How much control does Google have over us?

I know that, as a blogger, I am quite dependent upon Google for giving me traffic. If you were to look at my referrer logs since the start, I’d venture to guess that about 95% of all search engine traffic that has come here has been from Google.

So, it concerns me when I see posts about people getting penalized by Google for seemingly small mistakes. The first one that I saw was Leigh, whose allforwomen.com.au site was penalized after making a mistake with a server file, causing Google to drop her site from the top of common keywords people used to get to the site.

More recently, David Airey had a similar experience when his site was penalized for using the wrong type of redirect on one of his domains. When he first found out the news about the penalty, he had thought it was because of paid links, and herein comes the big irony.

If you have used Google’s Webmaster Tools, you will have certainly seen the link that says you can dob in people who have paid links. I’m not sure if they themselves are aware of it, but the last time I checked, they sold paid links and you see them literally all over the place. You know, Ads by Goooooogle (or however many o’s they have put in there; I wouldn’t know, I block adsense ads, along with a lot of other ads and annoying elements of webpages).

Has anyone ever tried to report a page that has Adsense installed for paid links? Certainly those have to be just as “despised” as paid links that appear in other forms – such as plain text, which seems to be the type of link that Google have a problem with.

For that matter, what about just about every major commercial website? Take, for example, The New York Times’ webpage. They have ads there, yet rank first for new york paper, new york times, have high rankings for other New York news related searches. In fact, they even buy ads from Google for their home delivery service. How is it possible that someone hasn’t reported them for having paid links?

Take a look at their front page, as it appeared this morning and tell me there aren’t any paid links on there…

However, you never hear about them having “Google penalties” – it always seems to be bloggers who take the brunt of Google’s judgments. Is there something that these major corporations are doing right that us “little guys” are doing wrong?

Does the fact that there are a lot of bloggers who have started making money using their blogs have something to do with these reports? Could it also be that this has something to do with the lost PageRank update as well?

Whither PageRank?

I know that this has been in the echo chamber for quite a while now, but Google have not updated their much-touted PageRank system in well over five or six months. Recently, in a post on the popular DigitalPoint forums, one of Google’s engineers, Matt Cutts (whose blog I read, incidentally), said to not expect a PageRank update for some time.

Since then, there has been post after post after post after post, jumping up and down saying “OMGWTFBBQ!!! TEH GOOGLEZ DESTROYING THE PAGERANK!!!!111″, using the post on DigitalPoint (though ironically not linking to it) by Matt as some sort of evidence that they are going to move away from PageRank. The catch is that almost every system used to make money through blogging uses PageRank as a criterion for the importance of your page.

I know that I have been waiting and waiting for them to get their backsides in gear to update the PageRank so that my site (and quite a few others which have started up or changed locations since the last update) will be able to stand on something other than the Alexa ranking and other measures of a blog’s worthiness.

The most interesting thing about the update is that, while everyone is running around almost like Chicken Little saying that the sky is falling, you don’t hear anything from Google at all, other than that one comment by Matt, made almost a month ago. It would seem that the blogging world lives or dies based on the comments of one or two people.

Personally, I think some of the best advice on how to handle the delayed update was given by Darren from Problogger, who made the observation, in a video post, that you shouldn’t worry about it and just go out there and make money in other ways. Even before he came out with that advice, I’ve gone to two sites where I was given a good ranking for this domain, despite having a PageRank of 0 – blogsvertise and sponsoredreviews.

So, how much control do they have?

I hate to answer a question with a question, but how many of their services do you use? I know that I use a lot of their services, so they probably have a lot of information about me, whether or not I know about it. They know what RSS feeds I subscribe to, what I search for (however, they don’t know what I click on because I’ve done one of the best things you can do for privacy – turned Web History off), who I email, what I blog about.

As someone who is hosted on their Blogger service, I also am dependent on them for hosting my site reliably, which it has been for quite a while, save for a few incidents where the service went down for various reasons. As I mentioned a while ago, because of being on Blogger, I don’t have control over the management of my own domain, a lesson that I had a firm reminder of when they decided to change my robots.txt without even a mention of it in their Blogger Buzz blog, or a notice to all users.

If you’re a user of their Adsense product, then you are aware that they have control over the money you earn – not so much the amount you make, but where you have to do everything by the book, lest you lose your adsense account, and however much money you have already legitimately earned from the ads you had on your site. If this were any other normal business arrangement, you would be entitled to most or all of your earnings that you had before being removed, yet Google have made it so that they keep your money.

How in the world can that be good for anyone? I’m sure that Google don’t need to keep the money.

Over to you

What do you think about Google’s control over our world? Are you affected by not having PageRank updated?

Have you been impacted by a “penalty” in the past?

Have your say in the comments, all views are welcome. :)

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7 Comments

  1. Snoskred said,

    October 4, 2007 @ 5.37 pm

    I don’t even have the words to speak how annoyed I have been at Google about the page rank. We all work hard on our blogs, and to not update the page rank is a serious insult to all bloggers.

    I used to have a page rank of 4 but then I got my own domain.

    I’d like to say I built a bridge and got over it, but I haven’t. I’m angry at you, Google. Get your act together!

    Snoskred
    http://www.snoskred.org

  2. Cugat said,

    October 4, 2007 @ 7.26 pm

    I guess my blog is new enough that I don’t have a page rank yet, but if I had worked as long and hard as both of you I imagine I’d be pretty pissed and writing about it a lot. Google has truly gotten so big that they don’t care about the little people who actually populate their world. Sux.

    Cugat

  3. David Airey said,

    October 5, 2007 @ 3.09 am

    Thanks for the mention, although it turns out that my penalty had more to do with paid links and Google-bombing, than anything else.

    I’ll be posting an article about it shortly.

    All the best.

  4. Radioactive Jam said,

    October 6, 2007 @ 12.29 pm

    Strange, to me at least: if Microsoft was the company behind these foibles, a fair number of people would rant loud and long about the evil company and their machinations. If people are similarly raising alarms about Google as a company – and I suspect they are – I’m not seeing evidence. Suppression, or just Stuff Lost in the Noise?

  5. Sephyroth said,

    October 9, 2007 @ 2.29 pm

    Snos – It really is an insult, especially when in the short time I’ve had the domain, I’ve managed to move it up in the rankings on other sites, yet I’m still stuck with that big old 0 in the PageRank, but my Blogspot blog still has the 3.

    It’s as if Google are both totally useless at times and the most dependable at others.

    Cugat – We have put a ton of work into our blogs, especially with this move that we’re making to WP. I also think that you’re right with google only caring about their share price instead of the people who give them content for people to search for.

    David – There are some fair points you made in your follow-up; I think that the contest may have hurt you, but I don’t think I’d ever heard of others who’ve had contests getting a penalty from Google. The question is one of when will they start to go after sites which run only their paid ads? Of course they won’t.

    RaJ – I think it is just a case of being lost in the noise and that if it were Microsoft, there would be howling all over the place. I don’t think you even hear comments about how much data Google has on everyone who uses their services either.

    Thanks y’all! :)

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