Well if there was ever any doubt about whether Google would enforce their hard line approach to paid links or “selling” PageRank, it’s gone now. Big G are on a bitch slapping spree the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the S&M World Championship of 1987.
Everywhere you look, sites are having their PageRank stripped back and we’re not talking about small time Charlies here. Andy Beard reports sites including Engadget, Forbes, ProBlogger, Search Engine Roundtable, Copyblogger, The Blog Herald, Quick Online Tips and Search Engine Journal have all seen their PR drop by between 1-3 points.
Is it an automated review of the whole visible PageRank algorithm or is it all part of a big conspiracy theory?
Whatever the reasoning behind it or the actual methods employed, Google would be well advised to consider just exactly who it is that they’re attacking. As Andy points out
For a company such as Google with a stock price based extensively on anticipated growth and public sentiment, it doesn’t take a huge swing in goodwill to have a dramatic effect on valuation. Google has just slapped their biggest fans.
When Google first came on the scene, it was used almost exclusively by computer geeks. I should now. I was one of them. For me, using Google was like a badge telling the non-geeks that I knew something they didn’t. What happened, of course, is that ‘we’ started telling the world about Google and extolling their virtues over and above all of the other search engines. “If you want to find something real quick”, we would say, “use Google cuz they rock, dude”. Obviously I didn’t use those exact words because I am far too British to use the word “dude” in every day conversation but you see the point I’m getting at? Google became what they are today because the tech-heads, the web developers, the early adopters championed them above everyone else.
Well guess what, Google? Those are the exact same people you are currently attacking. The people who supported you in your early years and the people who have the ability to influence the non-tech folks. It’s not a wise move to piss them off in great numbers. Sure, you’re currently top of the pile but with every one of your snidey little digs at the SEO community or the web development community or the blogging community, you chip away at your power base.
Blog Bloke spoke the other day about moving everything away from Google. This is the guy who, a few short months ago, would rather have performed self castration than move his site away from Blogger.
There is no doubt in my mind that these are clinical hand jobs rather than algorithm changes. The sites Big G have targeted, and will no doubt continue to target, are the very people who put them at the top of the search engine pile and this is where they’re making their biggest mistake.
You may well say that a handful of bloggers getting out of their prams over this will make no difference. Google is a multi billion dollar company. Nobody can touch them, right?
For every pissed off SEO or web developer who has been bitch slapped by Google there is a new convert to Yahoo! or Ask or Live Search and guess who they’re recommending to their non-tech clients? “You don’t want to use Google any more. They’ve sold out. Their results are packed with paid entries/spam/Google only sites. You want to use xxx instead. They’re much better” and Mr or Mrs Non-Tech believe them because, well, why wouldn’t you? This guy is an expert so he must know what he’s talking about.
It’s my birthday next week and I’m having a few beers in my local pub to celebrate. It’ll be a real mix of my friends including some actors, a couple of filmmakers and some of my older non-tech buddies. No doubt the conversation will turn to what I’m up to these days and we’ll get onto the subject of web development and SEO. Who do you think I’ll be championing as the new “cool” search engine to use? Will it be Google? Will it bollocks.
Even before all this and I was talking to web clients about search, I was telling them to stop using Google exclusively and to branch out. I was recommending Live Search for images because it’s miles better than Google. I was telling them focusing solely on getting good Google rankings was actually harming them because they were neglecting nearly half of all online searches.
Neither Larry Page or Sergey Brin have, to the best of my knowledge, ever worked as a waitress in a cocktail bar. However that doesn’t stop me finishing this rant article with the opening lines of the 1981 UK number one hit by the Human League which has been running through my head as I’ve been writing this. It somehow feels rather apt.
You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar
When I met you
I picked you out, I shook you up and turned you around
Turned you into someone new
Now five years later on you’ve got the world at your feet
Success has been so easy for you
But don’t forget it’s me who put you where you are now
And I can put you back down too
UPDATE: I’ve just read a piece by Jack Schofield at The Guardian on the whole subject. I’m pleased not just because he links back to Twenty Steps but also because it shows that the bullying behaviour of Google is starting to seep into the mainstream media. There’s also an excellent piece by Jack about TV Links being closed down for linking to illegally distributed films rather than Google themselves for hosting them on YouTube.
UPDATE 2: Well this site officially got slapped and is now a PR3. Pretty much all of the 50+ sites I own or manage have also been hit by 1-2 points across the board.
Interestingly enough, of all the sites I run, only 2 escaped getting slapped. Both of them have only run AdSense from day one. No competing advertisers. I’m sure that’s just a spooky coincidence, right? Right?
UPDATE 3: I was going to respond to the folks that have been going round saying “I told you so” in response to Google’s stance on paid links but then I remembered seeing the perfect response from Jennifer Laycock in her excellent series of posts NoFollow is for Blog Spam…no Paid Text Links, wait…Paid Ads…Aww Heck, Just Stop Linking and Let Calacanis Decide the Rankings. This pretty much sums up my own feelings on the matter:
For instance…if I tell you today (and every day for the next week) that I’ll be punching you in the face next Wednesday, does that make it ok?