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December 13, 2012

Is Google Becoming a Tyrant?

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The new Penguin and Panda updates released this year by Google have created a divide in the world of online content. While some webmasters are raging and reeling against Google’s epic fail update, other folks have climbed atop a very high horse and viewed these updates as an opportunity to wag fingers and condemn anyone who has ever tried to include a self-serving link in a guest post.

In reference to the Panda update, Google’s Webmaster Blog stated: “The goal of many of our ranking changes is to help searchers find sites that provide a great user experience and fulfill their information needs. We also want the ‘good guys’ making great sites for users, not just algorithms, to see their effort rewarded. To that end we’ve launched Panda changes that successfully returned higher-quality sites in search results. And earlier this year we launched a page layout algorithm that reduces rankings for sites that don’t make much content available ‘above the fold.’”

It sounded like a good idea at the time…

It sounds very quality oriented and with an “everybody wins” mantra attached. But there is a very conspicuous level of subjectivity here that I think is a problem. Essentially, if Google thinks you’re “one of the good guys,” then you’re fine. If not, you’re “bad” and you must be punished by having your search ranking lowered. Are we letting Google have too much power?

To further complicate things, Google released its Penguin update shortly afterwards. After the update was released, many bloggers argued that Google had gone too far, and that while “spammy” sites were being weeded out, Penguin was indiscriminately ruling with an iron flipper and “clean” sites were being punished as well. Anyone working in fields such as online reputation management, or search engine optimization had to scramble to develop new strategies and techniques that the discerning algorithms wouldn’t mistake for “spam.”

Certainly we can all appreciate Google’s crusade to rid the Internet of low-quality, spammy content, but it seems as if Google is operating under a dangerous premise of over-applying penalties in order to catch all the rule breakers. Unfortunately, casting such a wide net also mistakenly punishes some clean sites too. I’m pretty sure that a willingness to punish the innocent is walking a fine line between strong enforcer and dictator.

The problem is that Google is disproportionately favoring people who have the luxury of creating user friendly websites with high quality content for free. Most people don’t want to litter their blogs with banner ads, or annoy their visitors with pop ups, but we have to, because we must make money off our websites. Contrary to popular belief, there are ways to buy links without being a sleazy spammer. And if you’re trying to drive traffic to your site, you should be able to do these things (within reason) when you’re just getting started.

According to Google’s Webmaster blog, the way to drive traffic to your site without getting punished is to “improve the usability of a site, help create great content, or make sites faster.” These are of course great things to do, but they also require having a big budget in order to pay top notch programmers that can deliver these things for you. Sorry, but a small business web page being run by one or two people isn’t going to always be able to comply with Google’s high standards.

Google Makes Its Own Rules

This will probably be interpreted as an extreme analogy, but if one were to compare Google to our legal system, it would fail miserably. Whatever happened to the Blackstone Principle that states, “Better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This is supposed to be the guiding principle behind the application of penalties and punishments in the civilized world. I suppose Google felt it didn’t need to conform to such restrictive standards.

The consequences of being penalized by Google are often more extreme than many people realize. As a result of the Penguin update, many websites shut down entirely or were removed from Google’s index so users were not able to find them in a search. After penguin went through, many people went on Google’s Webmaster Blog and left a flurry of comments ranging from furious to heartbreaking. A SEO article about the Penguin update quotes one person’s fearful reaction.

“I am now scrambling to figure out how I am going to: pay my daughters tuition, pay my car payment, pay my health insurance, pay my car insurance, pay rent and all the utilities that go along with renting a house, not to mention putting food on the table. I followed your good webmasters guidelines and done nothing spammy at all about my businesses and websites and I get shut down and put out like that.”

Google Lacks Adequate Competition

Ideally, free market capitalism is supposed to create competition, which forces businesses to constantly optimize and please its users/customers. Aside from Bing, Google possesses no real competition, therefore they can literally write their own rules, and the public has no choice but to fall in line. Once a brand has transcended into a widely used verb, (like Facebook and Google) this is a good indication that the company has broken away from the system of checks and balances existent in a free market system.

With that being said, is Google a tyrant?


Jessica Ruane is a blogger and SEO focused copywriter based out of San Diego. She specializes in articles about SEO, writing tips, and social media marketing. Check out her company blog at http://blog.instantcheckmate.com to read more of her work.

100 Responses to “Is Google Becoming a Tyrant?

    I’m afraid I must agree with the overwhelming majority and say that yes Google has definitely gone too far & become a dictatorial tyranical giant, who’s only concern is their next buck !

    We as webmasters are told to speed up our sites if we wish to rank well in Google’s index, we are also told that this is to enhance user exerience, which will only benefit our sites in the future. Yes ok I can go along with that statement as would the majority of webmasters. But if this is truely what Google has in mind, then why did their Adsense code add more than 5 seconds to my page load times..? Why was Google’s Adsense code adding unauthorized trackers & redirects..? gstatic.com to name just one..? I say was, because having discovered what Google is doing I have now removed Adsense from the site in question.

    The truth of the matter is Google does not care about you, me or anyone else, unless of course your advertizing budget is around the 5 figure mark. Everything that Google is doing is geared towards forcing webmasters to use Adwords in order to get any sort of traffic, it is a monopoly & now dictates what we are allowed to find in our searches. Who gave them the right to dictate what I choose to read on the Internet, I certainly did not!

    The only way to teach Google that without the webmasters they would not have a search engine, is for all webmasters to band together & completely block all Google bots from indexing our sites. Within a few short months Google’s search index would be laughable & Bing / Yahoo would rise in popularity as they would have the results that people want to find for themselves and not what Google wants to force feed us!

    avatar SCOTT says:

    Not Cool Google !!!!

    I see google as a spoilt child that is acting unreasonably, self-righteously and irrationally without any explanation to anyone, they do as they like. If they are promoting good values as they say they do, they should make very clear and specific guidelines for seo. Why don’t they do that? Because they don’t want people going to the first page of google without paying for adwords. They are a business. Obviously they are not going to like clever people who build their seo in such a way so that they get to page 1 without paying. So every effort towards doing well on google without paying is counterproductive. I think they even said it somewhere ‘if you want to do well in SERP – just have good content and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be on page 1. After the top 3 listings that are paid, they’d rather give the next positions to websites that don’t do much, rather than to websites that are too clever and do a lot of seo. To me that is logical behaviour for a business. What makes me angry is that they start preaching about what is good practise and what is good content, then they have some very clumsy ways of assessing good content, their robots are very far from sophisticated, and the people who work for them don’t know themselves how to identify problems. I wrote recently to google merchant after disapproving some of my products but approving others, and the guy replied that there was a problem with my robot file, I correct that, then he sent me a link saying ‘if you are products have been disapproved read our terms and conditions’. I read the terms and conditions, and my products were in line with all of them, I wrote back saying I could not see which condition in particular I was not meeting, and they did not reply to me. This is appalling service. But the motivation behind it is very clear. They don’t want us to improve and to do well. If they did – they would tell us what we do wrong. But that would mean we go higher in SERP, and in that case no need to pay google. And also it is very possible that you have done nothing wrong. I have a big evidence that my products that were disapproved were exactly on the same level as the ones that were approved, it was quite shocking how irrational that decision was. To me that spoke volumes about their totally irrational algorithms, make very bad decisions and play havoc with people’s websites, without any remorse because they are a monopoly and can do as they please. I don’t think the solution is other search engines, but I think the solution for small businesses is total refusal to pay for anything, the minute something stops being a free service, withdraw and don’t pay. Let the big businesses spend money on adwords, don’t think for a minute that they are actually making money from their adwords, they just have money to spend to create awareness. I don’t know why everyone is obsessed about having their keywords on page 1. I don’t have more sales when my keywords are on page 1. The solution to me is – have a healthy website without anything spammy, have few good quality links, and from there on if you are not on page one, continue building only good quality links, and focus on being creative with marketing ideas so that people can access your products and services in other ways than through google search.

    avatar Tyler says:

    Google is not becoming a Tyrant, Google IS a TYRANT. The new amazing shopping inclusion scam is outrageous, it makes merchants lose so much money and now after just a month, they are asking up to 70 cents per click! Conversion from google went from 2% to 0.0005%

    Watch out content sites, you are next in the google plans.

    avatar David says:

    This year I was planning on reducing my full time employment to concentrate on on my website and had planned further investment and features. Then in April without any warning or reason I lost most of my Google traffic. My Website is a review website and has no spam and for some “business name reviews” keywords is the most relevant page on the hole of the internet with 100s of reviews for that business- however it it not even in the top 100 google results – and out ranked by some amazingly poor and tenuous related websites, (Yell.com appear 68 times in the first 100 results for some searches for that business)while business listed on my website with no reviews appear first page?
    Quality it is not- and is met with a stony silence when I try to contact Google about it.

    avatar Barb says:

    Google talks about page load time. Okay, fine. Then maybe they can explain why it is THEIR codes that slow loading time? Why penalize when it is your product causing the problem?

    There is not a site I go to where I don’t have to wait for all these different codes to load. Sometimes the waiting is over 6 seconds! Very frustrating.

    Google a tyrant? I say Gargoyle.

    avatar chris says:

    very well said, google is the biggest and being the 800pound gorilla they can basically dictate their terms….hey its a company with the sole purpose of ‘market ownership and profit making’ which is a natural thing being that.

    google is a tyrant, gargoyle, and a few other things.

    i would say its almost a religion seeing it makes its followers bend over backwards and donate time and money to make them love you.

    basically google is a complete bitch.

    i would be the same :)

    avatar xarzy says:

    As if Google is acting like God in the online business. I’d been hit by this algorithm changed. What annoyed me most is the fact that I ain’t practicing black hat. I worked very hard to have a good SERP standing. And all those efforts got wasted in a single whip by these Panda-Penguin algorithm changed.
    Bloggers Pad />

    avatar That Food says:

    1) I rarely feel algo changes on my sites.

    2) google are entitled to do whatever they wish to do. People shouldn’t rely solely on google, there’s other (promotional) work to be done, sometimes even offline.

    3. google do have a monopoly, and this is furthermore an acknowledgment of their right to do whatever.

    At this point I can not say what Google has done has been all bad, but yes; some got hit hard by what they have done this year. But it has been done to get rid of what has really caused the problem to begin with, the people who are not following the guidelines. Unfortunately the few bad apples have ruined a ton of thing’s for others.

    Google became a tyrant long ago … it started but trying to let us think that we will make money with AdWords AdSense and all that crap, then they retired Google feeds, to turned it into another PPC engine! But how much Google paid for all the free content it gets? what kind of advantage the end user has? it’s bull! They have a clever marketing strategy that tries to get all the money they can get from your pockets. We withdraw completely our listings long away and as
    a result of not being an AdWord shop we have seen many ranked pages gone, and extremely unique content, being pushed down while some other merchants with deep pockets but not even closely related to push up! What Google did was simple give bait to everyone and when everyone’s on board, catch them all! They think they are some kind of government, but nobody elected them!
    They are trying to get rid of the small guys in favor of the big dawgs, the Internet will become an advertising only place, and much of its appeal will be lost for good. As webmasters and site owners we have to unite, we gave them power and we can take it from them!

    I have to disagree. I’ve seen plenty of sites that got an automatic increase in traffic because of Penguin and Panda — because they got the traffic others lost. What was the biggest difference between those who benefited or at least were untouched and those who were crushed by these penalizing algorithms? The former just forgot about SEO (except for the rational basics mostly spelled out in Google SEO starter guide) while the latter did every trick in the book to get higher rankings (forgetting about their website visitors).

    It’s time to stop blaming Google and face a cold, harsh reality: the years you’ve spent “optimizing” your website have been wasted, and it’s time to admit it and give up the SEO dream (i.e., that there is an independent set of “tricks” that will bring you more traffic). See: http://tinyurl.com/9qk2lml

    avatar tony harris says:

    I don’t think anyone is saying that all sites lost out, some sites lost out and some gained. But you certainly can’t say every site that lost out had employed every trick in the book, lots of people lost out who had done nothing.
    This article doesn’t preach anything different – ‘do these things and you will get better SERPs/traffic’ – that’s SEO.

    Hi Jessica-

    Great article and I know you’ve gotten a lot of comments but I would like to know what you think of our argument:

    The problem with the latest updates for many white hat agencies is that they’ve dropped many of the best practices because these were the ones most commonly used by spammers. For example – not calling your home page “Home Page” or when you link to your “call our car sales team” you used to use a contextual reference but now to make it look natural, you should be unhelpful and use “click here” or “some other style that doesn’t work.

    Secondly, every website is now at risk of SWL Attacks. Want to delist your competitor – just buy a spammy old blog (these have to be going cheap now) and put in an optimised SWL to your competitors and they’ll be destroyed.

    Even when they use the Disavow tool to “disavow” links that have nothing to do with them, they’ll be left waiting…if it does anything other than taint them

    As for trolls like Christopher above, good luck dude, that argument is so stupid.

    I’m not quite sure what an “SWL Attacks” is, but it is unlikely that someone else can take down your site with bad seo, at least not w/out considerable effort.

    If this were really a problem, we’d be reading about verified case studies all the time on something like search engine land. Other than SEOMoz’s experiment in this area, I’ve yet to come across any case 3rd party bad seo taking down a good site.

    Google has directly addressed something like this. Reader here may find this helpful http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kewJSFjKfPw

    Primary position,
    I agree with your argument. Google has implemented so many subjective restrictions on link building that it’s easy to do damage to your site without realizing it. The only way to be “safe” is to hire an expensive white hat SEO company to do all your content marketing for you to make sure you don’t inadvertently build links in a “bad neighborhood”.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if some companies took advantage of Google’s willingness to delist people and started running black hat SEO campaigns with the competitor’s keywords.

    Who knows? Google’s restrictions could generate more spam, except instead of being promotional, it’s designed to demote other websites!

    Thanks for the feedback!

    Google has yet again addressed Negative SEO. It’s rare, extemely hard to do, and the new disavowl tool negates negative SEO. Primary Position’s anti-Google stance based on negative SEO is red harring.
    See: http://youtu.be/HWJUU-g5U_I

    How to rank well is a big topic, but Google/Matt Cutts gives great advice about what NOT to do. It’s very simple — identify and avoid “snake oil/spam SEO.” See: What has been the biggest surprise of 2012 for you and your spam team?

    Also, Google tells you explicitly how to avoid/recover from Panda and Penguin — see Matt Cutts and Eric Talk About What Makes a Quality Site

    avatar David Quaid says:

    Um, writing good content was *ALWAYS* part of the SEO games as far as I’m concerned.

    Anti-Google? Not me, sorry dude.

    Do you hate snakeoil SEO? Obviously. So do I – we compete with snake-oil $99 per month stuff and always have since it arrived.

    Write ‘Good Content’ = the only way to do SEO?

    Link Building – non-spammy is still critical or the world of rankings would have turned upside down.

    What is ‘good content’ ? Stuff people like? – define that please

    Good content = shared content? There are stats abound that show 50% or more of users Retweet or like stuff they’ve never read. That and most social links are behind security lines or nofollow.

    Little has changed.

    avatar Brad Dalton says:

    Google’s indexing my old domain more than one year after i changed domains.

    I have notified them in GWMT every 6 months but they continue to index it.

    http://wordpresssites.net/

    I’ve gone from 17,000 queries to 700 and PR from 2-5 even though links have gone from 3,000 – 1400.

    Hi Brad, you need to block the search engines from indexing the site (http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=93710). If it’s a WP blog, use the settings inside WP. If you’ve migrated content from the old domain to the new, you should have done 301 redirects. With Google indexing both domains, if they have the same content, you’re going to have duplicate content problems. Contact me through my G+ profile if you have any questions

    THANK YOU EVERYONE FOR THIS AMAZING FEEDBACK!

    It’s so refreshing to know there is a community of people who feel the same way I do. I sincerely appreciate all the thoughtful, detailed comments you all have left for this article.

    I guess the obvious follow up question is, what can/should we do about it?

    avatar tony harris says:

    Steve Nickson had the best idea above “The only way to teach Google that without the webmasters they would not have a search engine, is for all webmasters to band together & completely block all Google bots from indexing our sites. Within a few months their index would be laughable.” To remove their power it needs people to stop using them for search, but most people who only use them for search aren’t aware of the majority of the money grabbing things G do, so the only way to change their opion and push them to use another SE is to make the results so bad they actually notice. You’d need every website onwner & webmaster to blog Google. Nobody could break ranks for their own gain until all searches had left G. Sounds unlikely.

    avatar ventguy says:

    Jessica; I really appreciate your article and insight on how the changes have affected small businesses. Our small unique business is not very old and even before setting it up I dived into SEO material printed and what was on google webmasters SEO guidelines. Only quality content is going on our site, but yes I did do some key wording styles which at the time were supposed to help rankings.
    After all of the updates we have lost a third of our web business. We have had to let go two of our technicians both of whom are vet’s going back to school which broke my heart.
    I have rewritten most of our site and continue to be sidelined by google. As you refer to in your article as a small business owner finding the time to conduct the research, write quality content, and ensure is in place a huge challenge. Hence I am working at midnight after a long day to try and gain back our place in the searches.

    Thanks again

    Hi Ventguy. It sounds like the ‘quality’ content you’re producing isn’t quite as high quality as you think. Most people think that original content is enough, but it’s not.

    Use something like searchmetrics dot com or semrush dot com to see which of your competitor’s panda have also hit and which have not. Look closely at those who escaped Panda and I think you’ll find they have very good sites and if you’re honest, probably better than yours in some key aspects. For insight into why your struggling, please read “Matt Cutts and Eric Talk About What Makes a Quality Site:” http://www.stonetemple.com/matt-cutts-and-eric-talk-about-what-makes-a-quality-site/,.

    And for goodness’s sakes steer clear of clueless advice and rants from someone like primaryposition dot com. Buying into his negative victim mentality will just hold you back, and w/him and others like him, look very closely at what they’re offering. If anyone sees Google as some sort of enemy in war that you must “beat” or “defeat,” as a company that is “out to get you” to buy more adwords, and you align yourself with them, I guarantee you that you’ll just be wasting more time and money

    Could we invite everyone to switch to Blekko? Its awesome for removing spam – all those blackhat SEO companies that everyone hates are hidden too :)

    But seriously, Google is just going to make PPC and SEO more expensive. No doubt that while webmasters will be very sensitive and certain about their “de-indexing” – the larger consumer-user won’t be let down at all.

    But companies trying to rank or enter the market space will find, unlike many Content writers are claiming, that it will be harder and harder to rank.

    You cannot rank by just writing ten blog posts a day more than your competitor. All of the old stuff still counts, but instead of building 100 core-keyword links, you now have to build 500 more diverse and on better quality sites.

    Expect more PPC next year!

    avatar Sean says:

    Google may be a 800 pound gorilla, but 10 million little ants will always win the fight. Wish someone would start something as to keep the gorilla in check!

    avatar tony harris says:

    @sean & @stevenickson theres the challenge for every site owner, get your site so it’s receiving 50% or 60% of its traffic from outside search engines then block G.

    avatar Richard says:

    Like heck they have. I’m still competing against spam sites that have nothing but spam links (footer links, paid directory listings etc) that have nothing but an image above the fold and text near the footer. Can I beat them for relevent keyword combinations? Heck no. Do they use EMDs? Hell yes. Above all, my site’s full to the brim of ORIGINAL, written by myself, skilled, knowledgable content that attracts pageviews other webmasters can only dream of, yet It’s dropping like a stone for certain keywords.

    Google is the most fastest and most responsive Search Engine and google alert is the main service in which when we write some new keyword to search something,google alert checks it is indexed or not?if it is indexed it gives response.I mostly preferred google search engine.

    avatar Bill says:

    Yes Google is a Tyrant

    They have unfairly taken control on the most important communication and research tool available today -the internet

    No other company has gotten the unfair advantage of Government support and access to tools such more bandwidth and satellites as the Geoeye 1 and 2 for maps and tracking.

    Google is now a publicly traded company with 3 Amazon former members on the board.

    Google has used users information against them to become the largest advertising a virtual broker exploiting ways to increase cost and control the money flow.

    Google is not the nice “free” search engine it started out. It is now the largest and most corrupt company worldwide hiding behind its power.

    No one can challenge Google or stop them.

    I still use Google as there are no choices but Bing. To Make it in today’s world companies really on Google to be fair – but unfortunately 2012 showed us that Google is about big business.

    Over 100,000+ companies have posted something since Penguin update. Most these companies results were replaced by Amazon.

    Google – Amazon – Kindle fire w droid

    the cycle is complete and there is nothing anyone can do about it

    small businesses have by forever effected and some completely destroyed with no options

    avatar Pamela says:

    In my view Google are trying to narrow the search results so much that businesses will be forced into AdWords to get some sort of traction. And after a recent (and exceptionally poor) experience with AdWords and the ranking of various sites I manage I can only hope that a true competitor emerges sooner rather than later.

    I guess Google wants us to do white hat seo , but at the same time is supporting black hat, even though they say they don’t.

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