Recent penalties have had folks up in arms (again) over Google’s methods to control what it labels as “spammy”. Having fueled a bit of the ranting myself, I thought I’d try offering some observations that might help keep things in perspective.
To be fair, there are a lot of spammy practices in play, and most of them end up putting a lot of trash in the SERPs. And as a major frustration to a lot of site owners, those practices sometimes allow a spammy site to outrank a site that complies fully with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
So here are some of my observations on some of the often repeated statements that are floating around:
Anti-Google Complaint #1: Google Doesn’t Own the Internet
Google doesn’t pretend to own the Internet. They DO, however, own their search results. If you’re like me, with zero dependency on organic search, you can do whatever you please, without fear of it affecting your business.
But if you’re like the majority of my clients, dependent upon your visibility in search for a significant portion of your income, you don’t have that luxury. You need to play in the SERPs game, so you need to play by their rules. Fail to do so at your own peril.
Anti-Google Complaint #2: Google is Out to Get SEOs
Google is out to make money, and to do that successfully, they have to deliver quality search results and well-targeted ads. With spammy techniques filling the SERPs with garbage, it’s not difficult to understand why they’d be intent on going after spammy sites and people that employ spammy tactics.
Unfortunately, most of the spammy tactics are employed by people that do so in the name of website optimisation. And it’s important to note that some of those tactics are only spammy when used excessively. So Google isn’t out to get SEOs… they’re out to get abusers.
Anti-Google Complaint #3: Google Lies
I get really tired of seeing people call Matt Cutts or John Mueller liars. I’ve seen John say some things that seemed questionable, in terms of accuracy (at least when compared to other Google statements), but I’ve never seen him lie, and I tend to doubt that he would.
As for Matt, I’ve watched every video, read every post and 95% of his tweets, dissecting each one to find the nuggets. I’ve seen him tell only part of the truth on many occasions, but I have to ever catch him in anything resembling a lie.
Some things may have changed since he made a statement, but they were true when he said them. Calling a person a liar because you don’t like the message they’re delivering is low and reflects poorly on those that do it. If you think you have evidence of a lie, then by all means, share it. Otherwise, stop making an ass out of yourself.
Anti-Google Complaint #4: Google is Just Out to Make Money
Well, DUH! Google is a business – that’s what businesses do. On top of that, it’s a publicly traded business, so its officers and directors can be sent to prison for not taking actions that would make the shareholders more money.
Guess what folks… the phone directory, your insurance company, the petrol station and your local hospital are all businesses, too. Virtually every interaction you have, outside of friends and family, involves a business. Are you shocked and disgusted that they make decisions based upon potential earnings, too?
Anti-Google Complaint #5: Google is Trying to Force Everyone to Buy Ads
This one is a bit tricky, because I imagine that potential ad sales enter into nearly every operational decision made at Google. Certainly, any plan of action that might have a significant negative impact on ad sales would deserve a second evaluation. So it’s logical to assume that if a potential change is seen as likely bringing increased ad sales, that would be considered a vote for the change.
However, I seriously doubt that Google would be willing to accept the inherent risk of making changes just to force more ad sales. The company is already under intense scrutiny in the EU and US and such actions could bring them the sort of problems no company wants, particularly one that’s publicly traded.
Anti-Google Complaint #6: Google is Just Another Scraper Site
This is rapidly becoming a tough one to argue against. In the earlier days, when there were just ten blue links with a title and description, I had no problem with them displaying it – that’s why I put it there in the first place. When I did my job right, it gained me a listing there, hopefully near the top.
But now, with Google focusing more and more on being an answer engine, showing the answer right in the SERPs will definitely be detrimental to the site that provides that answer. No click-through = no traffic = no conversions. Where will the incentive to create new content come from, when it won’t even win traffic to your site?
Anti-Google Complaint #7: Google Wants to Rule the World
Mankind tends to have a natural fear and distrust of any entity that has a tremendous amount of power. One could attempt to argue that Google effectively holds a monopoly on search and search ads in the western world. But monopoly power, as defined by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the “power to control price or exclude competition”. And legally, that’s not even correct… holding a monopoly is not illegal… until such power is utilized toward that end.
I don’t think any valid argument could be mounted to demonstrate that Google has wielded such power, if they even possess it. The fact of the matter is, Google holds the lion’s share of those markets on the merits of their offering.
Besides, when it comes right down to it, Google couldn’t possibly want to rule the world. To do that, they’d have to become a government. And governments don’t make money, they waste it!
Let’s Be Realistic
Like a lot of people, I have some problems with the way Google does some things. But I’m a firm believer in limiting accusations and reclamations to those that are justified. Making unfounded claims just destroys the claimant’s credibility, and if the target is really so awful, finding justifiable things to complain about shouldn’t be too difficult.
If you find yourself in the position of needing Google’s organic search results, but you’re bridling under their sometimes obscure guidance, I strongly suggest these 2 processes to limit your risk:
- Learn their Webmaster Guidelines and stay abreast of changes, so you can avoid a penalty;
- Diversify your marketing strategy so that the loss of no single channel can devastate your business.