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EU investigating Google for demoting rival sites in SERPS
np2003




msg:4165713
 11:25 am on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

BRUSSELS – The European Union's antitrust chief said Wednesday he is looking "very carefully" at allegations that Google Inc. unfairly demotes rivals' sites in search results.

Joaquin Almunia said in a speech that the EU investigation is still at an early stage but that officials were aware of the "importance of search to a competitive online marketplace."

He appeared to accept Google's arguments that it is hard to behave as a monopoly on the web, saying the fluid nature of the Internet may make it more difficult for powerful companies to elbow out other companies in new markets.

British price comparison site Foundem and French legal search engine ejustice.fr complained to the EU that they were ranked low in Google searches, claiming that this may be because they offer rival services to Google.

Google says its search results are entirely controlled by algorithms that demote sites with little useful content for users.

Low rankings matter because a higher ranking in a Google search drives higher volumes of traffic to websites.

[news.yahoo.com...]


Who wants to join a class action lawsuit from thousands of webmasters against Google? :P

 

Ujang




msg:4165731
 12:07 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

yeazza!

dertyfern




msg:4165732
 12:14 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

If "demoting" as site means Google places its properties above others, uhhhhm, yeah, they do it constantly.

maximillianos




msg:4165734
 12:22 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

The entitlement generation seems to span the continent.

Unbelievable.

[Note: not directed at anyone on this thread, just the companies involved in the lawsuit]

MrFewkes




msg:4165765
 1:29 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

"Google says its search results are entirely controlled by algorithms that demote sites with little useful content for users."

I would rather chew on silver tin foil and let it rub on my fillings for 10 hours than listed or read about anything google has to say - chewing on foil - for me - is more pleasant than reading something google spews out.

I stumbled across this and am reaching for the foil as we speak.

cien




msg:4165803
 2:28 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's a matter of when the US will do the same and take Google to task for putting Adwords ads at the top of the search results. That can't be more anti-competitive. Yahoo and Bing won't have a problem but Google most certainly will. Hope the government intervenes and teach them a lesson.

tedster




msg:4165830
 2:58 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure why this story is hitting the news cycle again - there's no movement on this case that I can see, and it began several months ago.

For some background, here's one earlier discussion about this case [webmasterworld.com]. A couple point jump out for me:

From a Telegraph article: "Whereas these penalties used to be reserved for spam, or sites caught attempting to cheat Google’s algorithms, they are now increasingly targeted at perfectly legitimate vertical search and directory services."

From mack's comment: "Out of the three companies involved one is owned by Microsoft and another receives funding from Microsoft... I honestly see no benefit to the user of being sent to a directory from a results page."

Here is some other coverage from the BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/8533551.stm]Google faces European competition inquiry [news.bbc.co.uk]

np2003




msg:4165852
 3:26 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

"Google says its search results are entirely controlled by algorithms that demote sites with little useful content for users."


That's hilarious. In my niche, the top 8 sites are owned by the same company who just spam the index with their affiliate sites, all of them have the same content, masked under a different design.

Why does Google permit sites with duplicate content?

canuck




msg:4165861
 3:34 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

He appeared to accept Google's arguments that it is hard to behave as a monopoly on the web, saying the fluid nature of the Internet may make it more difficult for powerful companies to elbow out other companies in new markets.


Eh? That sounds like a bunch of bunk from a politician's mouth (yes it was paraphrased from G).

graeme_p




msg:4165879
 4:08 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

macks comment is interesting. So MS first indirectly funded SCO who sued IBM and a few others who used Linux, and now more companies connected to MS sue Google.

I would be very glad to see search engines and directories out of the Google SERPS (unless my search phrase is "search engines" or "web directories"). It is disappointing that Google seems able to penalise lack of content, but not duplicate content across sites.

They claim they "may" have a low ranking because they offer rival services. MAY? Do they have evidence? I claim my sites lose rank because Google founders have a secret deal with Wikipedia. It MAY be true. Anything may.

@np2003, that is actually evidence that it all done by algos - a human would not be fooled by that! No one said the algos were perfect.

As I pointed out in another thread recently, even Google's own sites are sometimes beaten by spammer who copy their (user generated, in that case) content.

[edited by: graeme_p at 4:15 pm (utc) on Jul 7, 2010]

iThink




msg:4165880
 4:14 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google says its search results are entirely controlled by algorithms...


So what exactly are those thousands of Search Quality Evaluators doing?

graeme_p




msg:4165881
 4:18 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

@iThink, possibly

1) Removing sites, rather than ranking them
2) Providing data to improve the algo

brotherhood of LAN




msg:4165883
 4:21 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I remember a very large FTSE 250 listed company was booted for a number of major terms in 2007. An article appeared on the BBC noting this, and within a couple of days it was back to its #1 positions.

I wonder whether that was entirely algorithmic or hand-tweaked.

I'm 50/50 on the whole affair. It's Google's website, if they can't be allowed some flexibility on what they can put on their own website, then any EU ruling in favour of the complainant is stifling business rather than making it fair. (This is in regards to G injecting their own products into 'natural listings').

maximillianos




msg:4165884
 4:24 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

That is correct. I was a QA person for G many years ago. It was all about collecting data to help improve the algorithm.

I never saw any of my ratings directly affect serps.

gouri




msg:4165924
 5:14 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think one way to look at this situation is to consider the following:

Let's say a large nationwide drugstore chain put its own brand of soap on the top shelf and the soap produced by the large soap manufacturers on the shelf below it.

Can the large soap manufacturers sue the large nationwide drugstore chain for doing this or is the drugstore chain allowed to decide what soap it puts on what shelf?

willybfriendly




msg:4165940
 5:27 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google says its search results are entirely controlled by algorithms...


if $uri != "google";
$rankScore = $rankScore*.95;

Gee, I can write an algo too.

The above quote may or may not give an accurate picture of ranking algos. Certainly "automated" does not necessarily mean impartial - contrary to the corporate spin G offers.

Does G promote their own properties above others? Insufficient evidence in my opinion. Could an algo demote competitive sites? Definitely.

TheMadScientist




msg:4165945
 5:35 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Grrrrr... Business is business... This is like the other analogies or where all the yellow page listings (or even white page listings) are free and the phone company expands into another area and promotes their services over the free listings. It's their publication. (These businesses would be doing exactly the same thing.) Give it a rest...

The entitlement generation seems to span the continent.

+1 Yes.

Alcoholico




msg:4165949
 5:41 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Nothing here. G$$ is a just a company and companies have to get benefits or they disappear, it is their business, they own it and there's nothing illegal about advertising their own business. G$$ may be many things but it is not a monopoly, users have other options, if users are too stupid to use their options, that's a different story, but still options are there. If they want to judge G$$ they should do it on the basis of something illegal G$$ is really doing, like profiting from somebody and anybody else's contents, tracking users without their consent, disregarding users privacy rights, allowing stolen contents on their properties, etc., but not for promoting themselves or presenting the contents they want, the way they want, on their owned sites.

albo




msg:4165963
 5:55 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

GOOG has hinted that "another SE is just another click away". Is it ultimately true that GOOG has the right to return whatever search results they please? (It's THEIR search and THEIR site. Analogous to it's SJ's iPhone and SJ's "walled garden" for app-censoring?) Like it or lump it?

TheMadScientist




msg:4165988
 6:21 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's a bit better encapsulation of my opinion...

When businesses do this it's like the whiny pro athlete who argues every call made against them and every call not made for them. You know the ones who don't just 'play through it', but think they're better off or look better crying 'foul' every time something doesn't go their way, even if there wasn't one on the play.

It gets old... No one is entitled to be displayed on the first page of the results and no one is guaranteed of a spot, except Google, because it's their stinking website and they'd be stupid to not use it to make money.

ADDED

Think about the root, base argument these businesses are trying to make...

Google is using their website to promote their business, but they should be using it to promote ours... That's a foul! Bad Google! You can't do that... Yes, there are still ten results on the first page, and yes there are still ads on the first page, but it's such a foul for you to promote your business on your website and not promote ours higher we're going to sue you.

LMAO... Somehow, I think there's an SEO team somewhere trying to save their jobs and some lawyers who do what lawyers do... Bad Google! You can't use your website to promote your business... FOUL! I SAY FOUL!

kapow




msg:4166008
 7:07 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Which part of the algorithm awards Google PR10? That would be the bit where Google manually set Google with the highest possible PR

cien




msg:4166019
 7:20 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Guys, this is not a mom and pop op. here. The world doesn't work that way. There are anti-competition laws for a reason. Otherwise countries' economies could be brought down by these abusive businesses or hold a country hostage basically.

It's their business but they have a search monopoly and have a responsibility to be fair and follow the competition laws. The Adwords ads at the top of the search results scream "Anti-competitive" as hell as well as the their favoritism for Google Base listings. It's clear, they benefit financially from both and Google Base's products big G. favors them over other listings. In the case of Adwords, now they are basically forcing businesses to pay for Adwords or run out of business.

[edited by: cien at 7:40 pm (utc) on Jul 7, 2010]

TheMadScientist




msg:4166022
 7:22 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Which part of the algorithm awards Google PR10?

I'm really sorry if this is a serious question, but are you kidding?
Are you really asking which part of the algo awards PageRank?
If you are, that would be the PageRank part of the algo...

It's their business but they have a search monopoly and have a responsibility to allow competition.

It seems in the opinion of many, including those enforcing the law to date, they do... There are still 10 results on the first page. No one is guaranteed of a top spot, and since there are still competitive results on the page I think anyone is going to have a tough time winning the 'but we're not on the first page' argument.

HERE's a Crazy Thought:

If these businesses ever win and set a precedent for being entitled to a first page ranking for their business, mom and pop will never be found, because the top ten results will go to the businesses with the biggest budget and best legal team. As soon as a site(s) win an argument about how their not being on the first page of the SERPs is unfair all the little guys disappear from the game, period!

If you're not SEOing for a major corp, you should probably hope these businesses don't ever win, because if they do all a corp legal team will have to do is prove how they should be ranked above you (because they're more competitive) and you'll be replaced, legally, with no recourse and no one to cry to, because if there are still competitive results on the page and it's anti-trust to not show the biggest competitors then you'll have to be one of them to be there...

I'd think twice before hoping a business wins a case like this.

If a case like this is won with competitive results on the page I think most people here will cry themselves to sleep remembering when Google used to be able to rank sites based on an algo rather than competitiveness, because chance are there are 10 'more competitive' news sites than yours, 10 'more competitive' corporate blogs on your topic, 10 'more competitive' whatever type sites you run, and if they are forced to rank sites based on competitiveness, as soon as one of these sites publishes content on your topic you'll have to legally be replaced by their article or information or page on the topic, because if it's 'anti-trust' for Google to not show the 'most competitive business' on the first page of the results, there's a really good chance you lose, BIG!

[edited by: TheMadScientist at 7:56 pm (utc) on Jul 7, 2010]

cien




msg:4166034
 7:45 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Unless I'm not understanding correctly, I don't think this is about businesses being entitled to be on the first page but rather about Google abusing its power and favoring their products over others on search results. I mean, this case appears to be a slam dunk case. How many times you search for a product on Google and Google Base is at the top when other price comparison search engines, over SEO'd or plain amateurish stores rank #2 or nowhere to be found even though they have the product... I've been noticing this for years.

[edited by: cien at 8:12 pm (utc) on Jul 7, 2010]

TheMadScientist




msg:4166036
 7:50 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

So, you're saying a business can say it's not right for a Google result to show above another result?

Once you win an argument about result display order, regardless of the site the result is being displayed for, I can run anywhere I want with it, because you've forced a change to the ordering of the results based on competition or 'off-web' factors... I can about guarantee you this is a road most people here really don't want to go down, because it's a very slippery slope that definitely favors 'big business' and legal teams.

buckworks




msg:4166046
 7:59 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Just for fun I took a look at a few of Foundem's pages with some of the W3.org's tools including the semantic extractor.

I'll just say that the pages I looked at aren't exactly sending the spiders a strong, clear signal of what they're about.

Instead of whining and spewing conspiracy theories, it would be a lot more productive for sites who are unhappy about their search engine rankings to just get busy and improve the factors that would make a difference.

My advice to Foundem would be this: Spend less money on make-work projects for the legal team and hire some better SEO brains. And make sure that what he/she says to do actually gets implemented!

np2003




msg:4166058
 8:22 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google will probably derank itunes, amazon and other travel services when it starts selling books, music and travel services in the next couple of years.

$10 bet they will also put their ads right on the top of sidebar ads like they are doing now.

So when you search for travel, you'll probably get.
Google Travel. Get there cheaper using Google Travel Search.

cien




msg:4166059
 8:24 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

"So, you're saying a business can say it's not right for a Google result to show above another result?"

It's not right if they abuse their power as the dominant search engine and "favor" their "Shopping Results" from Google Base over others. I believe they make money with Google base through Google Checkout, not sure. If they do, these guys' complaint has even more merit.

Look, I'm going to give you three keywords. I don't know if it is allowed to be entered here for ranking issues but remove the stars in them. Search these three keywords on Google.

Dou*gh rol*ler
Do*ugh shee*ter
convec*tion o*ven

What "stores" (not informational sites) do you see listed first? Add to that the adword listings at the top, if any. That's not fair to other businesses. Amazon, nextag, all of them have a case against Google. Yahoo and Bing will never get in trouble for this as neither of them are the dominant search engine.

I'd say these guys have a strong case. If that algo. is ripped appart, I'm sure they'll find a lot of cockroaches, just like the Wi-fi deal. Big G. is evil.

[edited by: cien at 9:17 pm (utc) on Jul 7, 2010]

londrum




msg:4166092
 8:49 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

i remember a search engine called 7, when i first started. not sure if its still around, but you could actually pay money to get listed. it was like a bid engine, the more you bid the higher you'd appear in the serps.

google is starting to become a little bit like that.
if you take any of cien's examples above, then googles 'shopping results' appear above the genuine shops. but you can't honestly say that the shops in those results deserve to be above the likes of amazon. they are only there because they have jumped through google's hoops.

they might not have to pay any money like you did with '7', but you can still get listed high without being deserving it. not a lot of difference.

tedster




msg:4166097
 9:13 pm on Jul 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

According to the BBC New article [news.bbc.co.uk] at the time, the Shopping Onebox was part of this complaint and a screen capture was part of the submission. The original complaint also seemed to be a mashup of Adwords complaints, univversal search complaints and organic ranking issues.

Any company with Google's size and influence should definitely be under ongoing scrutiny. But this particular "investigation" doesn't feel right to me.

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