Is Google Perverting The Internet?

Google is a very good search engine. It supports thousands of struggling webmasters with Google Adsense. It’s much more responsive to webmasters than Yahoo or MSN.

However, I propose that its influence on the internet is not entirely benign. Webmasters are victims of its great success. How? Read on, and find out.

1. Google Knows Your Business (Better Than You Do).

• You use Google Search: Google knows roughly where you live. It knows what you like.

• You use the Google Toolbar, unmodified: Google knows all the sites you visit.

• You use Google Adwords: Google knows what niches you’re targeting. And which ad copy works.

• You use Google Adsense: Google knows which of your pages are most successful in getting clicks.

• You use Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools: Why not give them your business while you’re at it?

Use two or more of the above and Google knows more about your business than you do. Would you be happy if a competitor had access to that data? Or your government? But you trust Google. Because it’s a nice company.

2. Google PageRank Defeats Its Purpose.

Google PageRank (PR) has led to sites linking out to unrelated and substandard sites, for money. Why is this a problem? Well, Google itself rates a site according to the ‘link popularity’ of the sites linking to it. If your site has links from high PR sites, your site appears higher in Google searches.

Thus, Google created a problem for itself. Webmasters take payments to link out to sites that are unrelated and/or mediocre. This skews Google’s own rating system. It can also screw the site selling links, as linking out to ‘bad neighbourhoods’ can earn it a penalty.

Sites selling or abusing PR may retain the magic green bar, but cannot pass it on to sites they link to; another penalty. Naive webmasters then buy expensive links which don’t work as they wished.

More perverse still is that a whole industry has sprung up around selling and manipulating links based on PR. This distracts webmasters away from what should be their true goal; making great sites that can thrive purely by ‘word of mouth’.

I used to wonder why some webmasters would fret in forums, asking when the next PR update would occur. Now I realise that for some it was because they could charge more for their links.

3. Google Is Stuck In An Adsense-Spam Loop.

Google Adsense A.K.A ‘The Webmaster’s Dole’. This is a major source of income for semi-pro webmasters.

It’s given rise to the phenomenon of MFA (Made For Adsense) websites. Previously webmasters did it for the love (mostly). Now they’re putting up pages about subjects they’re not interested in, purely to get clicks on these ads. Result: low-quality websites which disappoint naive surfers.

The irony is, Google Search is constantly having to tweak its algorithm, to filter out sites like these. The ‘black hat’ webmaster’s response? Churn out a hundred more. Not so much fun for the ‘white hat’ webmaster ‘though; he may find that his one-and-only website, the labour of years, falls foul of a Google penalty. Why? Because it accidentally matches the ‘footprint’ of a spammy site.

Thus, Google is stuck in a recursive loop of its own making:

• Google Adsense encourages spam, which …

• Google Search tries to filter out, which …

• Collaterally penalises legit webmasters, who …

• Buy more links from high-PageRank sites to boost their perceived popularity and/or

• Make more sub-substandard web pages to keep their revenues up, which …

• Google Search tries to filter out.

Prior to Adsense, a webmaster had to sell his own stuff, establish good affiliate relations with other companies, or get three million visitors so some would click on his crude ‘pay-per-click’ banners.

Now all he has to do is insert Adsense and make money immediately. Even if it’s not enough to live on, it encourages him to make more websites, plus more pages, equalling more money.

4. Google Penalties Cause Webmaster Neurosis.

No one, including the ‘black hat’ webmaster, is too bothered when a penalty happens to a spam site. However, they can easily happen to a ‘white hat’ site too. A webmaster reads the latest tricks on a webmaster forum, goes a little too far with ‘search engine optimisation’ then BAM! He wakes up one morning, checks his stats, and gets a nasty surprise. Or he does nothing at all, and still gets a penalty; his site inadvertently ‘fits the profile’.

Result: Many profitless hours spent researching the cause, and fixing it. If he has employees, he may have to ‘let them go’: "Happy Christmas, don’t come back in the New Year".

5. If You Ain’t Ranking On Google, You’re Invisible.

Google has a near-monopoly on search. Because Google is a benevolent company, unlike the ‘Beast of Redmond’, webmasters don’t mind this. In fact, many _love_ Google. Visit any webmaster forum, and see how often Google features in them as a topic.

The problem for the webmaster is when his site doesn’t appear on Google. Not too bad if he’s just starting out, but catastrophic if he has one website he’s monetised nicely, and it drops out of the index.

6. Conclusion.

• Spam goes up;

• Quality content goes down;

• Google techs run ever-finer tweaks on their algorithm;

• More borderline websites get booted;

• Webmasters are driven cracked in pursuit of Adsense gold, PageRank or avoiding penalties;

• Google amasses huge amounts of extremely valuable consumer data.

The average surfer never sees this. He may wonder why the same search a day later doesn’t throw up the same sites. But he won’t change search engines; there’s no real competition.

Lest you think I’m a Google-hater, I’m not. I like Google, a lot. I’ve used Adwords and Adsense, and Search, of course. I’ve put up pages spurred by thoughts of Adsense riches. I know what Google has to fight to clear the cr*p out of its index.

I just wish fewer webmasters were Google-twitchers, and that Google Search had more competition. Webmaster discussions are dominated by one search engine. Yahoo and MSN are a very poor second and third. Naive webmasters will find that a near-monopoly is never good for business, even with a company whose laudable motto is ‘Do No Evil’.