Rube Goldberg Machine


In another life I was an academic random internet person, deal with it and move on.

So a couple of members of the team have been pushing me to document the Local SEO Guide approach to SEO and a topic came up internally over the past few weeks that I think is a great example. I think the mental model we have for approaching SERPs and rankings is broken. Specifically, it’s causing people to misunderstand how to approach SEO as a discipline and it’s all our own fault for the push to make everything quickly understandable and non-complex. Complex things are complex, it’s okay. Just to be upfront, I’m not going to provide you a new heuristic in the context of this piece, I’m just here posing problems.


We need to get some conceptual foundations built up before we can knock them down.

First, it’s important to understand two critical concepts for this post:

False Precision: Using implausibly precise statistics to give the appearance of truth and certainty, or using a negligible difference in data to draw incorrect inferences.

Cognitive Bias: A systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information in the world around them and affects the decisions and judgments that they make.

On our mental model of SERPs; I think it’s pretty non-controversial to say that most people in the SEO space have a heuristic of SERPs based on these 3 things:

  1. Results are ordered by…

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