Is Google Evil?

evilgoogle.pngCourtney 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?


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2007-11-21 15:50:19

I have to agree with you - biggest mistake they made is by hitting bloggers who relied on PPP for extra income. It mostly damaged stay at home moms who managed to find a way to earn …. that is until big G decided they don’t want to share wealth …


Comment by jfc
2007-11-21 21:29:57

Hi Alex,

The thing is that Google will force link selling underground where there won’t be disclosure of paid vs. unpaid links. They may end up wishing they hadn’t gone after such activity. After all, it would be easy enough to algorithmically figure out which links to discount. Soon it won’t be.

2007-11-23 08:23:41

[…] RT Cunningham Although I think Google has been acting a little evil lately, as does Frank Carr, I think some of the effects of the recent PageRank (PR) smackdown are temporary. I've been […]

Comment by hari
2007-11-23 09:04:56

An excellent article indeed.

I wrote my whole analysis of this issue here:

I think the whole business of online advertising is now in the phase of decline as per the law of diminishing returns, because the field has been saturated with advertisers and publishers a long time ago and google are feeling the pinch themselves.

They are using their might in the search field to bulldoze their competitors in the advertising field.

Comment by jfc
2007-11-23 10:40:11

Thanks for stopping by Hari,

I don’t think online advertising would go into decline unless Google became considerably more heavy handed. I do think there is a danger of them doing this, as I indicated in the article. If they do, it might lead to a slight decline in online advertising revenue before regulatory agencies deal with their activities. I’d rather this worst-case-scenario not happen though since it wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Comment by chuck norris dude
2007-11-28 11:16:58

The thing is, they are able to do this and much more without consequences that will hurt them. Do you think Google decided to do this overnight? It’s not a decision that you make if you want to stay on the top for a long time. And that’s what they wanted to achieve when they decided for actions like these.

I always compare Google to Microsoft. They’re cruel, tend to be monopolists but still are the No1 in the game.

Comment by jfc
2007-11-28 12:33:51

Hi Chuck,

What always surprised me about Microsoft was the amount of well-intentioned cluelessness that went on. People in large corporations tend to get isolated from customers and become quite bureaucratic and territorial. That often leads them to doing stupid things that have a negative impact on the company’s public image. Starting a company in a dorm room doesn’t protect you from being collectively stupid when your company gets big. In fact, it may make you more prone to it.

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