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NYTimes: Google Casts a Big Shadow on Smaller Web Site

5:42 pm on Nov 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I came across NY Times article which gives some visibility to those who find themselves at odds with Google's algorithm:


Interesting that apparently some animals are more equal than others; the sites referenced were able to get unofficial inside guidance from Google due to connections to fix their problems.

Also interesting is Google's defense is that improvements to their "product" is done by "adding more services that collect and parse data". Seems to line up with the conspiracy theories that Google is forcing us at virtual gunpoint to structure our data so they can read it, and they will ultimately assimilate it.
6:08 am on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

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The NY Times has been publishing pieces for at least a year now that show Google in a poor light. This one seems pretty mild compared to some - even as it sort of agitates for some involvement from the federal level.

It's not news to any of us who work with small to medium sized businesses online that Google traffic is getting a lot harder to come by in the past year or so - especially since Panda was first rolled out. It is definitely getting tough! At the same time, the "glory days" from years ago always seemed limited to me. That's just not the way the world seems to work.
9:26 am on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I don't know about all this. Playing "politics" is part of business. In other words you can't enrage everyone all at the same time. The way I'm looking at all this is mixed. Either we have to catch on to the new techniques which will see our once proud site return to good graces, or in fact it's all a lost cause. I'm right in the middle of that.

The fact is everyone, some less, some more, are dependent on visitors coming from search. When Google is only getting more dominant, the scrutiny goes way up on them. The internet started because people got people to see their content and because the webmaster didn't need to pay to get people to their site. Google is a matchmaker. Matching your site to their inquiry. It's gotten to big and there is WAY too much money in all this now. That's the different. Money and power.

With that said, the way real life works is that people want cheap. They support the Wal Marts of the world and then wonder why all the small businesses have closed shop and went away. People don't even notice or care about those casualties. That pretty much how part of me feels about how the internet is going. This dominance can't be stopped and if it's too difficult to get that ranking, well then you close shop and hope for another Wal Mart moves into town. But still you're not competing. That's the real world.

Not being negative here. Just very up in the air on this entire thing. It seems to get crazier by the week.

Perhaps all of us suffering in the past year are simply stuck with "old school" design and SEO. If we can bow to the new wishes, do we bounce back? According to this NY Times article they make it sound like people wake up overnight and have their traffic and businesses back. How about a follow up story after the next update? Those bounce back still exist? Are those business really feeling stable now or are they getting the F out of dodge while they are still worth something? Talk to me in August and I would say this is the greatest endeavor of my life. Ask today? You're going to get pretty much a complete opposite answer. Nothing changed on my site and content but I'm out. The NY Times needs to really do a case study that looks at an extended period of time. Get the real story here. Ask the successful giant site how their traffic must be going through the roof. No, the story is always about the little guys. Well, the traffic went somewhere. How about they dig into that part of the story?

I'm going for a nice walk to cool off now.
5:35 pm on Nov 7, 2012 (gmt 0)

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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.