Ralph_Slate - 5:35 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)
These NY Times articles are very helpful because they lend credibility to the situation. It's not just conspiracy theories from webmasters - the observations have been blessed.
I don't want to get into a political debate, but I would like to point out that Elizabeth Warren, a strong consumer/small business advocate, was just elected to the US Senate. She might be an ally. I had already drafted a letter to her (she's now my senator), and I will polish it and send it.
I think that there are some core issues that we, as webmasters, need to stress:
1) Google needs to provide customer service for the websites it lists. We should not have to put up with Matt Cutts whining "there are just too many sites so we can't even try". Google is acting like a credit agency - imagine if Experian's position was "we don't have to deal with the people we rate because there are just too many of them and they aren't our customers, the people who buy our reports are the only customers"? It's a bogus argument; Google should spend at least some of their money on customer service.
2) A customer service review should give people enough information to know where they are going wrong when a penalty is issued. Similar to a credit agency, they should say "we think your inbound links are sketchy", or "you have too much advertising". Clearly every site can't rank #1, and in highly competitive sectors there will be sites ranking #1,000, but I have personally seen evidence of a penalty that was imposed, then lifted, with no comment from Google. Was it a mistake? Was it something I did and then undid?
3) Google needs to provide the ability to override their algorithms. Sometimes the results are simply not correct. Algorithms are not perfect, and Google acknowledges this. With 200 signals, there will be errors, particularly in the application of penalties. It is not good enough for them to say "sorry, that's what our algorithm is telling us". They need an investigative team who can either fix the algorithm or manually override bad results until it can be fixed. Again, I was knocked out for most of the summer, my revenue was off by probably $20k because I was penalized from April to October.
4) Google must be curbed from assimilating information from other web sites and presenting it as their own. This movement is already starting with Google News - where newspapers want compensation for their headlines. It is even worse when Google puts the content right on their page, giving users everything they need. I have seen this myself with images which were lifted from my website, put on Wikipedia, and then returned on Google's main SERP page (not image search) when someone does a search. It was particularly offensive when my own source page wasn't anywhere in the results. It is obvious that this is Google's next frontier, with their focus on schema.org. Google appears to be using its leverage to force users to conform to a structure that can then be assimilated. That has to stop; anti-trust must be used to prevent Google from eliminating its competitors.