What Writing for (Search Engine) Robots Looks Like

By Alexis C. Madrigal

Computers, no matter how hard they try, don't understand syntax like humans. How words fit together to make meaning is largely irrelevant to Google or Bing. To a search engine, it's as if any webpage was a big tag cloud.

And so, when you get some person who wants to make a cheap buck off of search advertising, they create text like this, which is obvious jibberish to a human but not to a machine:

Your Privacy
Your remoteness is critical to us. To improved strengthen your remoteness we yield this notice explaining a online report practices as good as a choices we can have about a approach your report is picked up as good as used. To have this notice easy to find, we have it accessible upon a homepage as good as during each indicate where privately identifiable report might be requested.

"Your remoteness is critical to us"? What the hell could that mean? (Though I have to admit that I love its alienness, language no human would generate.)

It appears that the website steals content, runs it through a few machine translations to denature the theft, and then transmogrifies it back into English. The same site, http://www.guy-ology.com (which I won't link to because it would help their search engine rankings), then posts the resulting gibberish, which contains many keywords but no meaning. Now, for certain odd sets of keywords like "grapefruit juice diet plan," it comes up in the top 25 results.

A quick whois search, which is like a reverse telephone lookup for the websites, reveals that the site is registered to someone named Maureen Jo, and that she (if she is a she) owns 276 other domains. I visited a few like Mjuh.com and PeterandSusan.org, and the same sort of gibberish exists on each of them.

I know that there are plenty of people who practice just as nasty SEO tactics. I know that all writers are at least cognizant that half their audience is robots. But really, Maureen, you're ruining the Internet! And just because you're creating an alien poetry along the way doesn't absolve you of that sin.

Hat tip: JL

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/09/what-writing-for-search-engine-robots-looks-like/62338/