Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Requirement of Perpetually Lowered Standards

Seth Godin:

Google the source of so much traffic is under huge pressure from Wall Street to deliver increased profits, and until self-driving cars kick in, the largest share of those earnings is going to come from the ads they sell. To maximize their profit, Google has spent the last nine years aggressively working to increase the share of ads on each page in their search results, as well as working hard to keep as many clicks as they can within the Google ecosystem.

If you want traffic, Google’s arc makes clear to publishers, you’re going to have to pay for it.

Which is their right, of course, but that means that the ad tactics on every other site have to get ever more aggressive, because search traffic is harder to earn with good content. And even more germane to my headline, it means that content publishers are moving toward social and viral traffic, because they can no longer count on search to work for them. It’s this addiction to social that makes the web dumber. If you want tonnage, lower your standards.

Google is decreasingly rewarding great writing online, because what people click on — and, therefore, what people “want” — are listicles, clickbait headlines,1 and rushed “shareable” graphics. I get that perspective for marketers, but there’s still a place for great writing on the web. It’s just getting harder to find.


  1. Say, for instance, “Is Google Making the Web Stupid?”. I don’t blame Godin for choosing this title, because it is proving his point. ↩︎