|New York Times Article about Google|
There was an op-ed piece in the New York Times the other day titled "Search, but You May Not Find [nytimes.com]"
By ADAM RAFF
Published: December 27, 2009
It basically sums up the feelings that many of us here have.
Here is a brief section from the article:
|"Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s new Bing have become the Internet’s gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical network itself. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond network neutrality and include “search neutrality”: the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance. |
The need for search neutrality is particularly pressing because so much market power lies in the hands of one company: Google. With 71 percent of the United States search market (and 90 percent in Britain), Google’s dominance of both search and search advertising gives it overwhelming control. Google’s revenues exceeded $21 billion last year, but this pales next to the hundreds of billions of dollars of other companies’ revenues that Google controls indirectly through its search results and sponsored links.
One way that Google exploits this control is by imposing covert “penalties” that can strike legitimate and useful Web sites, removing them entirely from its search results or placing them so far down the rankings that they will in all likelihood never be found...."
I highly recommend reading it.
[edited by: tedster at 9:33 pm (utc) on Dec. 30, 2009]
[edit reason] added link to NYTimes [/edit]
I agree that there's a problem. I disagree that gov't guidelines are the way to solve the problem.
Webmasters still have the ability to turn the tide on Google. It's almost too late, but I don't think entirely too late. Or maybe it is too late and it's time for gov't intervention :).
But if it is time for gov't intervention, requiring this 'search neutrality' is bad bad bad. The article was clearly written by some one with a penalty so it's some sour grapes. But Google does need the ability to smack specific sites. None of us want to compete against blackhats operating without fear of retribution. The very idea makes me nervous - the blackhats I know are waaaaay to smart for me to want them in my niche with no fear of being penalized.
If the government wants government controlled search they should build their own search engine.
this bit sums up how we're all going to be affected in the end, even if we're totally whitehat.
|Another way that Google exploits its control is through preferential placement. With the introduction in 2007 of what it calls “universal search,” Google began promoting its own services at or near the top of its search results, bypassing the algorithms it uses to rank the services of others. Google now favors its own price-comparison results for product queries, its own map results for geographic queries, its own news results for topical queries, and its own YouTube results for video queries. |
there's been some good topics on webmasterworld about this exact thing the last couple of months. it's nice to see the press going into bat at last. (is the New York Times Murdoch owned?)
I read that OP-ED piece and thought it smacked of someone who wanted to complain about their penalty - if indeed it is truly a penalty. He shares no details, so it's hard to say.
Phrases like "search neutrality" have a high emotional appeal. However I haven't seen anyone come up with a good definition of what it could mean -- short of publishing the entire algorithm and that's not even close to practical. The author does not seem to understand what goes into search engine technology. There have already been court cases that say a search engine algo is an editorial opinion, and I feel that is a sane position.
This area of search transparency is a tough nut, because there is definitely a potential for abuse when any one search engine holds such a predominant market share. I don't claim to have the answer, except to applaud other competing search engines as they innovate.
I think the right approach would not be trying to preemptively stop the potential for abuse (enough government, already) but rather pursuing actual cases, if and when they show up. Somehow I don't think this particular author has a real case of abuse - just a case of either intentional spamming or maybe ignorance.
To me, the real way this is solved, like much of the problems in business, is competition.
Competition keeps companies on their toes.
One big factor with Google is their inability to communicate with webmasters in a useful and timely fashion.
As other competitors work to open the doors of communication and win allegiances of bigger players and the big audience, Google will have to change the way in which they address penalization - at least in the way they communicate with webmasters around this very gray and vague topic.
This is a case of a very unfortunate choice of op-ed writer by The NY Times. Yes, it is a case of sour grapes.
Among other things, the writer's site (which he describes in the op-ed piece, so I think it's fair to comment on it here), has serious duplicate content problems. His "vertical search and price-comparison site" appears largely to be a thin affiliate and lead generation site. If you disable the dupe filter, eg, Google returns 134 results for a quoted sentence in one of the site's product descriptions. Though there appears to be a review capability, in my quick inspection of the site I didn't see any actual reviews, nor anything that would qualify as unique content.
Duplicate content is an area where Google has been fairly transparent, but it does take some research... and yes, a site owner may be in some trouble if they don't do that research.
Instead of complaining on the NYT, the writer might have done better if he'd joined WebmasterWorld, done some reading here, and submitted his site for review in our site review section in the subscriber's area.
|This is a case of a very unfortunate choice of op-ed writer by The NY Times. |
A good point which unfortunately will diminish many of the important issues regarding Google that DO need to be publicly raised in a publication with the clout and the reach of the NYT.
Regulars here at WW have seen this discussed for years, and it boils down to too much power wielded by one company. As Cain said, real competition would go a long way to solving many (if not all) of these complaints.
Re the government, they are close to clueless. Two or 3 years ago I tried to have this discussion with a staff lawyer from the New York Attorney General's office, when Eliot Spitzer was still running the place. His basic core belief could be summed up as "Google would not do anything unethical". One more sheep as far as I'm concerned.
Other than Ivory Snow, has there ever been another company that has so successfully sold itself as 99.99% pure?
|...Instead of complaining on the NYT...joined WebmasterWorld |
MAINSTREAM ACCOUNTABILITY AND EXPOSURE is what is needed MOST right now.
I don't really care if this article was written because his kitty pi$$ed on his keyboard and he blamed Gorg instead.
Heck, this might be the first mainstream "Google is NOT God-like" piece ever published.
All the "complaining" done on WebmasterWorld, CNet, and other industry-specific online mags might as well be warning people there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2001.
"Like so much ashes in my mouth..." (10 pts to anyone who gets this reference..lol)
In other words, don't cut off your nose to spite your face, WEBMASTERS.
Bringing any awareness to Gorg's true monopolistic and privacy-predatory leanings to the general public is a GOOD THING.
Can't think of better place for MSM awareness about Gorg than NYT.
|Instead of complaining on the NYT, the writer might have done better if he'd joined WebmasterWorld, done some reading here, and submitted his site for review in our site review section in the subscriber's area. |
Do you really think the owner would get more traffic or free publicity that way? Let's see, $90 and Webmasters looking at your site or published in the NYT for free... Which is the better deal for traffic and publicity?
I'd say he found a creative way around a Google penalty, even if it may be an easy one to overcome...
I've had websites get front page mentions on the NYT - not just Op-Ed. The traffic did not do much good - just a spike for a couple days. Long term, I'll take solid rankings any day.
No matter what the author's purpose for writing, or the NY Times' purpose in printing it, this issue is now added to the general public discourse and that's a good thing.
|I've had websites get front page mentions on the NYT - not just Op-Ed. The traffic did not do much good - just a spike for a couple days. Long term, I'll take solid rankings any day. |
I'd assume this is the case, but at the same time, the rankings can still be fixed, where if they are corrected before the oped there's nothing to complain about, hence no extra traffic at all, or name recognition, or word of mouth discussion, or future use from those who looked and didn't buy right away but remembered what was offered.
I'd say if they correct the issue they got the best of both worlds...
|No matter what the author's purpose for writing, or the NY Times' purpose in printing it, this issue is now added to the general public discourse and that's a good thing. |
The points raised about Google everything were valid and people should be concerned. Just becasue they have the money and audience to devalue or kill off major brands does not mean it should be so.
I do not agree that there is an issue at all. People make the choice of which search engine to use. If one is better than another than that is the persons choice of who to use. It is a personal preference. I do think there should be more competition in the search market area, but no company has really stepped up to the plate yet to start a new search engine recently and the ones who have recently stepped up have failed because their product was inferior.
Isn't this guy simply angry at G because he got hit with a penalty? That's where he lost all credibility. And for all we know he could be using some black hat tricks to manipulate G. Indeed, it is scary how you can get hurt by G and how powerful G is now but it would be nice to hear from experts who have no vested interest. In the end, I don't think any of those points make sense since G is simply a company trying to maximize its revenue and fighting with its competitors. That is how all businesses work.
Raff makes a good point: Google can't show innovation.
Google has 10,000 Ivy League graduates with 4.3 GPAs, yet none of them, not one, has come up with an idea that makes money.
Google bought Adsense. Google stole Adwords and paid a billion dollars to settle the lawsuit. All of their other tools were either bought or are versions of already-existing tools.
What about the search engine itself? Isn't that an innovation? Actually, it's just a computerized version of bibliometrics, another already-existing idea. The search engine barely makes money, and certainly not enough to pay for the server farms.
Without Adwords, Google would not be able to pay for everything. It's in a very fragile situation: the entire empire depends on a single tool.
Raff is correct: Google can and does downrank sites. They play old testament god in their little sandbox. They decide what the results shall be and they choose the sites that will be there. They say it's according to the rules of the algorithm, but then it just becomes a matter of who controls the rules.
There's an old saying that goes, "if government is the answer, it must have been a really stupid question."
The last thing I want is a lumbering bureaucracy meddling in the search engines.
We all can have gripes about Google, but it's a private company and it apparently does what 71% of searchers want it to do. If it didn't, Bing wouldn't be in the 10% range.
|We all can have gripes about Google, but it's a private company and it apparently does what 71% of searchers want it to do. If it didn't, Bing wouldn't be in the 10% range. |
I actually take these numbers with a grain of salt... I could have missed something, but I haven't seen where any numbers take re-searches and similar searches into account. They also don't take into account those of us who use whatever search engine we have selected as a 'spell check' or 'calculator'.
It could be Google has such a high percentage of searches because they suck and people don't switch to other search engines right away, so they keep searching. (It might not be, but it's an example of how 'numbers' can be skewed from what's really going on and/or why the numbers are disproportionately high for one search engine over another.)
Yes, I know stats on many sites agree with the numbers, so it's probably not the case in the minds of most conducting searches, but I still think it's something to think about... I haven't looked lately, but there are also stats to show other search engines convert at a higher rate even though they don't send as much traffic, so while yes, I would agree Google has the biggest market share, numbers can be deceiving at times WRT actual conversions and giving people what they are looking for.
These are just some thoughts about all the 'market share' quotes. I think conversions per month, per visitor, per search engine would be a better number to go by for 'market control' rather than volume of searches...