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The Dark Side Of Google A Reason For Concern?

By Christine Stander

The way that search marketers dream up conspiracy theories you’d think that we’re all paranoid with nothing better to do.
Is there a true reason for concern? I think not, but reading other peoples paranoia is always entertaining. We all know search engines are “out to get webmasters”. They have nothing better to do than to think of new ways that will infringe on websites rankings or play hide and seek with site PageRank.

Google is at the forefront of the theorists’ attention. And it’s not very hard to see why.

It’s Tough Being At The Top

Google’s market share is certainly growing. It handled 60 percent of Internet search queries in November 2005, up from 47 percent a year earlier, according to ComScore Networks. Google’s chief officers have expressed that they are committed to growing the company itself in a sustainable way.

Quoting CFO George Reyes: “Google would be spending more on research and development, and will invest heavily in its computing infrastructure.”

Google’s motto “do no evil” has been analyzed and debated so many times. Forum posts and articles are always met with “Google does this” or “Google does that”, the fact of the matter is that none of us know “what Google’s intentions are, except Google themselves of course…but it’s still nice to enter the guessing game to see exactly “how close, or far off” you are from the materialization.

Enter the Conspiracies

Everyone has their opinion on the matter – which makes for entertaining reading at least.

Jagger Update

The conspiracy: Google is out to destroy all the organic listings so that everyone will move over to PPC.

The real deal: Google updates their algorithm from time to time to help make search results more relevant. Each update usually receives a name by the SEO community – somewhat like naming hurricanes. The most recent update was called “Jagger”. Many scraper directory sites and sites that bought those links were removed from the update.

If you had made use of any shädy techniques it is most likely that your site was caught in Jagger. It was quite a harsh update if you had not employed solid SEO techniques. So needless to say there are a lot of angry webmasters out there. A good example is the German BMW site (bmw.de) which was recently removed for making use of sp@m techniques. Just goes to show SEO is SEO no matter what the language.

Google Adsense

The conspiracy: Google Adsense sites get priority in rankings so that Google can make more monëy. And also Google is trying to take dominance and force webmasters to use Adsense rather than outbound links (link building).

The real deal: If this were true, regardless of how hard Google was to “try”, they couldn’t force a greater number of people to Adwords through preventing the achievement of a favorable ranking.

Besides, when Adwords first was released, several SEO’s tested this theory buy purchasing paid listings over varied lengths in time. The results? There was absolutely no correlation between purchasing an Adwords account and your organic search ranking.

IP Recording / Privacy Infringement

The conspiracy: Search engines log IP addresses. The data collected can be used against you.

The real deal: There have been many theories that Google logs searchers’ IP addresses etc., to track their search behaviour, but the situation has gotten much biggër than that. With all the hype stemming from the Department of Justice requesting logs from the Big Shots of search to see what searches were conducted, the talk has shifted to legal implications should the court find in favour of government.

Every bit of network traffïc you use is marked with your IP address; it can be used to link all of those disparate transactions together.

Filtering Results

The conspiracy: If Google can filter the results for China, what stops them from filtering the rest of world?

The real deal: Well this is still very much a hot topic at the moment and I have not really made up my mind on this one quite yet. I can only refer to the Google “Human Rights Caucus Briefing” in their Blog.

Excerpt from blog: “In deciding how best to approach the Chinese – or any – market, we must balance our commitments to satisfy the interests of users, expand access to information, and respond to local conditions. Our strategy for doing business in China seeks to achieve that balance through improved disclosure, targeting of services, and local investment.”

And “In order to operate Google.cn as a website in China, Google is required to remove some sensitive information from our search results. These restrictions are imposed by Chinese laws, regulatïons, and policies. However, when we remove content from Google.cn, we disclose that fact to our users.”

This is nothing new; in fact Google has altered their search results to comply with local laws in France, Germany, and the United States previously. Also, is it not better to have censored information than none at all? At least this way Google has a starting point from which to fight the censorship.

Do No Evil

According to Larry Page: “Google’s goal is to provide a much higher level of service to all those who seek information, whether they’re at a desk in Boston, driving through Bonn, or strolling in Bangkok.”

The Google philosophy:
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow
2. It’s best to do one thing really, really well
3. Fast is better than slow
4. Democracy on the web works
5. You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer
6. You can make monëy without doing evil
7. There is always more information out there
8. The need for information crosses all borders
9. You can be serious without a suit
10. Great just isn’t good enough

Excerpt from site: Full-disclosure update: When we first wrote these “10 things” four years ago, we included the phrase “Google does not do horoscopes, financial advice or chat.” Over time we’ve expanded our view of the range of services we can offer — web search, for instance, isn’t the only way for people to access or use information – and products that then seemed unlikely are nöw key aspects of our portfolio. This doesn’t mean we’ve changed our core mission; just that the farther we travel toward achieving it, the more those blurry objects on the horizon come into sharper focus (to be replaced, of course, by more blurry objects).

Some psychologists say that the closer one becomes to a person (or something) the harder it is to see the good stuff. Has Google become so intertwined in our daily lives that we no longer recognize the good stuff that it has brought us?

Let me remind you of a few:

1. Relevant Search Results: A source to find information faster. Every update gets rid of the “clutter”.

2. Gmail: As far as frëe web based email goes, this must be the most user-friendly with the largest amount of storage space to boot. You can also tie in any other email accounts you may hold and use Google’s interface as the “one stop shop” so to speak.

3. Gtalk: Google’s frëe IM and Voice Chat service. Nöw also tying in with your Gmail interface. This means that it’s accessible from wherever you have internet – you don’t need to have the program installed on the machine that you’re working from.

4. Leader of other SE: There is no doubt that Google is at the forefront of “great new ideas” for search engines. Google leads and the rest follow. One example is Gmail – more storage space for frëe. Yahoo! was soon to follow with a similarly sized email account for Yahoo! Mail users at no cost. MSN, however, charges for an increased mailbox.

5. Google Earth: Geographic information at your fingertips. Get driving directions and location information for just about anywhere on the globe, and because they use satellite imagery intertwined with maps you get a pretty good idea of what any place looks like.

6. Google Video: A selection of homemade clips, TV shows, movies and viral clips *freely available on the net. (*some TV shows and movies need to be purchased of course)

7. Google Alerts: Need to know when someone has mentioned you, your company or any topic of interest to you on their website? With Google Alerts you are notified *as it happens. (*as Google spiders that site)

These are only but a few things that Google has brought into our lives so to speak.

So ask yourself again – is there really any concern for their progress, or are we benefiting from it at the end of the day?

Forget About It

It’s a typical situation where a good company gets too big and people start getting a little uncomfortable about its dominance in society.

So I say forget about all the clutter and focus on the good stuff of which 2006 will bring many new innovations and a whole bunch of new conspiracy theories no doubt.

About The Author
Christine Stander is a professional search engine optimization and online marketing strategist with experience in many facets of search marketing, user behaviour analysis and brand management. For more information please refer to: http://www.altersage.com.

 

Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at camilla@wnwdigital.co.uk or phone on 01392 349580