not an indicator of good or bad writing.

If I pick up a newspaper and flip through the pages, does that mean the newspaper is poorly written? Of course not.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

"If you would take this one paragraph and expand on it, you would see that they can indeed tell when users like a site."

@thephoenixlives: Google can measure, to a limited extent, now often a site is visited, but it cannot determine if the site is liked by anyone. 'Like' is subjective and cannot be measured by a computer.


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

Well done. It's the reason I write for pleasure and not for google.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

lrc7815 : That's all we can control. Good for you!


lrc7815 profile image

lrc7815 4 years ago from Central Virginia

I do have one question. At the end of this hub, you have five links to various sites (in a horizontal line). They change as the page is refreshed. Are they by your design or Goggle's design? For the life of me I haven't figured out the features of Google Ads/Adsense.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 4 years ago from Ohio, USA Author

Those are 'ads by Google.', if I am clear on what you are referring to. Google serves those links, not me. I make a billionth of a penny if someone follows some of them.

I have a ton of Google hubs: I studied them in grad school and I think I know more than most SEO charlatans and I know I know more than 99% of the hubs purporting to help you improve your hubs.

http://hubpages.com/technology/Google-to-downgrade...

http://hubpages.com/technology/What-does-Google-Kn...

http://hubpages.com/literature/What-should-you-wri...


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

Love it. You've just articulated so well something that I 've always thought when I write. While its pleasurable to watch your work being read widely, I 'd rather that's because of the style, content and artistic merit rather than some current algorithm that measures digital packets of trends! Well said!

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