| 10:26 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
From what has been said above I conclude:
Google can do whatever they like with their own search engine. They are under no obligation to anyone.
Google now (quite legally) has a near monopoly on internet search.
Personally I see a huge problem here.
Google currently has the power to make or break thousands of companies through an ever so slight tweak of their algorithm. This power is given to them by the end users simply by their (very often completely unwitting) choice of search engine.
What if people are using Google just out of habit, just because they don't know of any other possibilities, just because they don't realize that they are unwittingly helping to build a monster monopoly?
I am surprised the news media show so little interest in what is going on in this area. Why have they not jumped on Google's saga of problems with canonical issues that have caused legitimate sites to rank poorly through no fault of their own for a very long time? Why have they not exposed the fact that thousands of legitimate pages have suddenly gone supplemental for weeks, wiping out hordes of companies simply because of a "glitch" in Google’s system? If people knew that lots of valuable pages have in fact been missing from the serps for weeks, they might just start giving other SEs a chance.
Is Google really the “best” search engine? Why do most people believe it is? Is it because they haven’t heard anything to suggest the contrary? Is it because millions of web browsers cannot be wrong? - Of course they can be wrong! The many millions of people who ruin their health by overeating junk food are hardly doing so because they are making the “best” choice!
Google will be of value to webmasters (those of them that manage to get lucky) as long as the end users go on trusting them. Once the end users start having doubts that Google is serving consistent and reliable serps things may change very quickly.
| 10:44 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Google have a near monopoly on search and can break thousands of business with a tweak of their algo, thousands of jobs gone on a flash.
There is a huge problem there and I think Google should have a statement on their homepage to cover themselves, just a few lines.
Organic (non paid) search results can, and will, change without notice from time to time. Google accepts no reponsibility for these changes and the effect they may have on web site owners and/or their businesses.
| 11:06 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Might this be what you are talking about dodger:
Google own words about the fact that serps change [google.com]
| 11:09 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
the Bear - that's what I meant, but it probably needs to be more prominent, if these things are hidden away they lose their legal effect I think, depending on the laws that apply in that location (global I guess)
| 11:17 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Doubtful that they lose any effect.
Does the 3rd clause in the 12 paragraph of a 400 page contract lose effect becaue it isn't on page one?
| 11:24 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
<<Does the 3rd clause in the 12 paragraph of a 400 page contract lose effect becaue it isn't on page one?>>
If it's a clause as important as that it could be seen as not being clear enough to warn users.
| 11:33 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|If people knew that lots of valuable pages have in fact been missing... |
Many people don't even know the difference between the Google search box and their browser's address bar. This information is relevant mostly to site owners and web marketers -- us, in other words. It would cause my mother's eyes to glaze over.
No doubt Google is well aware that an extended down-turn in search quality can hurt them. This current episode just isn't extended enough, either in duration or breadth of search terms. In fact, many many SERPs still give 10 pretty good results.
| 11:57 pm on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Yes Tedster, I think they have it well under control and hopefully will deal with spam amd mirrors again very soon.
The more "important" Google gets the more people rely on them and I'm sure they understand their responsibilities both moral and legal.
| 12:11 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|For a long while I have been annoyed by the forum members who constantly say that business owners should not rely on Google to feed them business. My answer to them is what use or value is Google if you can't rely on them for business? |
It has been said thousand times. It is not important what business owners or web masters think of Google. Most important is what people that search think of Google!
| 12:25 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
The more "important" Google gets the more people rely on them and I'm sure they understand their responsibilities both moral and legal."
One could argue effectively the Google has never understood any moral, ethical or other responsibilities to the websites from which they derive their entire product. In my experience they always were arrogant, treating webmasters as some sort of annoyance and justify this by having never charged for inclusion.
Years ago you used to pay Inktomi about 30 bucks a year and your site got included within 24-48 hours. If it didn't they fixed it right away. Then as now, Google took forever.
Early in this thread I referred to Google as a scavenger. I was wrong. In fact they're a parasite and, like all parasites, they sometimes kill the host they infect.
None of this was more than an irritation when they were one of several companies in a competitive SE market. Having become dominant for reasons largely unconnected to the quality of their search product (marketing, M&A, contractual affiliations) they are now moving into the same relative sphere as Microsoft occupies for operating systems.
About all you can say that's positive is the SE market has been extremely volatile since it began and giants have fallen before (though probably none as dominant as Google is now). If Google maintains it position for the next couple of years, expect interest from regulatory agancies.
| 12:30 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
First and foremost, Google is a business with responsibilities to its shareholders to provide revenue. But I agree with Tedster and a few others that Google does owe webmasters something in return for the content we supply.
The fact that Google uses our content to supply search results to their users has created a symbiotic relationship between Google and the webmaster. Google cannot exist unless we allow their bots into our sites which then allows them to list our sites in their search results. For those sites which have enjoyed good rankings and any amount of Google traffic which has resulted in a certain amount of income ... it is really very disturbing when (for no understandable reason) that traffic and subsequent income suddenly dries up.
I have always been a big Google fan, but when a site takes a nose dive in the rankings ... out of the blue ... I find that to be terribly unfair to the webmasters who supply the content which Google uses for free and without any licensing agreement. That part of owning an online business sucks!
Search engines have the power to ruin whole families overnight and that is just wrong. Unfortunately, Google (or any other search engine) is not likely to tell us individually what “might” be causing our ranking problems. Unfair as it may seem, I don’t think their reasons for not telling us is that difficult to understand. It would lead to more gaming of their algo and that is exactly what they try to avoid.
Unfortunately for us and what we all have to accept is that this is the business we are in and these are the inherent dangers of having online businesses.
I have been very lucky. I was told right from the get go that I should concentrate on building content. Lots and lots of content. So I have. Many would consider my site quite small. I only have 209 pages. But all of it is 100% original. Copy, text, images ... all original and created by me. Its a niche site. Most of my competitors have less than 50 pages.
I have also enjoyed pretty good ranking for the most part. The problem is that Google delivers almost 70% of my traffic and therefore about 70% of my income. When the Florida update hit, my rankings plummeted and I had no clue why! I had done what I was told and I didn’t use what was considered shady SEO tactics back then. I have no ads on my site, I don’t buy or sell links and I give links away to any site I consider of importance to my readers. I have never participated in any PPC programmes, nor have I used adsense or adwords. My site is straight HTML with a smattering of CSS thrown in. I think my PR is 5 ... but as I use a Mac, I don’t really know for sure. Nor do I care.
When the Florida update hit, my site plummeted in the rankings and my income dried up overnight. I was hurting badly! At the time, I also was hit with a very serious health problem which basically put me out of commission for 6 weeks. I was left with huge bills to pay and no income and no idea how to “fix” whatever was wrong with my site.
I did a lot of hand wringing and whining and after the hysteria passed and I managed to borrow some money from my family, I then took a serious look at my web site. While many on WebmasterWorld were still reeling from the effects of the Florida update, I began rewriting my entire site. Prior to that particular update, unnatural keyword density worked on Google and writers (who did not use any other SEO techniques) were forced to write unnaturally in order to attain decent results in the search engines. It was the only thing I knew was not 100% on the up and up on my site.
It worked and within a month, I began seeing my rewritten pages make their way back to the top of the heap! For those who have business models based on adsense or adwords, I have no advice because I simply know nothing about that side of the webmaster world ... but I do know what has worked for me.
Take a really good look at your site and be brutally honest with yourself. If you were Google and you were trying hard to get your point across to spammers and SEO types ... what changes do you think Matt Cutts would tell you to make if he were inclined to let the cat out of the bag? I know you will come up with the answer if you just think hard about it. Then go and do it! Only you know exactly what you have done with any of your sites.
Don’t write your site for the search engines, write for your users! You will be rewarded in the search results! If you own just another run-of-the-mill web site with a little bit of content and a lot of ads, then I would suggest you concentrate on providing some decent content to fulfil your obligation to your advertisers. Yes, you guys using adwords and adsense have obligations to your advertisers too!
All the rules are right there in plain sight on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines page. They are doing their darndest to stop all of us from gaming them and manipulating their results. Matt Cutts has made that abundantly clear in his blog. My suggestion is that unless you are amongst the very best of the best SEO’s that you do just that and stop trying to game the SE’s. Get on with the business of providing the best content you are able. The bots will come and the traffic won’t be far behind.
What value are Google if you can't rely on them?
You can rely on Google ... you just have to play by their rules and you have to make it your business to understand that the rules are a moving target.
Its what an online business is all about. We all must be prepared to go through this at least once a year and be prepared to move quickly to “fix” whatever it is you think might be causing the problem ... this time, next time and every time! ;)
[edited by: Liane at 12:39 am (utc) on Mar. 13, 2006]
| 12:32 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
I am surprised the news media show so little interest in what is going on in this area.
Yes, I'm surprised too. They were quick enough to pick up on Google's China incident, but the SEO/webmaster community has been agitatedly chattering about erratic SERPS since the middle of last year.... and not a thing in the press.
As an example: the lead feature in the Web section ("Doors") of today's Sunday Times newspaper is a technical article about using advanced search techniques on a Google search or using specialised SEs as an alternative to Google. It is written by Chris Sherman (senior editor at searchenginewatch), so he should be aware of Google's performance probs, yet there's not even a suggestion that Google's relevancy might be wavering.
| 12:34 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Bobmark - yours is the pragmatic rather than idealistic view of it all. What you say makes a lot of sense.
| 12:55 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
I agree with a lot of what you say, Liane although I DO think Google has created a lot of their own problem with their PR system which I think has become unworkable (tho no doubt is seen as a valuable marketing tool and key ingredient to their success with searchers by Google senior management).
I think its reached the point where at any moment in time, high PR and the very top SERPs are more likely to be a function of gaming the algo (tho methods change monthly) than actual relevance (or lets say taking poor to average relevance and gaming the algo to hit top 3).
The catastrophic site dropping, supplemental, etc. problems Google has experienced (and inflicted on the webmaster community) over the past year or so are, I think, mostly a function of them trying to fix the PR system. Unfortunately every fix has resulted in even more problems.
I agree with you that you CAN crawl back from a Gogle inflicted disaster (I sem to have too, fingers crossed) but I sometimes wonder how much of the return is simply dumb luck dspite all the work we put in (but who has the guts to do nothing and see what transpires "naturally").
One thing does seem for sure. MSN and Yahoo/Inktomi seem to effortlessly handle dup content, content theft and most of the other issues Google ties itself in knots over and in turn causes untold financial damage to honest webmasters. ALL my content theft issues - which killed my PR and SERPs before going to a blocking script were confined to the Google index and ALL of them related to spam sites stealing content to generate Google Adword clicks.
| 12:57 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
<You can rely on Google ... you just have to play by their rules and you have to make it your business to understand that the rules are a moving target.
Its what an online business is all about.>
It is? Why does that have to be?
I'm just a salesperson - I'm online to sell, not jigger about with my website every 5 minutes to satisfy the wierdo algo changes that Google pumps out! (or actually to write reams of copy to satisfy SE's that object to high graphics sites - my customers don't want to read that guff, and it actually might put them off IMHO!)
< We all must be prepared to go through this at least once a year and be prepared to move quickly to “fix” whatever it is you think might be causing the problem ... this time, next time and every time! ;) >
Sad that even when you play by the rules, you can still pay because of factors that are not even mentioned in Google webmaster guidelines.
My site bombed when Google suddenly seperated my www and non-www sites (I didn't even realise until then that they *were* seen as two seperate sites!) and viewed it as duplicate content. It had never happened in the years previously, and no other SE had a problem with it. Suddenly I was nowhere - that was last June, and even though I fixed the problem in October when I realised (many thanks to Webmaster World's marvellous contributors :). Here we are now in nearly mid-March, and still much the same. Changes have been picked up but not on visible DC's. My non-www site *still* has PR.
I am prepared to jigger about with my website once a year to 'fix' it if it suddenly becomes broken, but if it takes 6 months or a year for the fix to be picked up and to effect the Serps, I just can't afford that. Now I'm hedging my bets by having several different sites to sell my stuff, so hopefully if one goes down, the others might hold business up, but I didn't want to do that. One web shop was enough for me. I'm not sure the customers would understand why we have several different sites either.
I think that everyone who speaks to defend Google on this issue has a point, but I would support that view more were it not for the fact that other SE's do not seem to have the same problems.
All SE's have the problem of spam, but how many suddenly decided that www and non-www of the same domain were two different but identical sites?!
Some breakages really aren't necessary....
| 1:14 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|I think that everyone who speaks to defend Google on this issue has a point, but I would support that view more were it not for the fact that other SE's do not seem to have the same problems. |
All SE's have the problem of spam, but how many suddenly decided that www and non-www of the same domain were two different but identical sites?!
I hear your pain and understand ... believe me. But as I said, these are the inherent dangers of owning an online business.
The plain truth is that the other SE's don't provide nearly the same amount of traffic as Google. That leaves us with having to deal with all the Google glitches, algo changes and myriad other problems such as cannonical issues, dupe content, supplemental pages, etc. etc etc.
Google is trying to hit the next level in its development and clearly, search algorithms are not an exact science. They have problems and are trying to deal with it. The "temporary" set backs all of us are subjected to as a result are unfortunate ... but as I'm sure Google sees it, necessary.
If they were to just let things stagnate and maintain the status quo, they would soon be the number two search engine and eventually number three and so on. To remain on the cutting edge, they must evolve and stay ahead of the competition. As an online business owner, I totally understand their need to keep trying to improve and grow. I do the same thing (on a much smaller scale) on my web site.
Unfortunately, many of us suffer in the meantime. If you want to be a part of the process and reap the rewards Google can and does deliver, we all have to try to keep up with them. It hurts and its difficult at times, but it is a necessary evil and all part of the growing internet business world.
[edited by: Liane at 1:25 am (utc) on Mar. 13, 2006]
| 1:24 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
"If they were to just let things stagnate and maintain the status quo, they would soon be the number two search engine and eventually number three and so on. To remain on the cutting edge, they must evolve and stay ahead of the competition."
I disagree with you entirely on that, Lianne. Google is McDonalds at its peak: their product is cr@p but their marketing and business maneuvers to ensure market saturation are great.
Except in the very early days - when many SE's charged by the page for inclusion and, hence, only the wealthiest sites had anything resembling a full crawl - Google has never had superior results in terms of relevance. They sure don't now but they DO have market share and - apparently - the hearts and minds of consumers. As with McDonalds, product quality is somewhere way down on the list of reasons for their success.
| 1:28 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|As with McDonalds, product quality is somewhere way down on the list of reasons for their success. |
Yup ... we disagree. I happen to like a Big Mac now and again too! :)
[edited by: Liane at 1:30 am (utc) on Mar. 13, 2006]
| 1:28 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
I would compare it to a successful brick and mortar business on a busy street. The business owner has every expectation of making a career of this store when one day the city decides that it wants to replace the sewers on that street and closes off traffic for ten months.
The business owner either gets a loan from the bank to cover her expenses for ten months or must go bankrupt when the landlord requires that the terms of the lease be upheld.
That's business. Now the business owner will be very angry with the government.
The moral of the story: save your money for a rainy day, someday it will rain on you.
On the other side of the coin should the city have made allowances for the business? Might they have voted a tax abatement for businesses affected? Probably yes. Should the failed business owner campaign for more humane treatment of businesses in the future? YES! And that's what I do in cyberspace.
| 1:32 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
<<That's business. Now the business owner will be very angry with the government>>
Under those circumstances the Govt would be liable to the business owner for effectively shutting their business down , it is not a case of bad luck... take out a loan and/or go broke.
| 1:38 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|On the other side of the coin should the city have made allowances for the business? Might they have voted a tax abatement for businesses affected? Probably yes. |
I agree with you. Except Google is not the government, it is a business. Google isn't a democracy. They don't collect taxes nor do they have to be concerned about what voters think.
| 1:41 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
trouble with your analogy, andrea99, is your mixing public (i.e. a municipal govt) concerns with a pvt business. Last time I checked, Google was not an elected body balancing the needs of all citizens :)
Better analogy. The cable company which serves 70% of the homes in your area suddenly drops your station. They give you no explanation other than refer you to pamphlet which states channnels may sometimes disappear and its probably your own fault anyway (you were probably doing something that violated their guidelines).
They say they can't fix it immediately but maybe in three months they will put you back. But even if they do, they may show you one day, not the next and sometimes will show your programming from a year ago instead of your current schedule. Plus you may appear anywhere from channel 2 to channel 148.
| 1:52 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|...nor do they have to be concerned about what voters think. |
Actually they do. More than most businesses, certainly much more than Microsoft, Google does have to be concerned with their public image, which has recently suffered for a variety of reasons.
I do see a difference in the way they handle things. For a bunch of the brightest people on the planet they have been very slow learners on this particular issue and from what I understand that is very much a function of the personalities of the founders Larry and Serge.
But they are learning and I do give them credit for that. If I didn't see improvement on this front I would be a leading and energetic "dump Google" activist for whatever that would be worth.
As I said in an earlier post in this thread, I'm pulling for them and think they are still on the leading edge of civilization. Civilization has always been a bit flawed. :)
| 1:54 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|I would compare it to a successful brick and mortar business on a busy street. The business owner has every expectation of making a career of this store when one day the city decides that it wants to replace the sewers on that street and closes off traffic for ten months. |
Government usually helps businesses out when there is infrastructure changes of this magnitude. The last thing they want to do is force business owners out of business due to the loss of taxes generated from those businesses.
Google does not receive taxes from us, so it is not the same.
| 2:01 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
bobmark your analogy is closer to the actual situation but my analogy is easier to understand. All analogies are just mental constructs to compare situations and will break down if carried too far.
Perhaps my analogy would work better if it were set in a brutal fascist dictatorship where the government is not necessarily expected to consider the public good.
Yes, that analogy breaks down too if the comparisons are drawn too far. That's the nature of analogies.
This is not a discussion about analogies, it is a discussion about a certain thick-headedness on the part of an otherwise fine company.
| 2:04 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|Google does not receive taxes from us, so it is not the same. |
Of course it's not the same, it is an analogy to compare similar situations not a contest to construct a perfect analogy.
| 2:07 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
People who try to find fault with my analogy are just trying to obscure the issue. I admit the analogy is imperfect, but it *illustrates the problem* better than your criticism of my figures of speech.
| 2:14 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Can we get off the topic of analogies and stop redirecting the thread please? The original question was and remains:
What value are Google if you can't rely on them?
Its a heady question with no easy answers. For me, Google's value is reflected in my bank account and has been for the past 5 years. Google has directed the lion's share of traffic to my web site and has helped me to generate a huge chunk of my income since Inktomi went in the dumper around 2000/2001.
I do rely on Google and have come to understand that if I want the income to continue, I will just have to deal with the advantages and disadvantages of owning an (Google reliant) online business.
As Andrea99 said, I have made budgetary allowances which will carry me through the rough patches. I am also no stranger to "doing without" ... so long dry periods (though uncomfortable) are still manageable.
| 2:24 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|... so long dry periods (though uncomfortable) are still manageable. |
As a desert dweller I am surrouded by cactus which are engineered to survive (literal) long dry periods. I think the answer lies there.
Proper capital management suited specifically to the environment that Google has made for us and that we must live in if we are to have online businesses.
Since the dry periods do not affect us all at the same time a banking cooperative familiar with our particuliar problems probably is in order. An association of online businesses would have more clout than any of us individually, even here on this forum.
| 2:31 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
Yeah, Liane that's about it.
However, I think one mental adjustment we maybe should all consider is that the collective "we" would be a lot better off in a more competitive SE market. In the present world: 30% each Google, Yahoo, MSN with 10% Ask, Altavista, etc.
I think this has implications for us as when - for example - we use Googe ads, search box or any other Google prduct on our site we are aiding the continued dominance of Google.
Obviously there is little we as independent webmasters can do to bring about parity in the SE market (tho I STILL think we need an industry association like every other industry) but the ways things are now puts us at the mercy of Google who have given ample evidence they have zero interest in us beyond taking our content (zipless crawl?).
| 2:37 am on Mar 13, 2006 (gmt 0)|
|Search engines have the power to ruin whole families overnight and that is just wrong. Unfortunately, Google (or any other search engine) is not likely to tell us individually what “might” be causing our ranking problems. Unfair as it may seem, I don’t think their reasons for not telling us is that difficult to understand. It would lead to more gaming of their algo and that is exactly what they try to avoid. |
There's another reason that information isn't available. They don't know. It's not easily determined. Consider the mathematical problem of using a non-linear algo with 100 variables, all of which can interact to determine a search result. For one site. Now, consider that since the placement of a site is RELATIVE to all other sites, to explain why a single site's ranking in the SERPS has changed would require looking at the other sites also. And for multiple keywords.
A human being can't figure this out. It's conceivable a computer could do it, and in fact, google must have a simulation program to test changes in algos, but the whole enterprise of telling website owners why placement has changed is simply impractical or impossible.
Google deserves criticism on some points, but on this one, I don't know what people want.
Perhaps it's not understanding algos. It's a lot easier to actually create an complex algorithm, than to know or even determine how that algorithm affects a single website (an instance) amidst maybe a million other sites that might also rank on a keyword term.
In effect, some people are asking for the impossible, almost literally.
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