Does Google have anything to fear from the blogosphere?

Not another paid links post (groan)

The whole paid links are evil for Google idea has been around for some time now. This isn’t a rehash of those. I want to pass comment on how lately that there’s been a lot of Google ill feeling going on, with an increasing number of prominent people speaking out against them. I say ill feeling as hate is too strong a word. Practically all of it is related to the whole paid links and nofollow thing.

What’s particularly interesting for me is how this whole thing seems to have grown legs and started to spread tentacles. It’s almost as if Google needs a new target and that, that target is the blogosphere. Not content with having made it’s SERP’s a tenuous we might kill you at any time place to inhabit, they now seem intent on saying to anyone in their index or who want’s traffic from them, ‘Do as you are told or we will kick your arse’. I won’t rehash any positions that have been expressed previously as these and variations on the theme can be read elsewhere.

History does repeat itself

I think its’s noteworthy to recall that there once was a time when I’d read at WMW and see accounts whereby people had been banned or penalised.

WMW had its constituents of Pro Google – Google is great, Google is great, Google is great brigade all chanting from on high like Sadaam Hussein in some pre Jihadic rant and they too had their opposing voice of anti Googles’, speaking of Google in terms of it being the great Satan and what not. All of which was handled in magnificent form by that omnipresent soother of words GoogleGuy. A curious beast who seldom put a foot wrong, often coming up with double entendre statements that neither denied or confirmed any number of theories. It was ok, a game, a fun one even that I played and enjoyed reding between the lines looking for inconsistencies and clues for what he was trying to debunk versus promote.

A little look at the state of play today and one might be forgiven for thinking that Mr GoogleGuy has been cloned and put out there in the field parroting similiar double speak crap designed to shroud and confuse. Ha! There’s a funny thought, can you imagine a FUD meeting and the discussions arising?

Let’s face facts – Words that could destabilise a multi-billion dollar cash cow are not just going to be left to the whims of one or two individuals playing some fun filled game of lead webmasters up the garden path. There is a strategic approach and right now it’s being executed with stone cold precision.

Has the blogosphere got any balls?

The thing is though, what, if anything can or will the blogosphere do about it? Will everyone just roll over? Will those A-listers getting heaps of nice monetisable Google traffic just keep quiet and say nothing? Or will they take the lead and address the issue for what it is – Which so happens to be a serious and concerted attack on a group of individuals and their right to monetise their works – Heck maybe that great opportunist Calacanis will see a crusadery angle and buy in, or is he too just waiting the Google $ for his Mahalo project?

Why is everyone so scared? Is it really about biting a hand that might feed you, or staving off an attack from something that might kill you? People like Michael Gray and Aaron Wall and John Andrews seem happy enough to tell it like it is, they aren’t too bothered, they don’t stand for the nonsense, why then should any of us?

Harsh – Far fetched a description even?

It’s debatable for sure, you’ve got to choose where to sit in one way or another and if you straddle the fence for too long you’ll be likely to get piles. My “not worth the screen pixels it inhabits maybe” opinion, is that in this instance on this topic, that Google has gone too far and is engaging in behaviour which is reasonable to label as arrogant bullying.

The Google of old would not have come out with guns blazing, nor would it have had the balls to tell people so forcefully, “yes we kicked your arse and we’ll kick it again too if you do that again”.

I was always taught to stand up to bullies. I was taught that if you succumb to their attacks, if you don’t get up there and hit them back smack right hard in the mouth, then they’ll keep on coming back at you, time after time. It might well hurt to do so too, but overtime they’ll get tired of fighting with you and either reconsider their position or move on to different pastures and pick on some easier target.

Maybe some at Google have read too much B F Skinner and decided that a positive reinforcement of the negatives inside the box that is the blogosphere might be one particular way to slay this threat to their income stream.

What is that I hear you say – Paid links are not a threat to their income stream, there really is enough to go around already – they really could have just quietly circumvented the effects without so much brouhaha? Perhaps so, or perhaps they decided that wackamole just isn’t a scalable solution.

Wackamole costs money

Maybe its the whole game of having to filter out the paid effect. Perhaps someone somewhere decided that spending a few million dollars each year on snitches and paid reviewers could be better spent on some big concerted “do it again or do what he did and we’ll kill you” approach. Yet, even if this were the case, they surely can’t be so naive as to think everyone would just say “Oh right, ok then Google, you’re the boss we’ll stop that right now and do what you tell us” Google has to realise that it has no right to a monopoly on making money.

It’s as if there is this obsession within them that seeks at all costs to clamp down hard on anyone who is visibly gaming them. Yet when you look at that whole ‘gaming’ word and look into what could be construed as gaming then you’ll appreciate that the ground becomes very shakey if not like quicksand itself. Where is the line drawn? When do the very creation of properly structured content that uses H tags and relevant keywords, that attracts links from other sites suddenly cross the line? Bah phooey.

Don’t do evil

The recent attack on sites that discuss blog monetisation are one very obvious example. A number of excellent blogs have had their visible PageRank reduced. Interestingly all of these blogs talk about how you can earn money from blogging or how you can best monetise your blog or website. Practically all of them simply observe and comment upon what works and what doesn’t. All of the ones to which I allude have written comprehensive well considered pieces that offer a perspective on how people might like to prosper with their blogs. The message from all is clear – hard work, quality, consistency – anyone who’d suggest that within the grand scheme of the idea of making money online, that these didn’t add considerable value would need to go and get their reality checker fixed. Yet for Google, if their Pagerank meter is adjudged to have any merit or meaning at all, it’s clear that to them at least all of the sites penalised in this way are of low merit or value.

Oh well, I’ve vented my spleen now, and said my bit. I’m kinda tired of railing against the machine, for a machine is what Google has become, a machine that has way too much power and influence that I as an individual can do very little about.

Damn, its 330pm, time to cook that Sunday lunch.

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Rob Watts
Kickstart your business today - Get an SEO Consultation or just talk to Rob about your online aspirations. With over 20 years experience in building traffic he's pretty much encountered most markets and scenarios
Posted on: 14th October 2007, by : Rob Watts

15 thoughts on “Does Google have anything to fear from the blogosphere?

  1. Thanks for the mention, Rob! I was wondering whether it is really all about providing good content results in their search engine period, or providing good content only if your site is Google monopolised. I can’t totally buy into the argument by many pro-Google advocates who say that it’s their search engine so if you want them to help you, then play by their rules, otherwise don’t moan. But if that’s the case, and going by the public stance of their priority of providing good content first and foremost for the public, then there is a certain amount of hypocrisy in penalising sites who -have- good content but still want to sell links. Which I think your post sort of asks in another way.

    Is it confirmed that they won’t penalise you as long as you sell links or have sponsored reviews WITHOUT leveraging on PageRank to commercialise this aspect of blog monetisation? Because if so, then they still leave a way out for people and that could be better.

    That said, I am still affected by the FUD. I do depend on Adsense for a fair bit of my online revenue thus far, and I don’t want it to be taken away. Yet, I’m thinking if one day, even my content would be dictated by what Google think is right for their search engine, even if it’s what people want to read and find useful. I could be silly for thinking that, but anything could happen.

  2. I think this whole selling-links thing is interesting. I agree that if I have a website and I want to sell a link then I should be able to. It’s nothing to do with Google and is a personal choice. If Google want to discount a paid link in their algorithm then that is also fine, although Im not going to disclose it or nofollow it – because again it’s site = my choice.

    What I don’t think Google should be doing is penalizing my site if I choose to sell a link. It all strikes me as a bit silly. It’s as if Google are claiming ownership on hyperlinks. Links were around well before Google and they serve a basic need to link one page to another. If Google want to use them in their algorithm thats fine – but penalizing a site for selling a hyperlink is madness.

  3. Rob, thanks for the link love.

    I believe some of the reasoning we get from certain folks regarding Google is based on a “why can’t well just to get along” mentality. If you play nice, they’ll play nice — after all, they want to do good and make money too.

    That’s nice — totally unrealistic too. At some point people must realize that Google is a public entity, out there to make a profit. I am not demonizing corporations, but I am pointing out what is obvious — Google is in business to strengthen their bottom line as mandated by their shareholders. If anyone competes with their profitability, they are fair game.

    Bullies will continue to bully and they’ll escalate their abuse until everyone quivers at their feet. A quick blow to the nose will send a bully away, often to pick on more complying victims.

    I’m seeing some people rolling over and playing dead as the Google penalties are dispensed — not a good sign, but one we’re likely to witness as things shake out.

  4. @ YC – You’re welcome. I don’t think I buy the idea around adsense and serps and them only showing sites that have say adsense or perhaps extensive positive discussion of them and their products. Credit where its due, they do actually show a shed load of stuff that is far from pro them.

    It is clear that they really don’t like people leveraging pagerank, especially not vocally. The searchking case being one old example. A lot of people argue for the greenbar to just disappear, yet conversely a lot of people, seo’s, link marketers, directory owners, sites offering advertsing etc would cry in their beer if they did. The greenstuff helps make the green stuff, yet the irony is that the greenbar helps feed the very thing they profess to be upset with 😀

    @Aurelius Tim – Indeed

    @Acopic – Great comment, this is the point. They’ve stepped outside of the usual boundries and pushed it one step further, practically threatening 100’s of 1000’s of businesses into the bargain. Sure, it may be their index, but they seem to forget the whole parasitical nature of their business is one which profits upon the works of others. For me, there respectful concillatory lets work together tone has for all intents and purposes gone by the wayside. What would a SERP look like without a website I wonder – who’d use that?

    @Matt you’re welcome sir. I agree in general, once companies get too big or outgrow their original USP they can lose touch and start fecking up. Maybe this is a sign of that very thing.

    I once knew a very wealthy man. Not just wealthy but VERY wealthy. He was the most arrogant conceited distrustful man I ever met. Everyone who was around him, licked his arse. No one told him what he needed to be told ever, they were all too scared hanging on to their piece of him. I can’t but help draw paralells.

  5. Honestly, I think that most important thing would be to avoid unnecessary stress because of this situation. Since the beginning of time, big guys were exploiting small guys. Personaly, I believe that what Google have done is wrong, but hey, what can we do about it. I’ve casted my vote in boycott above but I don’t think that Google will pay much attention. So, try to do your thing the best you can and leave care about Google to serious players. I’m sure that one of them will take advantage of what Google have done and bring all disappointed users on his side. Then, we are all going to be able to take the same benefit from paid links again.

  6. @ Jab – that wasn’t any kind of definitive statement or suggestion as to what people should do about it. More a well what *can* you do about it, how about this for a starter suggestion.

    @Straight Forward – Irrespective of what another player may or may not do, for me the reality is that in this case we have a heavy handed dictat designed to instill maximum FUD at minimum cost with maximum damage to the examples it attacks.

    I’m currently of the opinion that as a collective, the blogosphere isn’t some disconnnected sampling of random individuals and that it does have a collective identity that holds real power that could be harnessed to make a difference – what form that difference may take, today, is indeterminable. A million active bloggers alone, potentially, are a formidable force – add their voice to their families and networks of friends and you begin to see how such ideas grow legs.

    Media get hold of things, concerned interests spot potentials, ideas take hold, tipping points get tipped, it really doesn’t take so much for an idea to snowball and flourish, especially when the group attacked is sufficiently emotionally charged and motivated. When you look at some of the theorisations around why Google choose to attack these particular practices, then it really isn’t so dificult for a head of steam to coalesce around an idea of say, corporate greed.

    Human beings are fickle creatures. What the people bestow the people can take away, no?

  7. I am not a prominent person but I have had a lot to say about Google lately: http://girlinshortshorts.blogspot.com/2007/09/censorship-and-google-gulag.html

    And none of it good.

    In I wrote how Google recently pulled http://girlinshortshorts.blogspot.com/2007/10/smart-cart-shopping.html my Adsense adverts. They did not send an email even telling me what the problem was. Nor will they respond to my inquiry. It is interesting that at least two gogglers spend a considerable amount of time drooling over some of my more titillating posts. Yesterday one of them was at one post which had pictures of Lindsay Lohan and some other celebs in short shorts for 55 minutes–I think we all know what he was doing. But no time to send an email to me.

    I have quit gmail (since they admit they crawl it) and minimized use of their search engine. I intend to move the blog from Blogger–but have only been holding back because of the hassle factor.

    I consider Google to be more arrogant and dangerous than Microsoft ever was.

    ~Becky

  8. And it’s all kicking off again today. Big G are really like a dog with a bone here. The only thing that they seem to forget is who gave them the bone in the first place.

  9. Hi Rob

    The links are always appreciated even if I’ve gotten way behind on my reading in the past couple of weeks!

    It’s actually been a bit of a relief to forget about some of this stuff for a bit while working on more lucrative offline/online promotion of fine art 🙂

    Overall I’m unsure if I suffered anything in the recent rounds of blog slapping – I don’t do paid posts but my blog is on the tired old MMO theme, but I was finally given some rank FWIW. I’ve been encouraging the exploration of Google alternatives for various services for a while, but I’m still pleased to receive a fair bit of SE traffic from them and do well in the SERPS for certain chosen phrases.

    They are, like any bloated corporation, a faceless tormentor but hey, what ya gonna do eh?

    P.S. Good luck with the job hunt….I can imagine how appealing sunnier climes must be around this time of year in northern Europe!

  10. Hi there Maurice thanks for that, and you are of course, very welcome.

    Hey ,it’s great to get out into that real world too, glad to hear things are progressing in that dept. Your wife has a lot of talent!

    I’m kinda done with my Google rants (I hope) but enjoyed venting my spleen on them all the same 😀 Corporate pretend hippy dratsabs that they are 😉

  11. The whole idea that ‘manipulating the search engines’ or ‘gaming’ the system is somehow evil, is ridiculous. Life is one gigantic marathon competition, and we are always going back to the rule book to try to find loopholes that will allow us to get ahead. I’m not talking about cheating people or theft or harming others; I’m talking about acting smarter in order to maximize the return on our efforts.

    If Google thinks this is somehow bad juju, then they are the biggest hypocrites on Earth.

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