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    SEO for social good?

    tags: SEO
    August 22nd, 2023

    Can you paint a picture of search engine optimization (SEO) for social good? What might SEO for social good look like?

    Google [ seo for social good ]

    A Google[seo for social good] search. Screenshot taken with GoFullPage (distortions possible; cropped) at: 2023-08-22 15:37:55

    What if the optimization was towards social good, not only towards the corporate guidebook? What if discussion of the “ethicality of optimization” (Ziewitz (2019)) considered what should be optimized and not just whether or how to optimize? Is there an approach to “societal relevance” (Sundin et al., 2021)1 that looks well-beyond the search producers? I’m not suggested we should further “outsource morally ambiguous work” (Ziewitz, 2019, p. 18) to SEOs, but coordinate with them? As one example, SEOs worked to repair Google’s failure re the Google Holocaust search results.2 SEOs work to facilitate complaints to Google (Griffin & Lurie, 2022). What else already exists? What might be possible? Can we think about the “various forms of ignorance related to climate change” (Haider & Rödl, 2023) and the role the SEO communities might have? How can we “situate our visions of search [ . . . ] within an understanding of how current search technologies interact with users and affect others” and the massive role SEO plays in making both the best and worst of search in the last two plus decades. Sure, “gaming the system” (Ziewitz (2019)) but also conducting maintenance & repair, articulation work, and using their voice in complaint3.

    See also: Lewandowski et al. (2021).

    Google [ “seo for social good” ]

    A Google[seo for social good] search. Screenshot taken with GoFullPage (distortions possible) at: 2023-08-22 15:36:47


    1. Perhaps something in this vein can be added to Sundin et al. (2021)’s § 5. IDEAS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH.↩︎

    2. See also the analysis of this case in Mulligan & Griffin (2018).↩︎

    3. Look at the work of SEOs in observing, describing, and critiquing Google’s rollout of its “Search Generative Experience”: Twitter[google sge (bad OR wrong OR false OR harmful OR lilyraynyc)]↩︎


    Griffin, D., & Lurie, E. (2022). Search quality complaints and imaginary repair: Control in articulations of Google Search. New Media & Society, 0(0), 14614448221136505. https://doi.org/10.1177/14614448221136505

    Haider, J., & Rödl, M. (2023). Google search and the creation of ignorance: The case of the climate crisis. Big Data &Amp; Society, 10(1), 205395172311589. https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517231158997

    Lewandowski, D., Sünkler, S., & Yagci, N. (2021). The influence of search engine optimization on google’s results: A multi-dimensional approach for detecting seo. 13th Acm Web Science Conference 2021, 12–20. https://doi.org/10.1145/3447535.3462479

    Mulligan, D. K., & Griffin, D. (2018). Rescripting search to respect the right to truth. The Georgetown Law Technology Review, 2(2), 557–584. https://georgetownlawtechreview.org/rescripting-search-to-respect-the-right-to-truth/GLTR-07-2018/

    Sundin, O., Lewandowski, D., & Haider, J. (2021). Whose relevance? Web search engines as multisided relevance machines. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. https://doi.org/10.1002/asi.24570

    Ziewitz, M. (2019). Rethinking gaming: The ethical work of optimization in web search engines. Social Studies of Science, 49(5), 707–731. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312719865607