The other day I saw Google search engine vet Paul Haahr retweet something shared by former Google search attorney Daphne Keller, who wrote the Nick Clegg Medium piece from Facebook VP called You and the Algorithm : It Takes Two to Tango shared. Until now with me? Anyway, Daphne Keller's tweet, "We will reward this behavior until you adjust your business and get too good at it, and then we will punish it" caught my attention. Paul Haahr stated, "The idea here about controversial / evolutionary behavior is one that I've thought about a lot over the years. One interesting aspect of evolution is that intent doesn't really matter – it happens because certain behaviors are rewarded. "

Here is the tweet. I 100% recommend that you click on it and scroll up and read through the entire summary. When you're done with that, continue reading below.

It's like platforms that say, "We'll reward this behavior until you adapt your business and get too good at it, and then we'll punish it." This is the inevitable cycle with spam or SEO. It was terrible for news organizations. 18 /

– Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) April 1, 2021

When I tweeted that Paul Haahr tweeted the above tweet, I asked him for his thoughts on this cycle of a search engine finding a way to reward behavior and later punish it for SEOs found out … Paul took on some time reply, but his tweets are super insightful. Here you are:

The idea here about controversial / evolutionary behavior is one that I've thought about a lot over the years. One interesting aspect of evolution is that intention doesn't really matter – it happens because certain behaviors are rewarded.

– Paul Haahr (@haahr), April 5, 2021

From the (early) Google perspective, links were all about relevance, authority, notoriety, etc. However, once it is known that a search engine is using links as an indicator (a "signal"), there is an incentive to create links, the links included exist only for search engines.

– Paul Haahr (@haahr), April 5, 2021

I would expect this behavior to occur with any signal understood by an optimization community. But it will result in worse divergence if there is a greater gap between what the signal uses as an indicator and how it is used in optimization. /Fin

– Paul Haahr (@haahr), April 5, 2021

I asked Paul to expand on this last tweet and that's what he said:

I don't want to cut you off, please stop and return to that line. "It will lead to worse divergence if there is a greater gap between what the signal uses as an indicator and how it is used in optimization." What do you mean by that? I do not quite understand

– Barry Schwartz (@rustybrick) April 5, 2021

Here is his answer:

And by "increasing the distance between what the signal is used as an indicator for and how it is used in optimization," I was referring to the way a signal is played (e.g. buying links) and as it was originally seen by a platform (e.g. a signal of a good reputation).

– Paul Haahr (@haahr), April 6, 2021

Keyword stuffing, on the other hand, can make word count less of a proxy for relevance than getting naive information would mean for you, increasing that "distance".

Hope that clears up.

– Paul Haahr (@haahr), April 6, 2021

I don't want to add a comment on what has been written here because I think I could put something wrong or possibly take some of the words out of context. But I found these answers from Paul very interesting and I thought you would all love to see this.

Forum discussion on Twitter.

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