Courtney Tuttle wrote this article, RealRank™ Doesn’t Solve Anything For Bloggers, discussing the recent wholesale PageRank slaughter of PayPerPost using blogs and IZEA’s attempt at creating an alternative ranking system. Of course, the conversation turns to Google’s practices and if they’re potentially illegal under US and EU monopoly laws.
Court and Vic see it as them simply protecting their interest in maintaining an accurate measure for search while others, including myself, see it as an anti-competitive practice in the field of online advertising. So, instead of typing out a post sized comment on Court’s blog I wrote my response here.
PageRank vs. Page Ranking
Court and Vic are right about how link buying can impact search results. Since Google’s internal algorithms depend heavily upon linking even a small amount of purchased links can skew search results considerably. However, it seems that they should be able to figure this out algorithmically rather than throwing every webmaster in the world into a tizzy about when to use nofollow link condoms. Some bloggers are now afraid to link to any other site without a nofollow and that’s just silly. Google is supposed to be hiring 1000’s of smart, young, people (not old smart people like myself) so they should be able to break them away from their in-office Wii games and gourmet coffee shops long enough to come up with something less random.
Also, while public PageRank, the 0-10 number displayed in the toolbar, is a rough, indirect, representation of the internal algorithm, it isn’t a direct one. It’s become a marketable commodity. It’s been my opinion for some time that the best thing Google can do is simply embrace this and make this public ranking almost completely divorced from the internal algorithm. This would create an almost stock exchange like atmosphere for link buying and selling which both Google and other sites could profit from without damaging natural search results. I think it’s much better to have this activity above board than sent underground into PR selling speakeasys.
Where Google Is Going Wrong
If Google didn’t run a huge empire in online advertising, the argument that they’re protecting their algorithm would hold water. If the search and online advertising were separate companies, it might be accurate to say that. But with them as tightly integrated as they are, what Google is doing is highly suspect, even if their motives are pure. That’s one reason why they’re increasingly coming under investigation by US and EU authorities.
Some say that it’s Google’s site and they can do what they want with it. Sure, maybe so in a pure free market world. We don’t have that kind of world though and Google will find themselves under increasing regulatory pressure from governments due to their actions, perceived or real. As an investor in Google, I’d prefer that they didn’t come under this pressure and that they take steps to avoid it. I just don’t want them to screw up like many other dominate companies, like Standard Oil and Microsoft, have done in the past.
How Google Makes Themselves Look Evil
Google has made themselves look evil by attacking a major source of income for many small time bloggers. Attacking the little guy makes you look evil even if you’re in the right to some degree.
They’ve made themselves look evil by slashing the PageRank of blogs that mentioned PayPerPost but who weren’t selling PageRank. For example, this post or Courtney’s post would be subject to PR slashing by Google Dementor-bots simply for mentioning the name that shall not be spoken.
It’s my concern that Google has truly gone evil given what they’ve done. I would not be surprised if they went after other online advertisers hard within the next 2 years if they continue to progress the way they’re going and get away with it this time. Just because they left Kontera, AdBrite and others alone this time doesn’t mean they won’t go after them in the future.
I hope I’m wrong about this and that Google will reverse themselves, realizing that they went too far in this ill-considered manual or algorithmic update and step away from the brink of evil.
What do you think? Is Google simply being evil or are their motive pure even if their actions make them appear otherwise?