I was going to post this in a comment at Sphinn, but decided to blog it instead.
It related to Google and how they apply penalties to sites who talk about or do things in ways they don’t like. Some people think Google doesn’t penalise for paid links, I disagree, as the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
Anyhow, this post isn’t completely about paid links, its more about the whole penalty process and the culture that allows it to happen and how it’s just very dificult to challenge or do anything about even.
Two people recently have seen some kind of negative action from Google.
AndyBeard’s visible toolbar drop and David Aireys ranking penalty.
Davids’ has been reversed, whilst Andys’ might not even be a long term thing, so might be a little early to call.
Both of these got me thinking about the whole power and responsiblity theme. Google have lots of power yet at times seem to behave in ways that aren’t the most responsible. Whether they like it or not we do hold them up to greater standards than most, the reasons behind which I couldn’t really do justice to. That said, there is no harm with at least putting a few ideas out there nd see what others think at least.
Transparency is the way forward?
I’d love to be able to read a ‘process’ document on this whole we are penalizing your arse thing. Google have a process. It’s called the reinclusion process. Basically, you check a little box and admit to being evil, they then read what you have to say and restore you if they agree or ignore you if they don’t.
This clearly sucks arse and I don’t doubt has more than pissed offor frustrated a person or two.
Anyhow, I was wondering. Do all ‘quality’ reviewers have the power to instantly penalise, or do they have to justify their position and have 3 or 4 other people agree on their interpretation. If so, is this process fair, should there be more feedback, perhaps a communication of some form? Or is it really ok to just leave people twisting in the wind?
The rules are the rules are the rules…
I know that it isn’t a legal thing, but it is a rule thing. It’s about breaking the rules ,or in the case of Google ‘the guidelines’ and of course it’s their subjective interpretation too. We all know they are a private for profit company, free to do what they like to people who in their opinion who have crossed one of their lines.
Yet it does need to be said that they do have a massive responsibility, yet seem to pay little public heed or acknowledgment of this fact, at least within the microcosm of dealing with individuals.
They might well run around in their $ fuelled PR mobiles postulating how much of a wonderful company they are, they might well be seen to be the fantastic tax generating, profit generating force for good that they are for so many people, and in lots of way there is no disputing that at all, on balance they do a hell of a lot of good things. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the little guy contributing 0.000000000001% to any bottom line shouldn’t matter or in any way count. Doesn’t he still deserve his day in court? His right to reply, his chance to dig his hole deeper even?
Respecting your roots
Whether we like it or not, thanks to many of us (talking them up in the early years) they are now the defacto gateway to the net, a massive percentage of individuals see google and search as synonymous.
Accepting the aforementioned, is it not fair to suggest that when they take action against sites for transgressions, that these actions should have some kind of universality?
Why is it that sites like Davids’ can be hit hard and quick, yet other sites using similar tactic are not? When no action is taken against the big boys for the self same thing then perhaps its no real surprise when people begin to question the integrity of the processes within.
Are they so surprised that if this perception exists that we then put their processes under a greater degree of scrutiny and question their very right to behave is this way? Some might ask, where is the natural justice!
It’s supposed to be a democratic fair world
In the bricks and mortar world of hyper reality, if you are stopped by an officer of the law and accused of breaking a law then you have an option of arguing your case in an open court of law.
2 possible outcomes – guilty, pay the cost, innocent, walk free.
If you are found guilty then whatever way you look at it you suffer, you pay a price; monetarily you suffer. You can appeal too of course, and where so you get the opportunity to hear the reasoning behind any judgement.
If we apply that analogy to Google then we see it falls down somewhat, simply because their business status allows them too. They can hide behind their ‘right’ to act like any other for profit. It’s funny because microsoft once thought they could do the same, justice caught up with them eventually too.
Think about it though, can you imagine a world where you were pulled off the street, muzzled, dismissed from your job, thrown into some padded cell where very few could hear you? How crap would that be! Yet this is the very thing that Google can do to site owners today, acting like some errant bully able to do what it likes and to whom it likes.
Don’t like what we did? Sue us…, we got more money than you and can hide behind the complexities of our proprietary systems and concepts of free enterprise.
Monoply sucks, especially when you lose
The bottom line is that in law or society there is no recognition of their almost monopolistic status on this search stuff, and no apparent will to really do anything about it either. It’s just too easy to hide behind ideas of algorithms and editorial rights and private enterprise.
Yeah yeah, I know a governmentally controlled SE would probably be as bad if not worse, but hell at least we’d be able to hold individuals up to account, examine the decisions, debate the reasons why.
I don’t think it really washes too well to say things similar to , “oh, you know, we’d love to say more and share more with webmasters when we encounter things that we aren’t too comfortable with as to do so would reveal more about our algorithm and processes than we would be happy to share..”, simply because people should be told more, people should have the right to know why some 800lb Gorilla is slamdunking them in the mush and obliterating their voice.
Hit the are you feeling lucky button
David Airey is a fortunate guy. Very few people receive similar treatment. Most are just ignored to the hinterlands. I don’t wish to appear to be mean to David when I say this, but the fact is that Davids’ good fortune is more related to the collective discussion that ensued around his penalty. A less plugged in blogger, IMO, might have struggled to achieve the same outcome.
People can get knocked out of the SERPs just like that. It happens for all sorts of reasons too you only have to be on the wrong end of a conversation before kaput, your 10 year labour of love is suddenley dying in a ditch with little hope for resuscitation, shouldn’t this all be a little more open?