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What value are Google if you can't rely on them?

 5:27 am on Mar 11, 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? We can't keep on treating Google like a favourite pair of shoes that are constantly letting the rain in ... if they don't do the job then what honest value do they have.

I, like many others, used to love what Google stood for ... until last year when everything changed. Don't ask me why they did it ... but last year many small businesses got hit and it seemed that Google didn't care about helping them get back. I for one will be only too pleased to site loss of Google traffic and the futile waste of time trying to get back as my main reason for bad performance last year ... I only hope the tax office understands.

Please Please Please bring back some of the values that used to make Google great.

All the best

Col :-)



 3:46 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree that there is a point to be made here, Colin.

Even if the business plan doesn't "depend" on Google traffic at the outset, if a site is done well and Google Search begins to send traffic that converts -- a sane business will scale up and serve that Google-derived business, which can be potent. How then could anyone completely avoid "depending" on Google? Perhaps a failure in Google traffic might not mean bankruptcy, but it certainly would mean a drastic scale back to the pre-Google levels.

At the same time, the situation for any business that depends on search traffic must be precarious. Attention needs to be given to all kinds of sustainable revenue -- sustainable without depending on any disiniterested third party.

An analogy might be a shopping mall with one big name anchor store. The anchor store goes out of business and is not rapidly replaced -- so all of a sudden the small shops lose traffic and go bust. In this situation, the mall itself has some business obligation to find a new tenant for the anchor location -- but they can't always do it. In the situation with Google, they have no obligation to maintain traffic for any particular web business.

This is a tough reality, one that must be folded into the risk analysis for any online business. It's the absolute flip side of the "get rich quick on the web" mind-set, and a balancing factor to the relatively low start-up costs for selling online.

[edited by: tedster at 6:57 pm (utc) on Mar. 11, 2006]


 4:11 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

We can't keep on treating Google like a favourite pair of shoes that are constantly letting the rain in ...

Yeah, but we own our shoes and can replace them anytime. We don't own Google.

Google has value because the average web user values Google. This of course may change, but as long as the vast majority of web surfers go to Google to find what they are looking for, webmasters who want to maximize their web sites popularity need to have Google as part of their marketing plan.


 4:26 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

My answer to them is what use or value is Google if you can't rely on them for business?

Google's "use or value" is to searchers.

If you can profit by piggybacking on Google's use or value to searchers, that's something to be happy about. But Google's use or value isn't diminished if you can't.


 4:29 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google does not owe you a thing. They are in the business of earning money for their shareholders and not offering you a free living.

Anyone who sets his business up to soley depend on free google income is less than intelligently planned.

Your complaints fall on deaf ears here.

You get what you pay for.


 4:46 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Googles value to a seo is ziltch.
Google started losing value with many webmasters years ago with the Florida update or something before when Google started dropping sites for no reason.

Google creates more and more black hats with every update that drops sites.

The surfers who search my sector shouldnt even go to google because they might get a virus installed if they click on the #1 result lol.

[edited by: tedster at 4:52 pm (utc) on Mar. 11, 2006]


 5:14 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Ya, I've been making my 'nice' sites for the more predictable MSN and Yahoo lately.

I'm toying with the idea of an avalanche of Black-Hat sites for Google, as it seems to work OK for others.


 5:45 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

My frustration?

Google has an irresponsible and unethical view of its responsabilities. Look at Gimp post in this thread.

If Google business is about public content search/indexing, if that public content costs money to its owners in fact I think Google owe seomething to content owners. At least Google should have an ethical and respectfull behaviour.

Let me ask you one thing Gimp. If you had a website with REAL written contents (not copy/paste things) in a sector like movies/tv (entertainment) and the advertisement you have is negotiated by YOU (you don't use Google AdSense neither that smileys/Jamba/screensaver campaigns), what would you do if WITHOUT ANY reason Google cut traffic to you and make you disappear from results in a country/language Google has 99% of market share?

I'll tell you what might happen in this REAL and SERIOUS world. You are competting again competers with Google traffic. Advertisers will get a look at the numbers and you loss SERIOUS advertisement to your competition and you can't do NOTHING about it because Google is unbalancing the market laws by creating unfair advantages of some against others.


 5:57 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

If you are dependant on Google, or any search engine, it's your fault, not theirs.

If a SE is sending you traffic and you don't do all you can to use that traffic to generate non-SE traffic as well as more immediate goals like making a sale, you're setting yourself up for algo-angst. That's not the SEs fault, it's yours.

If you didn't consider, or better yet focus on the traffic generation value of the links you went after as opposed to the ranking value, that's your fault, not the SEs.

If your friends, family, customers and business associates aren't refering people to your site/business withoout you asking them to, it isn't their fault, it's yours.

If you chose to live by the SE, you need to be prepared to die by the SE, that isn't the SEs fault, it's yours.

The search engines owes you nothing from the free serps, but they do make handy targets for a little blame shifting.


 6:17 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

ken_b >>

Although I agree with the basis of your comments, one has to consider the fact that Google is NOT free for many, who pay for AdWords. This commercial advertising supports the search engines, and a bonus from it is some 'free advertising' by means of being represented in the SERP's.

However, as you quite rightly state, Google owes very little to webmasters, either informational or commercial except for the fact that Google wouldn't exist unless it had entries to list in the SERP's [i.e. websites]

A balance is always required in any commercial enterprise. Search engines are a part of that balance, and many will argue as to how much emphasis one puts on SE's supplying our business needs. I am not talking about those websites who rely 100% on PPC adverts on their sites, but general commercial sites, who must develop a spread of media to supply their needs, and not rely on a single source.

Google can be fantastic as a source of income, but because of its nature and vulnerability issues for webmasters, looking elsewhere for business opportunities is a must.Blaming Google for downfall is self destructive, as so much reliance upon Google in the first place is perhaps the initial error.

Much negativity is spoken on here regarding Google, and perhaps some of it is just, but the vast majority is self inflicted due to lack of foresight and planning.


 6:22 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)


From you talk I suppose that you don't have laws against unfair trade conditions in your country. In my country and I think that in the whole European Union there are laws that regulate market functioning, that's why Microsoft has pennalties in European Union, did you know?

This is what I'm talking about. What you said is true however it is not what I was talking about. Google has no right to benefit A instead of B without telling why A is better than B. You know very well (you are a Senior Member) that Google is not clear about his rules and he wouldn't need to publicly publish his algo source code to play fair trade in the Internet... Google only needs to give some FAIR support to webmasters in spite of mess things even more and create even more black hat followers, which is a never ending problem...


 6:29 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

In the biological world there are small to minute organisms that depend on a large organism for their survival - things like intestinal flora, for example, or on a larger scale, those tiny birds that pick ticks from a rhino's hide. The large organism also depends on having a host of these smaller organisms around, but it doesn't require any specific one -- just a good size colony, no matter which specific individuals are there at the moment.

This is a lot like an individual site and free search engine results. It's important to see our reality for what it is, and not for what we would wish. Most of us are small birds or even micro-organisms in this online ecology.

The current moment at Google has hurt many online businesses, and this was not apparently anything intentional on their part. The rhino just rolled over accidentally and caused some damage - it's a matter of scale.


 6:44 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, if they do not fix their relevancy issues with searches they will also be hurting themselves as people will soon flock to yahoo/msn to search.


 6:59 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Brett had pretty good advice in this thread from 2003. I've always followed this and never had a major income drop (knock on wood) despite having various sites go up and down in the rankings over the years.



 7:40 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

An element rarely mentioned, even in a topic such as this one, is the relative immaturity of Google as a business.

When you look back over the development of SEs it is easy to have a go at Yahoo! who made some spectacularly bad predictions about where the web was going. Since the advent of Google they have never recovered. In actual fact Yahoo were just another young company making stupid mistakes.

I believe all we are seeing is Google doing the same. Despite watching them for the last few years they seem to have no real plan.

Interestingly many of the Google apologists on here slate webmasters who imply their main source of traffic (and therefore revenue) is one single SE: Google. Yet Google only have one source of revenue themselves: adverts. Given the general trend away from advertising based sites to community-style ones, this is hardly a recipe for long-term success. And they know it. Alarmingly for them, so do Wall St.

Anyway, the point of this ramble is as follows:

1) Google aren't that good - it's unacceptable in most industries to blithely ignore the people who provide the means for you to trade, and it never lasts. Webmasters and other content providers have little option at the moment, but the slow build up of resentment will find a release one way or another.

2) Communication - It is commonplace for immature companies to not understand the value of communication - Google are particularly bad at this (are we really to believe the only way they can communicate monolithic updates is through some guys blog? Can you imagine IBM, NASA, Microsoft, British Petroleum etc., etc. doing this?). They are in the relatively unique position of being very rich and powerful without really having worked for it over a long period of time, and that creates arrogance.

3) A lot of their antics are marketing - I simply refuse to believe that a company with their money and resources need to take two or three weeks to update their index, mess around with TBPR etc. All of this can be done silently. This is an implicit form of advertising, and, frankly, an attempt to artificially inflate their own influence (something we all get penalized for!). Silent Running should be the goal, and it isn't happening.

4) Snobbishness - A lot of newbie's are shot down in flames the minute they mention being reliant on Google. It sounds great to say a real business has multiple sources of revenue etc., but it's hardly practical. Google are currently the biggest, and do an unbelievably bad job of helping content providers. Why is this tolerated? I reckon snobbery plays a large part. Those who have The Knowledge are enjoying their little moment of power. In reality they are often as ignorant as the rest of us in my view. Grasping at rumour in an attempt to look knowlegeable. I have no problems with discussion, this is a forum after all, but I reckon we are beginning to see some of the snobbishness/fascism that characterizes the DMOZ forums. People clinging to something much bigger than them, desperate to be right.

Google can to a great extent rely on many people apologizing on their behalf. "Your search results are crap" because you don't understand kind of thing. But what's to understand about a website bouncing around from page 1 to page 4 in a single day? What's to understand about you sticking to the rules, but the Number 1 guy is buying links? Once that kind of thing becomes explainable (it's evidently you, not them etc.) then it is getting pretty desperate.

5) Fueled by ignorance - There's many people clinging to the belief that Google know what they are doing. I mean, look at all those PhDs, they must be in control of all this. Yet we get Matt Cutts asking for feedback about stuff they're tinkering with? Is this the actions of a solid bunch of experts, confident in their approach? Or do they realize that their market is so hungry for the slightest insight that they can be readily exploited? If, as some will no doubt claim, this is actually a form of interaction between Google's movers and shakers and the SEO/Webmaster community why is there no equivalent 2-way dialogue about canonical issues, or about the devastating effect of AdSense?


So, in my view, this is all doomed. Despite my site doing well I have a great deal of sympathy for newcomers who just don't get it. There's nothing to get. The Big Entity we are relying on simply does not care. When the light inevitably moves on I suspect anyone who looks through the archives of Webmasterworld will be amazed that a super-rich company was able to persuade so many people how skilled it was, in light of so much evidence to the contrary. Canonical issues anyone?


 7:46 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well, if they do not fix their relevancy issues with searches they will also be hurting themselves as people will soon flock to yahoo/msn to search.

There's an expression for that: "out of the frying pan and into the fire."


 8:12 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I usually only follow the posts and rarely post myself because I think it's pointless of me to cry about my lose of customers evertime google does an update, but I hate to hear everyone sticking up for google's "not oweing the seo's anything". I am no longer going to be taking out adwords on their site. They had the nerve to send an email asking why I no longer am using their adwords and I let them have it.
I'd like to see the look on their shareholders faces if some of you big money advertisers go to one of their meetings and tell them you're pulling your adwords because of their lack of respect for the people who put them where they are in the first place.
I'll tell you what really stinks is that there used to be many search engines out there, so if one didn't list you well, no problem. Google's buying them all up, and if they don't give you good pr then you're screwed. So, I think with them monopolizing the market, they do owe me something!


 8:21 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Given the general trend away from advertising based sites to community-style ones...

It was a very good post regarding the Internet business youth but...
Did you mean everything on the Internet will be free or without adverting or both?
Did you mean there will be no proffesional writers or journalists and all the content will be created by community's members?

I'd really like to hear your ideas because you seems to be very prospective.


 8:42 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

<Google does not owe you a thing. They are in the business of earning money for their shareholders and not offering you a free living.>

LOL...how much was it that G floated for again? 7 billion? Did they get that by selling an index with no sites in it?

Google got an awful lot of money out of our symbiotic relationship - I don't think it would hurt to consider those whose site constitute the (golden-egg laying) index in the first place.
Having said that they seem to be as dismissive of their money investors, so maybe it's just a Google thang! :)


 9:10 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

Did you mean everything on the Internet will be free or without adverting or both?

No, not quite. I was referring to a general trend; namely a decentralized model based on multiple nodes, something of a dream on the web since its' inception. By implication this would mean monolithic, centralized entities, like search engines, may become less relevant.

A current example of this is Meta-RSS aggregators which filter through many RSS feeds on your behalf. This information is of course pushed to the user, an altogether more difficult model to monetize because you don't visit anywhere to get it.

Therefore advertising has a place, but perhaps not using the model Google employs.

Google's admission of poor results

Google lists relevant info, and then places ads alongside it in the hope of generating revenue. However, Google's eminence is based on relevance, and getting you where you want to go. But if the adverts are also topic-relevant then surely that means some of the information returned by Google is either irrelevant (which we already see), or useful stuff is just missing? Otherwise the adverts themselves wouldn't add anything useful - in other words if Google worked the way they say it does there would be no need for adverts since the information would be found free of charge.

The point being the entire basis for their empire is on very thin ice. They very existence of advertising alongside free SERPs is an implicit admission of failure.

Open Source

As for everything being free etc., no, I don't think that's realistic. But then again I doubt anyone would have predicted the rise of Open Source software development, people doing stuff for the hell of it.

The important point for me is that a number of people have raised issues about Google in terms of unfairness and generally sloppy business practices. This makes them an ideal target, much in the same way Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and IBM were with Open Source. I'm not sure that things would pan out quite like this, but not communicating with content providers, and generally treating people with utter contempt as Google do does not create a firm basis for long-term growth. Rather, you are little more than flavor of the month, used by many because there's nothing better.

Trans-Atlantic differences

Another element worth considering is trans-Atlantic differences. At the risk of offending anyone, many of the concepts discussed online regarding advertising (and its place) are very Americo-centric. A few people have implied slight differences as to how things operate in Europe, and this is perhaps a useful factor to consider.

In the US advertisers rule absolutely. All TV programmes have sponsors for example, and many people want to develop the internet along similar lines. This is not as prevalent elsewhere. In the UK, for example, on the BBC television network all advertising is banned. It is simply not allowed. No ads between shows, no words from sponsors etc. And they produced the BBC news website, the gold standard for news anywhere. So perhaps the idea of zero advertising, combined with professionals is not so unrealistic.


 9:13 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

To Everyone ... thanks for keeping this discussion going.

To Tedster, many thanks for your contributions ... you know you've got a good forum when the administrators get involved.

To those who think that Google owe nothing to the SEO's and Website Owners ... What about all of those massively inflated search queries that we spend all of our time doing? I bet the figures get sold as prosepective customers to the people that Google rope into paying for their listings. If Webmasters stopped searching for their favourite keyphrases there would be a serious fall in those numbers and likewise in Google's credibility.

To those of you who think Google's main responsibility is to their searchers ... you're right. So tell me how I can search for some local service and find a top ten filled with spammers, linkers and crammers just trying to sell a listing on their site. Absolutely no value in these sites getting listed, and yet they constantly crowd the top ten positions thanks to dirty tricks [That even I can find].

As a final point ... Google is supposed to be a highly technologically advanced search engine, with an almost unfathomable algorythm. So why do they still have to rely on us to report cheats? Surely they should be able to program out these webwasters without damaging small innocent websites in the process. If they can't, they don't deserve their title as the best.

All the Best

Col :-)


 9:31 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

What about all of those massively inflated search queries that we spend all of our time doing? I bet the figures get sold as prosepective customers to the people that Google rope into paying for their listings. If Webmasters stopped searching for their favourite keyphrases there would be a serious fall in those numbers and likewise in Google's credibility.

How much revenue does Google earn from those "massively inflated search queries"?

If Google thought there was any marketing value in massively inflated search queries, its Webmaster guidelines wouldn't say "Don't send automated queries to Google."


 10:05 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)


That's it! No more... No Less...


 11:26 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I wonder How many pages does google/msn/yahoo have indexed and wonder what % are spam?

Would rather have a small and relevant index than a large and spammed index... All of us webmasters should pick out a few specific keywords to query in all engines and see what the % of spam and the relevancy % to the keyword.


 11:55 pm on Mar 11, 2006 (gmt 0)

I am astounded we keep going over this same question season after season and there are still people who make their living from the 'net who continue to tow the "Google is good and owes you nothing" line.

WE are the internet. We produce the content that IS the web. Google is a scavenger that makes its living from repackaging our product. Without us, there is no Google, but they know that in the fragmented, competitive world of independent websites, there will never be an organized movement to ban their bots, thereby putting an end to their business.

The busines model analogy for Google is TV Guide when it provided the majority of North Americans with their TV listings (that near monopoly gone now with satelite online guides, etc.). However, unlike Google, TV Guide did not choose to arbitrarily exclude certain stations or networks from its listings, not constantly screw up their listings.

So, in fact Google owes us EVERYTHING as we provide them with 100% of their search product. In return, they can't even deliver consistent traffic, let alone provide any sort of customer service to anyone but the expedia's of the world.

Google's only strength is marketing; their search product is inferior to both MSN and Yahoo and the frequency of their total screwups is mind boggling. However, like Macdonalds, the quality of their product seems to have little impact on their appeal to consumers... at least so far.


 12:07 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

So perhaps the idea of zero advertising, combined with professionals is not so unrealistic.

The resources have to come from somewhere; quality work doesn't just appear out of thin air. I presume taxes have something to do with funding the BBC?


 12:20 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

>>>The resources have to come from somewhere; quality work doesn't just appear out of thin air. I presume taxes have something to do with funding the BBC? <<<

The BBC is funded by UK licence payers. Every user of a TV in the UK HAS to pay a licence fee to fund the BBC whether you watch BBC or not. About $200 a year.

All non BBC channels rely on advertising in the same way as the states.


 12:26 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

As a non professional SEO here is MHO. Don't put all your eggs in one basket. You may have great rankings today, and tomorrow they may be gone.

It seems to me like everyone wants to blame the SEs (especially Google) when rankings are lost. The problem is yours, and mine IMHO.

Don't rely on any SE. Look for other sources to market your site. If you depend on Google you will be disappointed at some time.


 12:32 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)

My answer to them is what use or value is Google if you can't rely on them for business?

I'm always curious when I see this sentiment: have you ever run a retail business before in your life? If so,

  • What good are magazine ads if they can't guarantee what reader response they'll generate for you every month?
  • What good is press coverage if they can't guarantee what reader response they'll generate?
  • What good is word-of-mouth if the response it generates isn't stable, reliable, and predictable?

but last year many small businesses got hit

Am I missing something here? Is this not basic math? Every year, more small businesses are savvy enough to start trying to get traffic from Google. Thus, the demand for Google traffic continues to increase for the foreseable future. But (and here comes the math part) there's only 10 businesses that can be on page#1 for a given search term.

Thus, I can state with absolute certainty:

next year, many small businesses will get hit
the year after that, many small businesses will get hit

If I wasn't on page 1 for my favorite search term last year, but I am this year, then guess what? Some other small business got hit.

I'm gonna make me up some T-shirts with the Google logo on them and the title "In the end, there can be only 10."

Come on guys, it's increasing competition for only 10 slots. Is it really so hard to grasp what the outcome of those forces will look like?


 12:47 am on Mar 12, 2006 (gmt 0)


I think you also don't get it. What you told is true however we are not only speaking about the 10 first positions. We are speaking about websites disappear COMPLETELLY from SERPS without having done nothing wrong.

I'm going to put it in numbers. Google gives access to the first 1000 results for a given keyword, right? From one day to the other you are not in those 1000 first results and when you try to find a fix for that the major feedback you get is like:
- Google doesn't owe anything.
- You surelly did something wrong! (when the person who tells you this knows very well that almost everything in Google is not as good as everybody thinks it is...)
- Variations in SERPS are normal. (yeah! WE ALL have seen that in cases like BMW.de's)

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