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The Google Gap - The Web According to Google

 7:48 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

An article [yahoo.businessweek.com] by Business Week Online details some of the issues webmasters are facing getting their site listed with Google.

It is an interesting article because it isn't your normal mainstream drivel.

"we need a concept of the public interest for the Internet that we haven't completely worked through yet. Somewhere between 'the market will magically take care of this' and 'let's regulate the heck out of it,' there has to be a solution."

There is a very fascinating and important point buried on page two:

Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.


jeremy goodrich

 7:57 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Funny you mention that article - just read it a few minutes ago.

Very well written, and I like the idea of a "Google Gap" explains well what we, as webmasters & marketers know, but the general public is unaware of.

Imho, if the recent "update" or shake up is any indication, they seem to be doing everything they can to keep indexing, spidering, and deploying bigger & bigger datasets in an organized way.

Even though there is a big difference between sites disappearing for 'no reason' and people spamming the index, I know that most, if not all, webmasters appreciate that Google continually strives to have the largest most comprehensive searchable index online.

If they can keep up with the growth of the web, it is of enormous value to everyone - even if they miss sites, drop them, or ban them - it's in Google's best interest to maintain that edge over their competition.


 7:57 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I like this part> "REGULATION NEEDED?"

Everyone feels google is not obligated, I keep saying they are because they map the net for 80% of the users.

I keep saying its like the news agency that has all the market share, that wants to report the cat in the tree, instead of the devastating earthquake, they have a public obligation to report correctly.

Google has a public obligation to map the web correctly, maybe regulation is needed.


 8:08 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Nice article. Thanks for pointing it out.

If Google's search results do reach the point they're not the most useful on the web to the average user they will go elsewhere. Quickly.

Letting the government pass rules on how they must search is likely to make it far worse. First the legislators seldom understand the real issue, and they have to set concrete rules based on existing technology that could restrict using something better when it becomes available. Plus, instead of spamming SEO's now you'd be up against paid lobbyists, cash donations, and special interest groups in deciding what gets shown first in SERPs.

A little education in the schools and media on the limits of search engines is better. The regulation cure is worse than the deisease.


 8:17 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe so, you have very good points.

My other thoughts are TV, TV is regulated. What do you think the free time spent ratio might be TV vs. Internet.

70% TV vs 30% Interenet, spending your free time.

Another point, if my daughter is looking for Bugs Bunny but un regulated Google shows her Debbie does China, this is bad. It would be the same as going to the disney chanel and they are showing the 8:00 movie as Debbie does China.

There should be no regulations? Im not trying to argue I just think there are a lot of responsibilities if you own 80% of all searches. every one here seems to think that google can do whatever they like, I think they have a public obligation.


 8:18 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I thought the point about a "company town" was about right. It is an unhealthy situation for commerce.

It is interesting that a business news mag just put all the tech news outlets to shame. :)


 8:18 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Interesting article, thanks. But again this "call for some law" - why?

Google gap

Who sees a gap? The Googles try to give results that make users say:

Oh my gosh! That's exactly what I need.

... and those users don't know so far there's a lot of stuff missing.

I'm one of the optimistic: GooglePlex is trying hard to improve (as recently shown in Dominic - IMHO).

And I have no idea how that could be done in another way.

The gap is existent mainly for those who try everything to come out better in SERPs (you could say sometimes: to come out better than appropriate).

And user's choice of search engines is always the better corrective than any regulations.

User's choices will regulate ...

My subjective perception.


 8:21 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

No user complained in the article - the only people complaining were webmasters:

1) The webmasters page is designed by an SEO firm that can't even use html correctly - two title tags - html open tags and header sections.

2) The same site is not in inktomi, alltheweb, or teoma.

There were also cili liberties complaints, library complaints (yeah - google doesn't have copyrighted books indexed - sorry), and the complaint from this one webmaster - whose design firm can't even do basic html - or get the site listed in the two engines the article sites as competitors to google.

There is a google gap - but reporting examples of webpages that aren't in archive.org nor any other search engine except altavista out of the four main ones I checked isn't really a revelation.


 8:23 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

The Google Gap, yes, that was something that has never occurred to me. I rely on Google so much but I am missing what has never been published on the web. It is something that will have to be addressed in the future because we may miss out on our collective history.

I remember spending hours in University libraries doing research when the kids in University now must rely on Google and avoid those dusty piles of old books.


 8:31 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

The kids don't need to avoid all those dusty books, but they probably do because we humans usually tend to go the easiest route, in this case its Google.

I'm definitely not one for adding more government regs! for all the reasons previously mentioned and more, but I am still concerned with the gap, privacy issues and the "company town" syndrome.


 8:33 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.

So true. And, to me, PageRank is the mechanism that distorts the 'Google Web.' It was a great leap five years ago but I now find Google too time-consuming for much of my searching. PR now awards the biggest sites, not necessarily the most authoritative and, in many cases, not the most relevant for my searches.

Do we need regulation? I don't think so. There are alternatives. And I think there's enough competition lurking out there to take advantage of any Google mistakes and many people like me who are quietly switching.

And we're also on Internet time here. As the acquisitions of the past few months are digested and new business plans implemented web search might well look quite different in six months.


 8:34 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I keep saying its like the news agency that has all the market share, that wants to report the cat in the tree, instead of the devastating earthquake, they have a public obligation to report correctly.

What obligation? Not a legal obligation, certainly--at least not in the U.S., where the Constitution protects freedom of the press. If your imaginary news agency wants to cover cats instead of earthquakes, or if it wants to skew its reporting to favor cats over dogs, it has a legal right to do so.

Antitrust laws could be used to keep Google from buying up other search engines, directories, and related businesses in the unlikely event that the government could prove that Google was a monopoly. But the First Amendment would prevent the government from regulating how Google analyzes and presents search results.


 8:37 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Regulation? By whom? Which nation's government? The Googleplex can move off-shore if needed.

The comparison to TV is flawed because frequencies are sold and regulated, cyberspace is not.

Be careful what you wish for...


 8:46 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well its mentioned in the article so I cant be the only one on the planet thinking about it.

They are going to implement government tax soon, last I read. What might the next step be?


 8:46 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yes there is a "Google Gap"

Just as there is a gap for any other search engine. My understanding is that the "Gap" at Google is likely to be somewhat smaller than at some of the other engines.

Should we now regulate Google for having done a better job? Surely we would have to regulate all search engines.

My local library seems to have a knowledge gap also, based on the fact that they do not possess a copy of every written work ever published. Should they now be punished or be subjected to some arbitrary regulation demanding they eliminate their knowledge gap?

And the penalties?

If it is true that the gap at Google is less than at other SEs, then it would seem logical that they be rewarded for having done a better job, or at least penalized less.

And just what body would do the regulating? I prefer we let the regulating be done by the users.

If Google is so far off base, then a newer better SE will come along and displace them.


 8:49 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Democracy and Liberty and the bleeding heart liberals (thank God for them with regard to this type of subject) will not let the web be searched in some enforced way of any kind - only commerce will guide this in democratic countries.

Why is the USA the world superpower?

Answer: The USA was born largely out of the previous world superpower the UK with it's Industrial Revolution knowledge (largely a commerce thing with military offshoots), then went and got approximately 1.5 times as wealthy on average per capita head as the UK, with four times as many people (I wont go into the reasons how and why). My simple calculations make the USA potentially six times as wealthy as the UK on this basic principle (ie if we all were taxed at the same rate and exchange rates were real equivalences), this is not the case, but it's easy to see the economic potential differences without the degree or study required to give a more considered answer.

Why is freedom of search undiminished by the powers that be?

Answer: For the same reason that in a democratic and 'free' country you can walk down the road and choose where you want to go and who you want to talk to and where you want to buy within what the law allows. Once surfers get wind of being led they will leave that search engine by the droves in favour of the one which lets them be free.

It ain't gonna happen guys and girls, search will be free of major restriction and democratic so long as the countries in which those SE businesses operate reamin free and democratic.

End of story.

Web Footed Newbie

 8:52 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yes I agree, good article.
In the business world, there always seems to be another competitor, lurking and waiting for the opportunity to pounce on one's market share.
With the ever-growing search engine field (and the revenue), big money typically goes after big money. Whether it will be Microsoft,Sun, Oracle or a new consortium, it is just a matter of time that these or other big money groups will put together a business plan to go after a slice of the pie of search engine revenue.
Here's my bet: Within 1 year, there will be another giant come to the picture on the search engine industry. And Brett will have to start a new thread!:) WFN


 8:53 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

It is a concern that will grow over time - similarly to the concern over MS.

But as it stands 90% of my technical problems I can sort by using Google. (Most of the rest are answered by WebmasterWorld members - many thanks folks)

If I can get answers rapidly and effectively using Google why do I need to look elsewhere, the real thing that Google has done is bring answers to the fingertips of the ordinary man in the street. It enables business to work more efficiently and allows businesses access to markets that they would never previously of been able to get to.

The problem really lies in those who will not change their marketing techniques to best suit the marketing media (i.e. Google)

Being banned for whatever reason is not in itself a business destroyer, okay a couple of bad months while you correct the situation but the same could be said of a badly produced TV ad, or taking an advert out in the wrong magazine or newspaper for your target market. As with any marketing, the art is to get the message across to your target market - if you can't do that properly you will fail.


 9:04 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

<The Google Gap>

Location, location, location. Gotta get to 1st place, PR8 please, 150 pages listed in the first 1,000, Gotta get a CTR of 3.5% out of my chosen 16 keywords on Adwords.

An SEO may want to be in 1st position for "widgets", but is the URL in first place what jo public who searched for "blue widgets" really wanted?

There is a Google Gap, and it's not just because of the latest update.

I was looking to book a villa for our summer vacation, just a few weeks ago - and now I am Jo Public.

The Google Gap is obvious - Yes, I found a lot of villas, and a lot from the same domain, and lots from different domains, but really the same ones, affiliated. And again the same domains were returned to me from slightly different searches. And yes, clicking on the Adwords, I got similar domains, .....

But I knew there was a little nugget out there. (I think we all secretly know there is some little nugget out there).

Perhaps it exists on page 52 of the search results. It could even be on page 1 of that search string we try desperately to find. "Villa Lanzarote", "Lanzarote Villa", "Luxury Lanzarote Villa", "Canaries Villa to Rent", ......

Gotta get that nugget .......

"The best Villas in Lanzarote money no object get me a good site with loads of pictures so I can see what im renting maid needed 5 times a week sheets changed daily towels provides close to beach heated pool (worldwide search)

But like most Jo public I assume, my 10 minute research turned out to be 6 hours one day, and 3 on another day. Oh and by the way I asked my wife to go to the travel agent in between.

We all know the power of the internet, but when 100,000 results are returned for a search, if Google doesn't have it on the first 6 pages (60 entries), then the Google Gap not only extends to what it doesn't even list, but also to the other 99,940 entries, which no-one will ever see.

I'm sure I'm not the only one that spends hours on the internet trying to find something as a result of my wife asking me a simple question and my reply being "no problem, it'll only take me a few minutes to find it on the internet"

The Google Gap is a reality - and there are some great nuggets out there - but many of them will never be seen.


 9:09 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Somehow I get the feeling these people were just trying to beat up the big guy.

... search term "Ruby Ridge"...most of the top results present extreme views of the incident.

Well, this was an extreme incident, so it's normal it elicits extreme reactions. I would like to know how many of the 28,000 (inclunding ") results would NOT be considered as extreme. If they had searched for 09-11, they would ceertainely have found even more extreme views, just more in line with their own (except if the authors/searchers were arabs or muslims). It's all a question of point of view.

Plus, it's a known fact the web easily falls to conspiracy theories and the like. FBI bashing being one of the favourite subjects, so it makes sense the most linked-to pages are negative.

The point is that Google has no influence on the views reflected by a site. It is not a human driven directory where the content of sites can be judged and ranked accordingly. The ranking just (or mostly) tells us how many other people found some information useful enough to link to it.

most books that have ever been published will never end up online

For many of those it's not a great loss. I believe the most influential, important books will eventually end up on the web, if they are not already. Plus, if you search for a book, chance is quite consequent you qill be led to an online book store that will sell you that book. And if some people forget that books exist just because there is Google, well, sorry but let librarians and book sellers do their jobs. Better occupation than blaming other people (companies) who do theirs well.

John Hutzler, president of New York-based Now Interactive Services, which manages Graham Kandiah's online presence, believes Google shut the site out because of a Web-page popup that was used to launch a music player -- a popup that surfers would never see.

I have the feeling the guy is looking for an excuse. If you look at the page, you will see that the only text content of the home page (apart from the title) is 'Website by ...'. The rest is just images, JS and CSS. Now does that show the guy's knowledge of SEO? And the link.all search at alltheweb gives no result... So again, stop complaining and start doing your homework!

He suggests that Google may be amenable to suggestions, since it prides itself on listening to the faithful and making their wishes come true.

Now we here know that Google (or at least some of the employees) DO listen. And we also might remember that Google was criticized because it DID respond to 'suggestions', e.g. by banning right-wing extremist sites from the German results.

Google is not perfect and whoever believes it is should remember that although it is largely automated, it was still built by humans, who are not known for perfection.

Sorry, this has turned into something of a rant, but I just hate it when people blame their own insufficiencies on scapegoats.


 9:12 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

I believe in the Google Gap. That is, that a majority of Google users don't realize or forget that the top-10 or top-20 results are neither comprehensive, more relevant, or representative of the best info available on the net. This is partly due to convenience and Google's success at basic levels. Google is not responsible for the Gap.

For me, the more interesting points that Salkever raises are:
1. Google is currently a private party that does favor particular sites (for particular reasons that fall within the limitations of its algorithm) and hurts others.
2. There isn't really a system of appeals yet unless you've got the cash to go AdWords and take that route. Or are savvy here at WebmasterWorld. ;)
3. Its market share leads one to ask whether Google's not simply providing "editorial" results but also more critically, access to information. And when you control access, that sort of power brings up regulation questions.

I'm not sure I'd want to see government regulation, given the passage of current questionable items such as the Patriot Act, etc. To a certain extent, that might simply be a transfer of power.

In the same way that Chris_D conjectures about Google's pre-emptive talents [webmasterworld.com], I'd like to see Google show a sensitivity to the above issues and take a leadership role among the search engines to address concerns that regard its being a provider (of sorts) of data, and the concerns of the commercial impact on its results (beyond the synergy with AdWords).


 9:23 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Interesting article that captures the concerns quite well. We've been debating the obligation, or lack thereof, of a dominant force like Google to webmasters. Like an editor of a private magazine, are they free to include and exclude as they wish, even if arbitrary? Or do they at least need reasonable appeal mechanisms for wronged site owners?

So far, the editor metaphor seems to have carried the day. However, there are arguments to be made in the other direction. For years, shopping malls claimed they were private property and had no obligation to allow free speech. As they began to become the dominant community meeting places, however, courts began to find the malls had some obligation to meet this demand.

I think if Google continues to hold or increase its dominance of web searches, they would be well advised to put support mechanisms in place to defuse potential problems. If not, the cries for regulation or intervention by courts will grow louder.

Watcher of the Skies

 9:41 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

Europe for Visitors said:
"Antitrust laws could be used to keep Google from buying up other search engines, directories, and related businesses in the unlikely event that the government could prove that Google was a monopoly. But the First Amendment would prevent the government from regulating how Google analyzes and presents search results."

Sorry, EfV, that's not how it is. There's a whole world of litigation out there between yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater and overt libel. Not that there's actually a way, but if they want to attempt to regulate this, they'll find a way - for better or for worse. Calling for the overthrow of the US government, for example, is NOT guaranteed by the First Amendment - whether you're a monopoly or not. :-)

But it would suck. This inevitable domination of THE (any top dog) search engine is anarchy, but we're simply incredibly imperfect, agressive, greedy creatures. Just as in pollution issues, nuclear bomb issues, computer tech/spam issues, genetic issues, the ability to have something go wrong or have people do bad always supercedes attempts to regulate or control the technology. Regulators need to be renaissance men/women to understand all the angles. (Hell, forget tech, even the complexities of corporate accounting are creeping in.) In lieu of that, the big-money lobbies WIN, for now - they provide all the information (API, Brookings, et al). In the long run (short run?) I think the recent byline on CNN online where the guy predicts a 50/50 chance of Armageddon may be optimistic.....

My point? Due to their dominance and, yes, that alone is sufficient, Google certainly does have a LEGAL OBLIGATION to be "True" (with a capital T) to their task. What constitutes that grandest of words will most likely - unfortunately - be the playground of the attorneys. So, Google simply packs up and moves to the Philippines? There's the beginning of the end.



 9:43 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

When these private parties start making individualistic decisions about who's favored and who's not, it does create serious legal questions.

Just as The New York Times deploys editors to sort and publish the news, likewise Google deploys it's algo to sort the information that it judges relevant- it's free speech. Google stands or falls on it's interpretation of relevance, just as the NYTimes stands or falls for it's editorial judgement.

Call it the Google Gap -- the difference between the growing perception that the site is omniscient and the fact that it isn't.

They were onto something here- I've made several posts [webmasterworld.com] about a Search Engine's inability to adequately index "mainstream" web sites.

Too bad they wasted everybody's time talking about sites that "businesses that run afoul of the rules Google uses to ensure site don't manipulate rankings."

We're not supposed to talk about specific web sites, but the "Now Interactive Solutions" guy opened himself and his work up to public scrutiny by complaining that he was banned, so here goes:

I doubt that Graham Kandiah's web site was penalized because the web site has no title tags, very little indexable text- in short, this guy is hiding behind Google as an excuse for why this sloppy little web site doesn't index.

I give this article a B for effort, and an F for completely missing the Big Idea inherent in the Google Gap.


 10:08 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

IMHO I think the article points out what SEO's and many webmasters already know.
Joe surfer does not know.

I like a few others, are of the opinion that google have too much control not quite a monoply, but realistically may as well have.

I don't go with the theory "Shouldn't place all eggs in one basket" the point is I didn't, google placed them for me.

That is because google is the best search engine, no quarels, joe public like it

But when the masses use a sole media/news/etc that is dangerous, nowhere else in conventional media/advertizing circles would that be allowed to happen in the free world anyway
<end of rant>


 10:26 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

How about taxing Google users after a certain amount of searches (percentage relative to income and “types” of searches)? A new agency, such as the U.S. Department of Google SERPS (or “D.O.G.S.”), that could perhaps use all that extra dough to create a governmental search engine that would be free and fair to all.


 10:26 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>In the three days it took to diagnose the problem, Graham Kandiah says it lost 20% of its traffic -- which might have been avoided had Google simply sent it an automated e-mail explaining the reason for its action.<<

How could Google hope to ever document to millions of site owners what changes to its algo are affecting their ranking, every time it changes?

A good article nevethless and well balanced and adequately though not well researched.


 10:50 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

>Just as The New York Times deploys editors to sort and publish the news, likewise Google deploys it's algo to sort the information that it judges relevant- it's free speech<

Nope, if the NYT was seen to to make slanderous claims they would be in trouble.
Which can cost a bundle, not free

Google can more a less pass the buck to the site owner


 10:54 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)

So someone claimed that Graham Kandiah was dropped from Google's index for doing a pop-up? That's pretty bogus. Doing a little digging myself, I can't find any significant links to the Graham Kandiah domain, and someone else mentioned the same lack of links on ATW. So it wasn't a penalty, just that we ran out of space or time in our crawl and didn't see enough links to this domain. I see a gap, but it's a gap in doing research before assuming that something's a penalty. :)

treeline, I agree a lot with your viewpoint.


 10:56 pm on Jun 10, 2003 (gmt 0)


Not in my opinion. If Google stops delivering what the public wants, they, like so many others SEs, they will just fall off the vine.

They are a private business with the right to think without Big Brother telling them what to do.

I fear google's power and praise them for being smart enough to get it... Remember - the power will shift again as it has so many times in the past.


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