Is Google Becoming a Tyrant?

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.

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Jessica Ruane


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  • Google is killing small business’s and bloggers who trying to make a name for themselves or trying to start up a local business. I was slapped with some kind of penalty in Sept. I had number 1 rankings for 2 years on many keywords and I did no blackhat SEO. I panicked and removed 60percent of my blog posts, removed 2 of my highest viewed pages as the traffic I got to those pages was from a country known to be spammers. Still right now, I get next to nothing from Google as in traffic and been using social media to get traffic to my blog. I was making a good side income till Google screwed me. I never got a email about bad links or other crap they suppsed to notify you. I got no messages in webmaster tools either. One day, almost all traffic gone with no warnings.

    • “Google is killing small business’s”.
      That is definitely true. There are so many sectors where small ‘niche’ companies could flourish, yet now (in SERPS) these sectors are now dominated by wholly irrelevant big chains. Wheres the increase in user-experience there then Google?

    • 3 years ago I bought a web site for what for me was big money. It was high ranking PR3 and was well back linked etc etc. No real SEO had been done on the site since I purchased it because I was told it was built in an old style and until it was upgraded it was not worth doing. Well in March this year I had the site completely upgraded to conform with all industry standards for an ECommerce site. The day the new site went live the traffic dropped by 90% every thing had been done correctly 301 directs everything. I was told to wait and it would all come back. Well 5 months down the line nothing has changed in fact on Oct 17th all the keywords completely disappeared. Now an SEO company has told me that the problem all along has been “Bad Back Links” and spammy anchor text some of which are over 5-10 years old and I have now been told that it is going to cost me a vast amount of money(which I do not have) to remove these bad back links that when I bought the site were not “Bad” links. I have contacted Google who have told me that I have not had a manual penalty it seems that I have just been hit by Algorithm changes. This is great for google but I stand to lose everything I have inc my house and everything and there appears to be nothing I can do about it. I am even being held to ransom by the the link people who are asking for money to remove links or change anchor text. I have even thought of just changing the domain name and starting again but I have literally almost run out of money and in danger of going bust. So much for Googles Mantra of “do no harm” let them tell that to my family etc.

    • Dead right Dr. where is the user experience. Now I see search results dominated by ads where therte could never be really any user experience. After all ads are ads to sell things not really provide information of what the searcher is looking for. I even start seeing ads that are not even relevant to the search.

      This is really a good post going towards showing the hypocrisy of Google. Google is becoming a brig brother of a different sort.

    • Derek,
      Sorry to here that! Google claims that they notify you when their web crawlers detect a pattern of unnatural links to your site, but it seems like a lot of people were just simply blindsided.

  • Good post, Jessica! It’s nice to read a well-written post that encapsulates the frustrations many of us feel.

    We’ve launched several sites in the last few months — and a few of them don’t come up in the results when one searches for them, unless the “www” precedes it. First they’re there…then they’re not…then they’re there again…then not. We have several pages of RSS feed content on a site — AND we have original blog posts, too — but many people have told us they find the feed content helpful. Isn’t that what the Penguin update is supposed to do? Help people find original content?

    We’ve even slashed advertising on a few of our pages and have yet to regain our sitelinks.

    I know someone who writes a quality blog and posts original content everyday, even posts with G+ authorship — but Google won’t give his site the time of day.

    You’d think that if Adsene approved sites for its program that they’d want to do what they could to make sure those pages aren’t *impossible* to find and already “trust” them as non-spammy.

    Our company loves the web and all its possibilities — but we’re starting to regret choosing this field when it’s starting to feel so hopeless. Competition is one thing — but if a site has unique keywords in its domain and original content, yet doesn’t show up in search results? C’mon.

    • Think about it this way, your articles are only one aspect of your whole online presence. Google is looking for an overall image of you as an author and how you really add value to people who google directs to your site. It is simple now. Be yourself and improve the value you add. It is frustrating to all of us but bottom line, I think it is better for us.

    • Chatty B,

      Thanks for leaving a comment! It sounds like you are following all of Google’s “White Hat Guidelines” I hope you see some progress in your sear ranking soon!

  • Your last paragraph sums it up “Google Lacks Adequate Competition”. The gap between Google and a revamped Bing is huge. Google and Bing both hit all-time highs in U.S. search market share in October, according to comScore’s October 2012 search activity/rankings report. However Google’s market share rose to 66.9 percent in October.

  • Beautifully written and an accurate reflection of what we are up against. The problem is, there’s nothing we can do about it but complain to one another. The rules are the rules, so accept them – that’s what they are saying.

    A lot of these changes were implemented because of a few folks, or many folks, who have chosen to use blackhat SEO tactics to rank higher on Google. Yet, it’s like in the military, mass punishment for all.

    Google and Facebook are pretty much the same, they want to get rid of small business and cater to larger companies and businesses who can afford to make these quick and expensive changes, pay more to advertise and promote their businesses, and those who will be immediately rewarded from these changes.

    The rest of us…. all we can do is try our best to keep up.

    • Actually, there IS something we can do about it – and if enough people do it, the BIG G will have NO choice but to listen. That ‘something’ is to STOP using Google for searches (and STOP referring to them as “Google Searches”) and START using Yahoo and Bing for the primary search engine!!

      Google thinks they are too big to fail. Well I got news for Google, NO COMPANY is TOO big to fail. Their very own policies will be their own failing, and we can prove it to them. We just need the support to do this.

    • I completely second the opinion by Alex. I too think that Google had to take these measures to make SEO better.

  • Great things are always hard to undergo and so is the case with the high ranking in SERP. You have to be very careful while making decisions on SEM and should totally focus on quality of process, whichever is practiced to achieve higher ranking in Google.

  • A good business wont’ rely on google for their traffic, unless they are paying for adwords, or some other form of advertising. Trying to be successful with google ranking is as silly as trying to be successful by constantly getting in the newspaper for something. While some people can do that, the right thing is to forget about google, depend on quality content to attract visitors. It’s visitors first, google second, and google says that in their guide to SEO. They clearly have been saying for two years now, nevermind pleasing them, its all about putting your best foot forward. That is straight from the guide. Sure make your website to where google can read it, know what it’s about, but google has been saying the more you try to compromise your site for them, the more it will hurt., They clearly say, write the site for your visitors, not for google. Yet all the SEO companies are constantly telling different., Banner ads? Sure I have one or two, but why would a site want to overburden their customers with ads, You should be selling your product, not everyone else. You know what I mean, I will give you an example
    I sell music, so why would I have all these other advertisers eating up my content selling their guitars, video clips, camcorders, iPods, when I should be using that ad space for my ads.
    If you are selling information in a blog, the ads can be few and relevant and be more effective. I am inexperienced and just starting, yet I know these things. I make the same mistakes everyone makes, like putting 40 key words in the meta tags, when google says it doesnt even use the meta tags. Google is not your customer, write the site strictly for your customer, retain your customer and google will follow, not the other way around
    The bird is the word

    • Rybrid,
      I’m not sure if I agree with your analogy that being successful with Google is like getting into a newspaper. Besides, there are MANY different newspapers which cater to different markets. My entire argument is that Google has no real competition, and that is a problem.

    • I agree, bad analogy, I just think it’s better to get successful, then as a result google will rate you higher as opposed to trying to get google to rate you higher so you can be successful. and Everyone is googles competition. I get hits from facebook, twitter, blogs, stumbleupon, links from other websites, google is basically a tool like the rest of these I mentioned. I think googles main criteria is how much traffic.
      It’s traffic before google, not google then traffice, dont’ work that way. My newbie opinion of how I have seen it work so far.

  • As long as there appears a few BIG NAMES like Google on the Internet World, Google will contiue its autocratic behaviour in times to come. I’m afraid there seems none to compete with mighty Google at present. Had I the fortunes of TATAs or FORDs I would have launch a mightier site than Googla!!! LOL

  • It is unfortunate that the other search engine companies such as Yahoo, Ask and others haven’t had the visionaries at the top to challenge Google. They do have a virtual monopoly on the search market, that’s always been their goal. There are of course other ways to market you business, as there always has been even before Google existed, and some of these methods will still work online (direct marketing being the most evergreen).

    It will be interesting to see if Google ever get caught up in an anti trust dispute in the same way Microsoft did back in the day…

    • Simon,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s funny how Google’s motivation behind these punitive updates is to provide a better experience for the user, but by scaring companies away from link building and pushing them towards direct marketing, it just means that our inboxes will fill up with junk mail, and direct marketing will get even more aggressive. Great.

  • All Google is really interested in is those who will pay them money to appear at the top of the rankings. Nothing else matter. Pay money and you will get on the first page.
    It’s always about money.

  • There is a fine line between “improving search results” and “censorship”.

    Somewhere along the line I believe Google has crossed that line.

    As a near monopoly, you can get away with that. Somehow, competition needs to evolve (be mandated) to keep Google in check.

  • I think your article gives Google too much credit for wanting to return “high quality” sites in their search engine results. Their motives are purely profit driven. That would be OK with me except that now they are a monopoly and since they are they need to be fair and not anti-competition.

  • Google owns the entire web. Google is not becoming a tyran, it is a tyran since Panda update and even way before.

    The days of SEO tactic to rank high on Google are gone. We have to use social websites that have their own internal huge source of traffic. Google plays with our money without any warning and some sort of respect.

    We can’t rely on them anymore and fear that one day they’ll pull the plug again, and destroy in one click tons of work and investment.

    I personally don’t see any improvement in quality in Google search results.

    • Zdot,

      I agree. Personally I don’t see more relevant sites coming up in my search results. Seems like Google is just trying to push people into participating in their ad programs.

  • Innocent people, Google has always been a Tyrant since the start of this business… the goal of google is too be necessary into all society department and get the ultimate power on everything… Facebook became a strong partner of google, they exchange precious informations…

  • I write unique content for adult affiliates and adult studios, and while my own sites have not been harmed by the Google updates (because I write unique content) many out there have – simply because they resolutely refuse to put the work in and create sites that are original, comprehensive and authoritative.

    Working in the affiliate side of things, far too many bloggers have coasted on the supplied content, being the same as all the others, then complaining when Google slaps them for it.

    You cannot have it both ways, you either provide a lot of text and make it original and valuable, or you forget ever ranking well with Google. It’s as simple as that.

    The “Content is King” mantra has been around for a long time, this is what Google is founded on. They MUST go by the content you offer, and if you’re not offering anything new or even interesting, why the hell should you be above those who do put the work in?!

    Having said all of that, and while my clients have not seen any real harm from these Google updates (because they only use unique and thorough content), Google has long been an enemy to the web.

    Google is far too powerful. With one small change they can destroy entire industries. They are increasingly supporting piracy in adult content (routinely placing tubes of stolen content above bloggers) and they are providing benefits to larger corporations, driving sales to their big business buddies.

    I operate one retail site that cannot compete with others. That’s not because the content is lacking (I have more text on each product page than any competitor of mine). It’s because Google supports those already controlling the market, those who advertise with them, and those who can pay through the nose to get advertising and links in the right place.

    Basically, if you can afford to spend a million a year on link building, Google won’t touch you. But if you’re a small trader needing traffic just to break even and you DARE to place a link on a site out there somewhere you are immediately hammered.

    Google should be broken up into a national franchise business with the profits of each staying in that country (and taxable in that country too!) and with public bodies and competition regulation applied to them like every other industry.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful, and insightful content! I can completely understand the the motivations behind encouraging original content (I’m a writer so it’s good for me that companies are being forced to hire good writers to produce their content instead of just ripping it off)

      But, it just baffles me that in the country which was built on capitalist principles and the ideals of the free market, we are allowing a single monopoly the power to destroy businesses in an instant. This fact should alarm people, by the looks of this comment thread, it would appear that it does.

  • Great article. Yes, Google is a tyrant and this is what happens when one company gets a monopoly. Or a person for that matter – I’m fairly sure Saddam Hussain thought he was a nice guy.

    Organic search on Google is a mess. Has anyone really looked at the search results lately? That’s if you can find any organic search results after almost a full page of adwords and then the daft local listings that don’t tell you anything about the company except where it is on the map (did I ask for that!?).

    In the services sector in the UK the results are laughable. Websites up at the top of the listings with doorway pages, amateur sites that have no user experience and no content. Some of them don’t even have any text! Or a single page.

    They results are better in all other engines (including yandex.com and that’s Russian!). Personanlly, I think they have gone quite mad at the Googleplex in an all out pursuit to push everyone to adwords and bully everone into taking up Google+ so they can compete with facebook. It’s insane.

    • Sinjin,

      Thanks for the comment, I think between Google’s ad words and Facebook’s “sponsored posts” these companies are whoring their audiences out to anyone willing to pay.

  • Google is not helping at all. But my question is just one? Why should google forcibly crawl a robot on a website? This should be resloved. I think google is just forcing people to bow to them and this is what I call online Tyranny. Google is more than a tyrant.

  • Google has so much power at this point it should be a crime. They have the ability to dictate what people see when they search – essentially giving them the ability to shape people’s opinions simply by returning the information they want people to have. When people search for something and Google returns the results, they trust those results and do not do additional due diligence to ensure the accuracy of that information.

    For my part I have stopped using Google. I’ve changed all of my default searches on all devices to Bing. I did this for my family as well, my kids cannot use Google, they must use Bing.

    If everyone does the same, Google will lose market share and they will be forced to adjust. If everyone simply complains and does nothing, they will retain their power and control. If you have been paying attention to headlines over the past year or so, Google has gotten more political and more adversarial with the governing bodies where it operates. They feel they are above the law, and when they control the full flow of information across multiple platforms they are above the law, as they can dictate how people think.

  • Google is not the only game in town. If you rely only on Google then you’ll be bullied forever. That includes both Adwords and SEO.

    You need to diversify your marketing and advertising dollars just like your investments. Keep in mind that marketing and advertising is an investment also. You wouldn’t put all of your life’s savings into one stock would you?

    After testing to maximize conversions and click-throughs you need to spread your marketing and advertising dollars across multiple channels like PPC on multiple sites (Google, Facebook, other targeted websites…) SEO, email, newsletters, etc. After testing and rolling out we have seen conversion rates from carefully selected audiences of 40% to 60%. These are real numbers, and everyone can see this kind of results if they just embrace it.

    Yes, Google is in charge, but there are other options.

  • I have been waiting since April 24, the day Penguin destroyed my business for someone to have the courage to say what you wrote. My articles were stolen and replicated by others, creating crummy, unsolicited backlinks to my site, and Google punished me for my victimization by moving my top-ranked keywords to Page 30 and higher.

    Google is an out-of-control monopoly who is terrorizing small businesses. My once top-ranked words are owned by huge companies like amazon, while my business struggles to survive. Only large businesses can afford to hire people to ensure their site meets Google’s now-unreasonable requirement that spammy inbound links be removed or disavowed.

    Google has created an internet dominated by the big, the wealthy and the powerful, and has relegated smaller voices to the dregs of search. I used to spend my time helping teachers learn how to work with troubled children. Now I spend my time trying to somehow get Google to forgive me for something I didn’t do. Thank-you so much for this incredibly important article.

  • Great post, crystalising my recent thoughts. I am trying to get into the habit of experimenting regularly with DuckDuckGo. However, that happens to be because I’m on the fringes of SEO etc but the vast majority of internet users are going to continue using the big names – take a look at what’s happening in the OTA arena – small independent accommodation owners are being hammered by increasing commissions/lowering rates on the one hand and the invisibility of their own websites in Google on the other. A real shame – everything becomes a homogeneous hotel – and you never know if you’re waking up in Dubai or Detroit.

  • I saw a post on the Google forum one time where someone was questioning Google about how they were assisting illegal sites like Megaupload in becoming no.1 on Google searches simply based on the fact that they get a lot of hits and nothing else. Even after they were shut down by the FBI you could easily find them in the top spot in searches.
    To this the Google moderator replied…
    “Google is not here to be here to police the internet”
    to which the guy replied..
    “No but, they are certainly the Judge, Jury, and Executioner”
    This made me smile and I have always remembered it.

  • Could not agree more.

    Had my site up for 4 years for my small business… Did everything correctly.. no black hat stuff. Built a business and had lots of employees.

    As a result of the changes this year it’s gone down so quickly. I just layed off my last guy – he has 4 kids and a mortgage. We literally both cried when I had to let him go.

    We will be closing our doors next month.

    Thanks Google…. Would have been nice to have been given a chance.

    • Dan,

      My heart goes out to you. Hearing stories like your is what prompted me to write this article in the first place. Stay strong, you will be in my thoughts.

  • Okay, here are some suggestions…….I started using this site called SEOprofiler.com and have always used worldwidepromoter.com to submit.
    Seoprofiler has a 30 day 1 dollar deal, and if you follow through your sites should start ranking again and pretty fast. I also have GoDaddy and use their submitter too, but it would seem SEO is what did it for me.

    When I rebuilt my website very recently I used WebPlus 5

  • 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.

  • I think the bigger question is: “Is Microsoft becoming a tyrant with its new Windows 8? Forcing people to form an online account when they set up their new computers seems foggy to me. If I pay for Windows 8, why then do I have to do as MS wants in order to set up my computer and be forced to be on some mailing list for the Microsoft store?

  • Responses to various comments:

    1. Google destroyed my website!

    Google doesn’t owe me/you/your company anything! Anyone who whines..try approaching your current boss or clients and see how well that flies…entitlement sounds like whining.

    2. Google is controlling what we see and hear online..stifling free expression

    So what exactly has changed? Instead of a bunch of old farts at associated press,chopping down trees..deciding what’s newsworthy! We get an algorthym designed by nerds, without chopping down trees?

    3. Google has an unfair monopoly

    Yes that’s true…But lets ask ourselves this question. If Google was to shut your site traffic down tomorrow, would your business survive? If your answer is no…you’re not running a business, you’re running an out of control train heading for a fiscal cliff. If your business/company actually decided to start marketing as if there was no Google gifting you with organic traffic, nobody said it was easy. Oh yes this information is out there, but you have to pay for it.

    4. I can’t afford to compete with the Big Boys

    Well if you can’t beat them join them..or start working with more people and get bigger. What’s your USP? why should I use you and not the big guys..market that!

    5. Who the hell are you?

    Struggling like the rest of us! And trying to find different paths to market that don’t rely on Google.


  • I don’t even bother to try and please google anymore. My site is top of every other search engine and I make enough business from that.

    I am not going to bother with all th social media garbage I don’t have time, I don’t have a blog nor have any ad’s on my site.

    I’m a window cleaner for Gods sake how much original content is there for window cleaning. It’s basically I clean windows.

    Screw the goog.


  • We all know at this point that Google used Panda and Penguin updates to push websites out of the way in the search engine results to allow their sponsored search results to be front and center.

    Yet, they have the audacity to continue to use copy righted websites in their search results as filler to prove and show they are the Number 1 search engine data base. Of course adword buyers who place ads are told this as they write the checks.

    Bing should come down off their mountain and quit making the mistake of not asking small publishers to abandon Google as part of their scroogle ad campaign. Millions of small publishers are hot right now and Bing is failing to use this anger to grab more marketshare.

    What about this scenario?
    Small publishers should rescind their permission for Google to reproduce/publish any portion of their web sites and give the rights to Bing, DuckDuckGo, and other search engines. We, as publishers, are essentially giving Google permission to screw us yet use small publishers as a very important part of their business.

    I mentioned the search engine DuckDuckGo

    Upstart Internet search engine DuckDuckGo, which promotes itself as a Google Inc rival which does not track users’ personal information, says it is being hurt by the search giant which is being investigated by U.S. regulators.
    Here is an article about DDG.


  • Google has literally kidnapped the world wide web and is dictating its own terms forcing us to write content the way google wants and not the way we want. And if you do not adhere to google’s dictats, be prepared to pay the ransom by giving up your small business.
    It is a pity that millions of establishments worlwide are now at the mercy of one single entity viz. Google.

  • Jonnyround: I am replying for your sake as recently Google has come with an option where you can tell Google not to consider X,Y,Z links which may be bad links and now you need not run after anybodywith a request to remove those links.

  • My sites have fortunately not been hit significantly by the changes. But I’ve long since claimed that Google has been bit by bit, creating a monopoly. Think of the millions of Android users with their entire email, calendars, and documents wrapped up in a ‘free’ service. No getting around not using google with one of those in your pocket. And the recent change to remove the free Google Apps for businesses (even very small ones) is a preview of things to come.

    Just think how much money the big G stands to make if they decide that gmail will be severely limited unless one coughs up some $$. Even a buck or 2 a month will make them billions! A buck or two a month isn’t enough to make people leave the platform so it’d be a safe change for them. Nobody is going to dump their android phone over $25 a year.

    Aside from not wanting to feed the big G all of my data, I like to keep in local. I’m at my desk most of the time and have access even when I don’t have cell reception.

  • OK, so I have a site but am wanting to expand from Dubai to both Cape Town and Dubai. So I am changing my domain to allxpats.com . My previous link dubaixpats.com had 4000 backlinks ect that I did manually and then Penguin came out and my web traffic went reallllly low. So basically on my new domain I will have no backlinks.

    My question is should I build backlinks or not? Last time I went crazy on building all my own backlinks manually and google just punished me!


  • Thanks Jessica for a great post. I like what you pointed out as “lack of competition”. It is lack of competition that creates a tyrant. Let us look back to history. Whenever any entity believes it is the only one, it starts to dictate its own rules.

    I am not in support of spamming nor an advocate of poor sites.

    There are millions of people who earn their daily bread thanks to the internet and English is not the mother tongue of the majority of them (I am an example).

    Furthermore these people target the English speaking world because that is where the cash is and everyone wants a piece of the action.

    Funding a quality site is a difficult task for someone with a salary of less than 200 euros.

    The internet has saved a lot of people from joblessness in the developing and underdeveloped world. Now Google says “Go back and wait years in the queue of the unemployment bureau”.

    Sad thing.

  • I think the things are beyond simple. It’s their network, their rules. Nobody forces anyone to be on G and even more, as you kept saying in some other articles, it’s important that we create websites which attract people, to offer what people want/need/expect, not to make them good and shiny for google. As long as we want to be in google, we need to respect google’s rules. Good, bad, stupid, great, they are the rules which need to be followed. Of course we can ask rhetorical questions and talk for days what’S good or not to do, if they are fair or not, but at the end of day we still check the google toolbar and we’re still going in webmasters to see what happened during the day….

  • Google has become a monster able to destroy peoples lives and incomes. Ran by ego maniacal tweerps that only know computers. They don’t have the common sense to cook a hamburger. Your atypical nerds. But remember, the bigger they come,IE: netscape, AOL, Compuserve on and on, here today gone to uncool. Bing does have Gates money and could unthrone these cretins at Google.

  • I just don’t understand how a company that does not own the Internet, does not own every website company is able to have so much control.

    Content, content, content. Since when did websites like Walmart, K-Mart, Toys R US, and other huge businesses offer quality content, any content other than information about their refund policy, shipping, product information and the like. Toys R Us does offer some content through their guides, etc for special needs.

    So why does Google Monster favor them? Because of Google Ads, they make a ton of money off of the big corporations, then slam those who are stupid enough to think they will make money by allowing Google Adsense ads to be put on their blogs, etc simply to earn pennies, and if they are lucky enough to get close to the 100 buck payout, oops Google closes their account, bans them and does not pay them a dime.

  • Its really funny google talking about quality, while the search results have digging out all the crap… Its becoming more and more difficult to find any good quality site with google search result.

  • For about 3 yrs., a website of mine topped at google search result for some majoy keywords. By January this year the site went down in search result. All I had to do was to redesign the site inline with Google policies and the website regained its top position on Google search results.
    IMO Google is doing a great job.

  • It’s more about having all your eggs in one basket. You just can’t do it.

    You need to diversify your efforts to ensure that what puts food on your table is not solely in the hands of one source. Don’t be complacent. Create original content, provide value and you will be rewarded. One thing you can count on is that SERP will change, if you want to bet they wont I’d put my money up every time.

    Be ready because the next furry update is coming right around the corner.

  • Every time I read one of these anti-Google posts (yes, it is–don’t deny it) I just think the same thing. “What would Google’s search results be like without these updates?” The answer? They would be terrible! They would be full of nothing but spammy spam sites selling spammy crap. In fact, before all these updates it was already getting that way. THAT’S THE REASON GOOGLE MADE THE UPDATES. And if Google’s search results continued delivering these crappy results, eventually they would lose their market share to competitors. I lost all my rankings after these updates, and I had to return to a day job because of it. I’m as upset as anyone about that, but, as much as I’d like to, I really can’t blame Google. They are running a business. I am running a business. My business was 100% dependent on theirs. That was a bad strategy on my part! Now I’m changing how I do business–relationship marketing, guests posting, etc. I don’t even think about Google anymore, which, ironically, is bringing back my Google rankings!

  • My Australian-based site was hit in April of 2011 by the Panda update. Overnight, traffic (therefor income too) was slashed by more than 3/4… 5 years work was taken away from me overnight…

    I had left my job in January 2011 to work full time on my website… I didn’t panic when it happened. I spent the next 8 months researching and implementing all the things that Google said were the right things to do… but my rankings and traffic have never grown back anywhere near what they were… have basically stayed static since the update…

    I’ve spent all my savings supporting myself in that time, and in February 2012 I simply had to give up and go find a job in a factory so I could pay the bills…

    I will add here that I have never advertised my site using Google Adwords…

    This year a brand new site opened in my country which was basically a rip-off of what I had been doing since 2006 with my website (and I recently found they have been scraping my website, stealing my content and listings)… They had the money to advertise using Google Adwords, I’ve seen their ads all over the place, and I kid you not – for many long(ish)-tail search terms I have typed in related to my industry lately, this new website turns up 4, 5, 6 times on the very 1st organic results page??? WTF???

    How can a brand new site running for less than 12 months reach that sort of saturation???

    As a searcher, I wasn’t pleased at all with the results returned to me by Google, and as a webmaster I am disgusted at what I saw.

    This says to me that the era of truly organic results being returned by Google is over… And the era of ‘Pay Google to show up’ is being rushed in…

  • Similarly our 2 domains were ranked for years , and now they do not rank at all because of a recent algo update. We are talking longtail searcesh , country specific , for products at the lowest prices and google feels our product pages should not be viewed – Google serps have become a joke.

  • I have often had this conversation with others in the internet marketing field. You put into perfect words what so many of us are thinking. The Google God must be worshipped, regardless how we feel about these internet idols. I wish I could see Google five years from now.

  • I think you got to be pretty impressive in order to get good rankings on google and its not the fault of google its just that the competetion has become so high that google has to implement some policies so that only genuine posts get good rankings.

  • Hi there

    Happy you are looking into this. This has been a topic on my danish websites for a while. The main conclusion I came to was that yes Google is a Tyrant and has incredible disgusting big powers that no companies should be able to have… On the other side I am so happy that it is Google that has that power and not companies like Apple or Microsoft – then there wouldn’t be articles like this one in fear of those companies wrath….

  • I used to support Google in every way until recently when I became a victim of their take-down policy for copyright challenged.

    It was related to a blog post I had researched and written on my non-profit site. The information contained in the post was definitely well-sourced and certainly in the public interest.
    Based on a complaint, the post was taken down (put into draft). The notice of the take-down was emailed but email never explained what material on the post was allegedly in violation. The third-party link to see the original complaint didn’t work. After searching through over 500 complaints, I finally gave up.

    Copyright policies used by Google are now being used to effectively silence bloggers who are conducting genuine research. Any challenge to the take-down requires a lawyer and according to the policy, any challenge to Google’s policy would involve sending my personal information to the person who filed the original complaint.
    The only advice given by the Google policy site (you can forget trying to contact a real person) was that if you don’t want to have a take down then you should use only original material. That’s rich since Google’s entire business model is using the work of others as a source of profit.

    From my experience, Google’s commitment to free speech is a sham and subject to change at a moment’s notice.

  • Google sucks really bad. I know of groups of people here in Africa that were beginning to tap into online businesses and have now been hit so hard they are back on the streets. I know of young people who had no future and used online revenues to pay their way out. Those who were making their way up have been left hanging. Yahoo gave up (or should I say almost), Bing is trying. I have seen people turning to Facebook and other social media to gain some online presence till they can see what Google is really up to (their explanations no withstanding)

  • Does google really expect small businesses to spend all their time or all their marketing budget in employing people who will do nothing but work on social media?
    Blog posts, facebook, twitter, comment posting, all these take time and/or money and small businesses providing great product to a niche market cannot afford too much of either.
    Small business owners spend most of their time servicing their customers and their products.
    Does google expect them to instead forget about customers and work on just social media????

    Just think – if these small businesses who are also customers of google, disappear, well…google looses a chunk of their revenue stream and slowly google gets stuck with customers with deep pockets but bigger demands. In the end, google would need to bow to their demands and so become hostage to them.

    Small businesses are a lifeblood of any economy and are major advertisers as a group, on google – yet google has treated them with disdain to say the least.

    We at http://www.ravistailor.com have also suffered big G’s irresponsible actions – gone are the days Google could do no evil!
    It is now like any other company on the stock market – money grabbing quarterly results oriented behemoth that inflicts pain on its own customers.

    Google is no longer the Giant example that all netizens could follow – A titan has been reduced to just GOOG and a number!

    Disappointed to say the least!

    • “Small businesses are a lifeblood of any economy…” This is what a lot of people, including G, et al, aren’t getting.

      Our work involves preparing business sites for the internet. Success means clients’ phones are ringing, resulting in business growth. So actually, Google should be supporting small business instead of beating on it.

      Small business is the core of any economy. If small business goes out of business the economy does as well.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

  • 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 />

  • 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

    • 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!

    • 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.

  • 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.


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


    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?

    • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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!

    • @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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.