Becalmed in the Sargasso Web

Thursday, May 28th, ©2009 Marcus Brooks

For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow.

— Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Like a lot of people these days, I’ve been trying to think of new ways to make my next mortgage payment. (The old method of going to work every day only works if you have a job to go to.)

The ads you see on my pages don’t seem to be helping, and it’s not hard to see why. My stuff is what most people would call dull, although they would probably use a more exciting term to say so. The problem with having unique interests is, by definition, they’re interests nobody else has.

I see a lot of chatter around the Internet about making money with Google. The impression is that there are lots of people out there who make a living following easy instructions that they buy for a small fee. Just order the package and start filling out forms, and soon you’re making money.

I haven’t bit the hook on any of these offers, so I can only go by what I hear. It sounds like the scheme is to use a free blog service to set up websites tailored to collect clicks on advertising links. The more clicks your ads get, the more money you make.

One key factor is “link bait.” The more popular your topics are, the more people might link to your site, and the more value you might get for each click. The other side of that coin is search engine optimization (SEO): using words in your posts that search engines will link to from popular searches.

Today, in my daily perusal of craigslist, I encountered a job posting seeking someone whose raison d’etre would be to write link bait postings wholesale. Yes, I did apply, but frankly the concept worries me.

I’ve noticed a growing amount of link bloat on the Internet. More and more, a web search returns a list of links to lists of links that link to, what? That’s right—even more links. Even when you find an “article,” it often turns out to be a brief introduction with little or no useful detail, and another block of links.

We’re left asking, where’s the content? (I would say “where’s the beef?,” but you are both probably too young to get it.)

The Web is turning into a kind of Sargasso sea, choked with link weed. Anybody searching Google for real information might as well scroll to the Wikipedia link and skip the rest. Anybody who’s selling a real product or service might be forced to pay for a place among the sponsored links that float above the morass (and even those are sometimes link links).

In a sense, easy Google money may go the way of a pyramid scheme. A few people will make money with the idea, but the ability for links to generate revenue will decrease as the Web becomes saturated by near-useless links.

Meanwhile we create a new class of middlemen, link mongers standing between humanity and its accumulated knowledge; between humanity and itself. This trend may well do for the Web what spam has done for email, turning yet another “killer app” of the Internet into a crippled and unreliable shadow of what might have been.

One Response to “Becalmed in the Sargasso Web”

  1. […] I had no serious interest in web marketing tools like search-engine optimization (SEO). […]

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