Something occurred to me as I sat in church the other day. For those readers who worship in synagogues or mosques or some other temple, I suspect you will relate to this just as well.
I was watching people enter and file into their pews. I was noticing how well they were dressed. Most people dress up to go to church.
They will tend to wear better clothes than for a day around the house or even to go shopping.
They will make sure their hair is just right, almost as if preparing for a date.
They tend to shave just before the service.
Looks are important. Outward appearance is important. This might be to honor God, but of course it is not for God’s sake that we do this. We do this for each other and for ourselves. People dress well for people.
When God looks at us, it is not through ocular vision. If God notes our color coordination, it is not on that basis that we are judged. (at least, I hope not, or I am in deep, deep trouble!).
If God notes our hair to be clean or greasy, it is not on that basis that we are judged.
If God notes that we have shaved or failed to do so, it is not on that basis that we are judged.
Nice people can look scruffy. Evil villains can look sharp. God looks past the external looks. He ignores the hair, the clothes, the cologne. He sees what we are really made of.
What does this have to do with Google?
What does all this have to do with Google? Well, many people do grumble that Google has a God complex, that it is so powerful that one wave of its hand can smote a business. And to a great degree, that is true.
But sitting in church, it occurred to me that Google plays God in another way, too. Google looks at your website on the Internet that same way as God looks at you in church (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Google might note that your website has a flash presentation, but no matter how fancy it is, it is not on that basis that your website is judged.
Google might note that your website has several images, but no matter how elaborate they are, it is not on that basis that your website is judged.
Great websites can look boring, even amateurish. Trashy splogs can be dressed up fancy. Google looks past the visual. Google ignores images and layout for the most part. Google sees what our websites are really made of – the code, the content, the information.
The Google Sermon
You don’t need me to tell you that you should be a good person – patient, generous, forgiving, nice to other people, to animals and to the planet. I don’t need to repeat the Sermon on the Mount
It is fine to dress up nicely. Nothing wrong with that, so long as we make sure our inside is nice, that what really counts is attended to.
It is equally fine to dress up our websites nicely. Pay attention to white space, to fonts, to images, to layout. Make the site look pretty, professional, inviting.
Nothing wrong with that, so long as we make sure what is behind the external image is nice. That the code is clean. That the structure makes sense to Google and other search engines. That the information is all there, easy to find, easy to understand. That there is plenty of content, on-topic, not playing with hidden text or keyword stuffing or any of those unforgivable sins of SEO.
Of course, Google is not God. But clearly Google is trying to emulate God. So make sure that your website is emulating the faithful worshipper.
Now let us take a moment to pray for those websites that have fallen from grace…