When you use Google, you often thinks the search results represent the “truth.” Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Google has massaged the search results into something that Google deems as the correct answer. At least according to their guidelines.
Take, for example, the topic of 401(k) plans.
If you were to look up in Google the topic of 401(k) plans, you’d notice that all of the search results are positive. There’s not one article that can be found in the main search results or the People Also Ask section that is against opening a 401k plan.
It’s only until you search for things like ‘cons of 401k’ or ‘disadvantages or 401k’ do you find negative things about 401(k) plans.
This isn’t by accident.
You could write the best counterpoints against 401(k) plans (negative sentiment) and wouldn’t stand a chance to rank for the primary keyword topics.
Google analyzes what is said in an article and how it’s said (positive and negative sentiments) on a topic.
Why do you think that is?
It has to do with Google looking at the collective search results for topics and taking what is considered the accepted answer as the baseline. This is especially true regarding Your Money, Your Life (YMYL for short). Anything to do with money or your health Google looks very closely at those topics.
On the positive, Google wants to make sure the search results don’t contain crack-pot answers. You won’t see some magical cure for diabetes or how to consistently generate 20% annual returns in the stock market.
On the flip side, it creates search results that are all very similar.
I call it the homogenization of search results.
The design of Google’s search engine prevents dissent on any topic. Google wants to show a definitive answer on a topic. This, of course, can be problematic.
Let’s say Google existed at the time when the collective wisdom considered the Earth at the center of the Universe.
The search results would have shown that the Earth was at the center. The “science” is settled and states every planet revolves around the Earth.
Any search topic in Google stating otherwise would not have shown up in the search results without long-tailed searches.
This is very similar to what we see today.
Back then, Nicolaus Copernicus claimed the Sun was the center of the Universe, not the Earth.
So bad was his claim that Copernicus was banished from the Catholic Church and almost burned at the stake before he recanted. He was banned from writing such heresy. This effectively silenced him and prevented an alternative viewpoint.
Obviously, as a Monday morning quarterback, we can see how right he was and how the collective wisdom at the time was wrong.
But the same thing can happen today, but only in digital form.
To put it simply, to rank in Google, you need to have the same sentiment and similar content as others in the search results.
In fact, there are now tools like Surfer that can help ensure your content matches the expectation of search results.
Surfer will compare your existing article to the search results and tell you what’s missing from your content. It’s a great way to rank for competitive keywords.
Though in the long run, does this really help search results or hurt them?
Unfortunately, this can effectively limit a debate, even if it’s a crackpot idea. Dissent, debate, and discussion should always be possible, no matter how crazy the idea is. Like social media, SEO effectively limits the reach of new, different, and possibly better ideas than the accepted norm.
In the case of 401(k) plans, they will always be put in a positive light. It is accepted that 401(k) plans are “good.”
Do I think 401k plans are overall good? Yes, I personally do. Though they certainly do have their problems. Unless you dig deep, don’t expect Google to show you search results saying otherwise.
This means don’t expect to rank for anything outside the accepted norms of society. One of the things Google is good at is taking the collective zeitgeist and getting the sentiment on that topic.
Bottom line, if you want to write topics that are outside of accepted norms, you are more than welcome to do so, don’t expect search traffic as one of your sources.
You must promote your ideas via other channels instead. Otherwise, when writing content for SEO, use it as a method to attract visitors to your website. Use a private membership area and email as a means to discuss topics that aren’t SEO-friendly.