I wanted to throw out a bit of a debate on Google because I am personally of two minds.
Google is the prime feeder of my site, in terms of the social media referrals I get and the search engine traffic referrals. Google is my helper in that regard. It makes sure my site eats and that new people may stand a chance of reading my content.
On the other hand, Google have been doing some questionable things. Very corporate things. Very suit and tie sort of things.
Should you be worried about Google?
To set the scene, I mentioned in one of my previous articles a specific line as follows:
So some of these tools can be dangerous! I’ve mentioned in Question 15 that Google can steal your search information via Google Analytics, in order to provide paying ad customers a boost, essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul. – Jackson Davies, 20 Questions You Should Ask Before Purchasing Expensive Marketing Tools, 18th June 2014
I have to be a bit more specific on what is occurring so that you understand what the situation is.
The curse of “unknown search terms”
If you look via WordPress stats (if using a WordPress based blog (which I’d recommend)) or via Google Analytics (which you can use with Blogger and Tumblr) then you will spot “unknown search terms” very quickly. In fact, it will be your largest search term number in most cases.
Because Google have systematically been censoring this information.
There are two trains of thought on why this has occurred.
The Amtrak train travelling to Buffalo
The obvious reason Google has restricted this information is so that people using their analytics tool for free aren’t given a free pass to information that their paying customers receive on their ad revenue schemes.
There has to be an incentive to buy into a scheme and increasingly turn search engine optimisation into a science to create an ever increasingly complex and chargeable feed. An industry is sustained by making the bar ever higher.
The fault of this lies in those who succeeded in the past. There has to be a way to penalise everybody else and raise the bar.
It is like looking under the hood of a new car. Unlike an old car where you could fiddle with the parts, get the carburetor working, you now have a sealed unit which requires a licensed garage to work on.
I see this working out badly for Google in the long haul but before that happens, there are going to be a whole load more screws tightened.
Why Buffalo as a parallel? Because Buffalo is an abstract destination, you don’t know why they are destined there but you do know that going to such an abstract place signals something dodgy. Not that Buffalo is a nasty place but you’d much rather it was travelling somewhere more popular.
The Bullet train to Tokyo
On the other hand it is Google trying to do searchers a service.
Before I elaborate fully I have to explain Blackhat techniques.
You may hear of BlackHat techniques passed around if you are ever involved in finding ways to backlink your site. Backlinks are generated by commenting on other people’s sites but specifically with a link running back to your site. Backlinks can occur through links in comments, through the gravatar that goes with the comment, through any hyperlinks in articles written by yourself featured on other sites or lovingly given by somebody else, in the sidebars or other pages within somebody else’s website. Basically any hyperlink pointing back to your site. Blackhat doesn’t only refer to linking but can cover a selection of marketing sins. Artificial shortcuts that otherwise put your work ahead of somebody elses by doing something artificially or underhand. Something that could be of low quality.
Google affect algorithms into their search engine to root out these hacks and penalise sites that flaunt the basic concepts of going about things the wrong way. Traffic drops away significantly from those doing wrong.
The possible removal of data surrounding search terms removes the would be Blackhatter being able to capitalise on this data freely.
Why Tokyo as a parallel and why the bullet train? Tokyo is a known destination and Google’s actions on this front try and steer people under a known and accepted path. The bullet train is the sweetener, bullet trains are awesome, they go fast. Everybody loves them. This is the candy Google wants you to eat. This is the candy Google wants you to spread. This is the candy they hope you lose your teeth over.
Analysing the trains
When speaking of the Buffalo route, I believe this is the core reason why Google has done what it has done. Whilst Bing and Yahoo are search engine players alongside other giants that are non Google in origin, there is no doubt that Google are the biggest player in this search engine Oligarchy with no signs of challenge. “Googled”, as a term, was entered into the dictionary. Google sit atop a mighty throne bathing in milk and honey.
Google as a company has a higher GDP than a large number of developing countries.
Which also means that they can pretty much do whatever the hell they want.
So if they want to “Rob Peter to pay Paul” they can. That is exactly what they are doing.
In so doing they realise they are upsetting some people who didn’t feel they were doing anything particularly wrong but have been penalised anyway. In order to pacify these riotous voices they send up the Tokyo bullet train line of thought as a red herring.
Now I support good quality search results. I hate finding rubbish results and occasionally I still do find rubbish results on Google in page 1. You may have run across some rubbish results yourself where what you got back doesn’t bare relation to the words you put in.
The face of disinformation
This man is Matt Cutts. He is Google’s appointee of disinformation. He rides on the bullet train to Tokyo.
He is a likable guy and most of what he reports on makes sense. Unfortunately it is all designed to counteract those Google policy makers who travel on the train to Buffalo. Despite what Matt says, Google respects the green dollar above all things. They started out playing nice and edge Microsoft out of its dominance. The problem is that they grew into this corporate money beast that want to steer information.
Google want to sit on your lap every time you run a search, watch a video or take a phone call.
Other companies that draw similar concern
If I mention Rupert Murdoch you should know what I’m talking about. In Britain he pretty much owns the largest share of media. His empire owns and controls a massive stake in news outlets, dominates the satellite television supply, and generally causes the government issue. He was the basis of “Carver” in one of the bond films. Rupert was fairly recently caught up in some very dodgy dealing around the point of phone hacking where many of his lieutenants have been arrested and convicted. The problem with Rupe is that he is untouchable. He has too much money. He’d get out of it somehow. He’s as slippery as a ferret and has the teeth to match. His son is a chip off the old block too. Fab!
Another such villain is Bernie Ecclestone. If you are a Formula 1 fan, you might have heard of him. He’s getting on a bit now but he is another gentleman who is literally untouchable. His organisation generates huge amounts of income from allowing tracks in certain countries. Perhaps the most annoying things that have transpired during the past 10 years include somewhat questionable deals with Qatar’s race track and allowing the race to run despite the civil unrest. He has also been responsible for some other questionable activities during his reign and many wait with bated breath for him to either retire or shuffle off the mortal coil.
Herein lies the issue of allowing a domination victory.
Now we all know that Google exist in this world to make money. Many of us readers strive to make money to live how we want to. There’s no harm in that.
The harm comes in forcing people to swallow something that should be more free and less controlled.
What we should all be aware of is a basic fact. You never get anything in life for free or as my father says “there’s no such thing in life as a free lunch!”
Anything that can involve marketing comes with a catch.
When you have a dominant player in the marketplace, they flex their muscles in unacceptable ways. It is their way or the highway. Google can dictate without recourse. They permeate mass sectors of the information market and can haunt your soul.
What to do?
The situation is going to get worse. For those people fortunate enough to have built up a business prior to these policy changes, they have a massive historical advantage over any new starters today. They were lucky enough to be around in the period when there was a free lunch.
We are only seeing the embers of that once great fire. We won’t be able to get those results like the old guard did and we shouldn’t kid ourselves that it can work that way anymore without paying to get ahead.
We have to adapt to the challenge. We have to support fairer players. We have to see through the disinformation. We occasionally have to vote with our feet or cry foul.
Most importantly, we have to take action!