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Google sued for banning sites - possible class action
goodroi

WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 12:28 am on Mar 18, 2006 (gmt 0)

In an attempt to force Google to reveal information about their ranking method, KinderStart filed a civil complaint against Google and is trying to get class action status in order to represent all sites that Google has banned.

[washingtonpost.com...]

Too early to say if this attempt will make any progress. It is interesting to notice the increasing number of lawsuits against the search engines as the Internet has become mainstream and people better understand the online economics.

 

Hanu

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 6:11 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

True genius at work. This is the best way of promoting a crappy site I have ever come across. I'm sure their traffic is going stellar. Of course they'll lose, but who cares?

Mr_Fern

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 6:43 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This whole thing is ridiculous, plain and simple.

I don't see where they could get the notion that Google's required to list you on THEIR engine. Some people don't even WANT to be listed by search engines, and block them. But like others have said, it will give them some publicity. I really worry about the state of some people's minds.

ispy



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 7:59 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I dont know about the legal validity of the court action, but the claim is correct. It has long been my belief that sites who are heavy adwords advertisers are eventually knocked of front page listings, or sometimes blacklisted for no apparent reason. If there was reason enough to ban a site from seach results, why don't they ban it from adwords also?

MsHuggys

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 8:00 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

This is without a doubt the most idiotic thing I have seen.

1. If you get free traffic, you can only expect it until I decide not to give to it you any more. It is free, at my discretion. Many seem to forget that, and think free search engine traffic is their God given right. Think again.

2. You sue a company for free publicity, and that moves you from an Alexa of 260,000+ to 83,000+ almost overnight. On the surface, to many posters in this thread, that is suppose to be the advantage. Think again.

3. While you get a ton of traffic, it is not targeted traffic, and all it does it suck up your bandwidth. You get no sales from visitors who just come to gawk at the train wreck. Who would want to ride on the train, laying in pieces on the track? I guess they never thought of that.

4. Why in the world would you sue Google when you have
Adsense on your site? This is so very unbelievable, I can only say the words "hairy coconuts" to sum it up.
Another thing not really very well thought out, much like their seo.

5. Given the failures of this site, why in the world would you bring your failures to the attention of the world?

The site management backs up Google ranking loss. It is a SEO 101 "How To Fail At SEO Without Really Trying" lesson. It is just one fiasco after another throughout the site.

Come on Google, kick their fannys out of Adsense, after all.... at this point is a comflict of interest. You do not sleep with those you are in litigation with...and that is Consumer Litigation 101.
Did the attorney actually look at the site and advise their client that they might get booted out of Adsense? The next thing you know they will sue Adsense saying they lost money because they didn't get good enough ads to make any money.

Actually... with all the inflated untargeted hits to the site, that should make the CTR so low, they could be cancelled for that alone. They have willfully inflated their traffic by filing the lawsuit, and bringing all the untargeted traffic to their site. They have Adwords advertisers getting a low CTR and that hurts them.

Lemme see. I fail to go to university, I fail to learn how to run my business so let me sue the university across the street, because they were there, but I didn't learn anything, because they wouldn't let me enroll me for free.

Kinderstart. You sue the person responsible in an injury, and that person is YOU. You just keep shooting yourself in the foot over and over again. Close it up and go work at a day care center. You will fit right in there with all the fussy baby crying and whining.

Beachboy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 9:16 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<<Google is too big now to be making life altering decisions about the ranking of websites without giving the site owners a reasonable opportunity to make the necessary modifications, and to that end, I hope this KinderStart suit will force the change. Everyone will come out ahead -- including Google.>>

Well stated, Reno.

Miop

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 10:53 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<free publicity>

Is litigation free in the US then?

Miop

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 10:54 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<They have willfully inflated their traffic by filing the lawsuit>

ROFL

LostOne

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 11:50 am on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I didn't read all the threads but have to wonder how can somebody sue another when "the goods" they recieved were free? Free meaning no cost to be in the G index and goods meaning SERP positions.

Bunch of wah wah's if you ask me.

luckychucky

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 12:03 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Google can no longer just do what it wants because they want to, just as MS cannot suddenly decide to put out an operating system that only runs IE and nothing else, because it's "their toy".

Except that Google provides a free service and has earned its preeminence in the market by virtue of sheer excellence at what it does - not (as far as I'm aware) by such classic monopolistic techniques as buying out competitors or price-fixing.

Aside from simply being the 400-pound gorilla of search engines, to the best of my knowledge Google has not and still does not do anything to destroy competition or limit Internet surfers' choice of alternatives. The field is still wide open - should you happen to have a more brilliant search algorithm.

G steals (i.e. takes without permission) and reproduces your actual content

Actually, Google creates a card-catalog of whatever everyone has freely posted and thrown to the virtual winds, outside of required subscriptions or log-ins...

Let's say I publish a newsletter about, oh, dog shows. And let's say I don't include your dog show in my show calendar because I think your show lacks much of any real interest to my readers, because I think your dog show is not up to snuff, and is just not really worth attending. Can you sue me?

Miop

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 12:16 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<Actually, Google creates a card-catalog of whatever everyone has freely posted and thrown to the virtual winds, outside of required subscriptions or log-ins...>

My website source-code is in Google's cache (some of it going back for over two years and superceded long ago)
That, as far as I am concerned is a reproduction of my source code. If I removed my site from Google, that source code would remain there.

<Let's say I publish a newsletter about, oh, dog shows. And let's say I don't include your dog show in my show calendar because I think your show lacks much of any real interest to my readers, because I think your dog show is not up to snuff, and is just not really worth attending. Can you sue me? >

Google is not a newsletter, and in any case, people apply to be in newsletters or they are asked if they want to be.
How about, someone copies your entire site behind your back and republishes it under another URL?
Oops...I believe they are called 'scrapers'! :)

percentages

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 12:33 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

BigDave in msg #:32 is right on the money.

There is no legal remedy. The solution to those that don't like the situation is to vote with your feet.

If you turn out to be in a small minority.....well....bad luck! Democracy never works out for all!

Miop

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 12:37 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

<There is no legal remedy.>

I believe that's true - I don't see how it could be accuratley predicted what the traffic would have been had G not changed the ranking.

rkhare

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 1:39 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

as there are numerous other search engines, and any user is free to switch, one can't argue that Google is a monopoly

but the reality is that google is a monopoly

I guess I should sue DMOZ for not listing all my sites.

me too

Yes, and I'm really mad at the NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW for not reviewing my last book.

I would like to sue US/UK govt's for not endorsing my passport with their visa ;)

kevinpate

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 2:04 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

> but the reality is that google is a monopoly

One might fare better trying to convince the masses that the sun rises in the west each morn. Google is many things, but a monopoly? Sorry. What is reality is this:
there has never been a day, nor an hour, nor
a single minute, where one could correctly
assert that G is a monopoly.

rkhare

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 2:45 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

there has never been a day, nor an hour, nor
a single minute, where one could correctly
assert that G is a monopoly.

the sheer number of pro/anti google threads on this forum proves that at the moment its not possible to survive in the i-world today without being in google, so google is a monopoly

almost all the SEO work is done to satisfy googlebot....... why? coz if you are in google, you dont need to be anywhere else. (true atleast in 90% of cases, 1 in 10 may be different) and 90% market is monopoly in true sense

If google is not a monopoly in SE's thn let's request to delete the word monopoly from dictionary

luckychucky

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 3:36 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well I must admit, according to Wikipedia's definition Google sure does seem to have a monopoly. Whether that's got legal implications or not is another question, though:

[en.wikipedia.org...]

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 4:02 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

When this tread started, my entire knowledge of the lawsuit was based on a news story. Now that the actual complaint can be downloaded and reviewed, it is difficult to be enthusiastic that this will be the agent of change. Dismissal -- as has been noted -- is the likely outcome, so in all probability the status quo is not improved via legal recourse.

Having said that, I would hope that the PTB at Google will wake up and smell the coffee -- there is a problem with any system that arbitrariily punishes websites by significantly dropping them in rank for no discernable reason. If it's not a legal wrong, then it is a moral wrong. As I have said repeatedly, this is not all theoretical SEO fun and games -- people's incomes are literally at risk -- Google unquestionably does have that much power.

Google can fix this without disclosing their algorithm, and come out looking like the "enlightened startup" that they were once described as being. They would not need to notify people of a rank drop through email, postal mail, or telephone. All they would have to do is to expand their current sitemap.xml program to allow for an "alert" in the Stats > Crawl Stats tab. Next to the alert, put a brief explanation.

Example:

03-17-2006
ALERT ==> Hidden keywords found in one or more pages.
You have 10 days to make corrections or your pagerank may suffer a drop.

Google will have given fair warning -- it is up to each webmaster to take responsibility for keeping up with their own status. Either the site owner does something about it, or they don't. And if they don't, then there can be no complaint.

This one suggested change would go a long way towards putting the entire issue to rest, and it is easily within their existing architecture to do it. If it ever happens, we all come out ahead.

.....................................

Freedom

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 4:25 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

CNN Europe is running a short blurb in the marquee on this, but they are showing the WRONG domain name. They are calling it: KinderSuit, not KinderStart.

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 4:28 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Reno:

1) Google has already published its Webmaster guidelines.

2) It isn't Google's responsibility to provide consulting services to SEOs and their clients.

3) Point 2 notwithstanding, Google is already using or testing a program that e-mails Webmasters of otherwise legitimate sites (my italics) to warn of possible problems. To me, that makes a lot more sense than your proposed solution (which would favor SEOs and their clients over non-SEO'd sites, and which would help spammers see what they could get away with).

Sparkys_Dad

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 4:52 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

"While Google's decision to intentionally deviate [sic] from its mathematical algorithm in decreasing SearchKing's PageRank may raise questions about the 'truth' of the PageRank system, there is no conceivable way to prove that the relative significance assigned to a given web site is false. A statement of relative significance, as represented by the PageRank, is inherently subjective in nature. Accordingly, the Court concludes that Google's PageRanks are entitled to First Amendment protection."

"SearchKing consciously accepted the risk of operating a business that is largely dependent on a factor (PageRank) over which it admittedly has no control. The fact that the company with sole control over that factor has unilaterally changed the impact that the factor has on SearchKing's business cannot give rise to a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations."

Game over.

TammyJo

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 5:30 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I agree with what someone else said. How can they have adsense slapped at the top of their page...and still be suing Google.

Maybe they figure if they get banned from Adsense the can create another buzz by suing them for banning because they were suing them....vicious publicity cycle:)

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 5:53 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

europeforvisitors:

I agree with your #2 -- it is not their legal responsibility. What I'm talking about here is making the service more user-friendly and less punishing. I'm floating possible solutions to what is an obvious problem for a lot of people.

Also, as I'm sure you know, anyone -- webmaster, SEO'er, or siteowner -- can get a free Google account for sitemap.xml, and it takes very little knowledge to learn how to use it properly.

Too hard for most people? That is not Google's problem either. All I'm suggesting is "fair warning". If you think a simple "fair warning" is asking too much of one of the world's richest multinational corporations -- and most powerful online company -- then I guess we disagree.

Re the possible email notification that you referenced, good for them if that's the way they go -- I was simply trying to suggest an approach that works within an existing architecture.

....................................

Rollo

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 6:48 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I do hope this motivates Google to be more clear about possible pitfalls and known problems from their end. Most webmasters are white hat by nature, but may do what appear to Google as black hat moves out of ignorance. Google should keep a page of known issues and pitfalls for webmasters with clear examples, i.e. a door way page is defined as... it has the following characteristics... here is an example of a doorway page...

At present, all we have is an extremely vague "Information for Webmasters" page, forums full of unproven speculations along with a lot of misinformation, and some Matt Cutts input that is useful but leaves about a thousand stones unturned.

HiltonHead

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 7:10 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

KinderStart, a Norwalk-based Web site devoted to information about children, says it was dropped from Google's index a year ago without warning.

How does one join this lawsuit?

europeforvisitors



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 7:15 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

What I'm talking about here is making the service more user-friendly and less punishing.

User-friendly is fine. I don't see why Google should be "less punishing" toward sites of questionable value that practice borderline SEO tactics, though. Fighting search spam is obviously a tremendous expense for Google, so why shouldn't Google take a hardnoses attitude toward Webmasters and SEOs whose tactics suck money from Google's bottom line?

JayC

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 7:26 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

"SearchKing consciously accepted the risk of operating a business that is largely dependent on a factor (PageRank) over which it admittedly has no control. The fact that the company with sole control over that factor has unilaterally changed the impact that the factor has on SearchKing's business cannot give rise to a claim for tortious interference with contractual relations."

That, from the Search King dismissal,says it all in response to the "people's incomes are at stake" cries in response to any ranking changes. Incomes are at stake if people have made the decision to make their incomes dependent not on how well they do their jobs but on a factor they do not control and do not understand. Neither Google nor society at large is reponsible for guaranteeing those incomes.

>> How does one join this lawsuit?

Assuming that's a serious question, the way class actions work is that the Court will have to accept the application to be certified as a class. If that happens, the qualifications to join the class will be specified, as will the mechanism for formallly joining it.

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 7:32 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

I completely agree with what Rollo just said:
I do hope this motivates Google to be more clear about possible pitfalls and known problems from their end. Most webmasters are white hat by nature, but may do what appear to Google as black hat moves out of ignorance.

Google is obviously a good company -- perhaps even a great company -- but they are not a perfect company. What made them successful to begin with was delivering quality search results, then they became a world-class online player because they went beyond any "legal responsibility" and offered enhanced services. So far, so good.

Forums like this serve as a "canary in the coal mine", because it gives a heads-up when there are problems. Right now, Google's unprecedented prominence on the WWW puts them in a position where they can literally cripple a small business in a matter of weeks/months. That is an awesome place to be, and if they were wise, they would recognize that threads such as this one indicate that the canary is not as healthy as it could be (I have no idea if they monitor this or any other forum, and I've never met anyone who works for Google).

So they can ignore the problem and hope it goes away -- it won't -- or do what has brought them to their current prominence -- deal with it. All that some of us are asking is that they deal with it. If they don't, then I predict that dis-satisfaction will grow among the base, and as any politician knows, the last thing you want to do is to lose your base.

.....................................

joeduck

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 8:29 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Great posts Reno.

With great wealth and power go great responsibility.

Google is an excellent, sincere company. They ALSO have much MORE of a responsibility than they currently acknowledge to address search related issues for the *hundreds of thousands* of companies that now rely on Google organic listings for some portion of their income.

I doubt the courts will find that they have a legal responsibility, but I'm hoping Google starts to realize they have a community responsibility and they need more guys like the most excellent Matt Cutts out there answering questions and asking for input.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 8:42 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

Well I must admit, according to Wikipedia's definition Google sure does seem to have a monopoly.

Google fails the test for even the first paragraph of the Wikipedia definition of monopoly.

There is plenty of competition; there are viable alternatives (that don't involve search engines). When sites are hurt by falling down in results (or not showing up) it is because they have made themselves solely reliable on Google.

gregbo

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 8:49 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

They ALSO have much MORE of a responsibility than they currently acknowledge to address search related issues for the *hundreds of thousands* of companies that now rely on Google organic listings for some portion of their income.

I don't see how they have any more responsibility than they currently accept. Google spiders sites, ranks them, and provides them to searchers at their (Google's) own expense.

JayC

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4469 posted 8:54 pm on Mar 19, 2006 (gmt 0)

>> All that some of us are asking is that they
>> deal with it. If they don't, then I predict
>> that dis-satisfaction will grow among the
>> base, and as any politician knows, the last
>> thing you want to do is to lose your base.

Sometimes politicians seem to lose sight of who "their base" really is. Sometimes search engine observers do the same thing.

Google's "base" consists of the people who use the site to do searches, not those who create websites.

My widget site is ranked first today for a particular widget-based phrase. There are 100,000 widget sites that could be returned, but mine's at the top. I'm happy because I'm making a lot of widget money; Google's users are happy I offer a good selection and reasonable prices, so they like the results they get at Google. My biggest competitor is unhappy; even though his selection and prices are as good as mine, he's on page two.

Now, if next month those results are switched, he's going to be happy. Google's visitors are still going to be happy -- they're still getting a site returned that meets their needs. The fact is there are over a hundred of us widget sites that could be at the top of the listings and still leave the users happy.

So now I'm unhappy. My income has dropped drastically. Can I blame Google? Not at all -- they're still doing what they're supposed to do, satisfying their base. The fact that they had me at the top of the listings for a few months doesn't mean they owe it to me to always be there. They have no responsibility to protect my income -- that responsibility is all mine.

Fortunately when I started this widget site I kept my real job as a gizmo salesman, so I'm not going to get evicted. And of course I still have two other sites bringing in a little cash -- I have to figure out how to increase my widget site traffic... hmm, or maybe start up my own gizmo site.

Or maybe I should sue Google for infringing on my Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to tell people about my widgets.

[edited by: JayC at 8:55 pm (utc) on Mar. 19, 2006]

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