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Is Google A Bully?

Google is not a bullyLast week, Matt Cutts set the Internet aflame when he announced on Twitter that a “large guest blog network” was penalized. He didn’t even mention the network, but MyBlogGuest (MBG) came clean when the owner, Ann Smarty, responded with her own tweet. You can read all about it at Search Engine Journal.

I’ve been pretty clear what I think about MyBlogGuest in my review and my follow up review.

I have to say, it wasn’t hard to see this coming. Matt Cutts declared guest blogging dead in January. That was a pretty clear warning sign to anyone in the business to watch their steps.

And I’d be willing to say it’s entirely possible that Google singled out and pursued MyBlogGuest solely to make an example of them. I’m not saying that as a matter of fact. I’m saying it’s possible.

One of the contentious issues in guest blogging, from an SEO and a potential spam problem perspective, are dofollow links. Ann Smarty stated publicly that MBG doesn’t plan to give up on allowing users to have dofollow links in their articles. But if that’s something that Google says it doesn’t want to encourage, then sites that cater to guest bloggers should take note. By encouraging the use of dofollow links they are making themselves a target. That doesn’t make Google a bully.

What Google Is To You And Me

Google is a business. Their primary concern is to turn a profit for their stockholders. In order to do that, they have to make sure their product is top-notch, which means the free service they provide for searchers has to be optimum. That means fewer spam results and more valuable search results.

woman prepares to cut off penisI know from experience that any site that acts as a repository for consumer content – and that includes forums, article directories, or any site where a lot of people can sign in and post content for others to pick up and use – is going to have associated risks. It’s up to that site to clean up the spam. Large article directories learned that the hard way when Panda and Penguin pulled a Lorena Bobbitt on them.

It’s important to understand that guest blogging arose en masse as a result of the great article directory slapdown.

In fact, guest blogging is just another form of article marketing. Since Panda and Penguin, every SEO and Internet marketer in the world has written about how to rank websites post-Panda and Penguin. It’s become its own little cottage industry – post-tidal wave SEO. The answer was guest blogging. From that wave, MBG grew into its niche status.

So what’s all that got to do with Google?

Google’s job is to index and rank the pages of the Web to make it easier for searchers to find the information they are looking for.

That Herculean task is dominated by the search engine’s infamous algorithm. In truth, Google has thousands of algorithms. No doubt, some of are competing while others are complementary, but Google’s policy (and I’d argue their obligation to the world community) is to not disclose their secret sauce to anyone. Google’s secrecy keeps a relatively level playing field.

Nevertheless, you have rock star SEOs like Aaron Wall who have made a career out of bitching about Google’s policies while benefiting from them.

A few years ago, Mr. Wall banned my IP address from accessing his free SEO toolbar for nothing more than criticizing him publicly on a blog, something he does to Google all day long every day in endless rants against the behemoth for doing its job of trying to clean up web spam. Are some of his criticisms valid? Sure, but isn’t it a bit hypocritical (to offer something for free then withdraw it from one person – or a few people – on a whim for what seem like arbitrary reasons while criticizing others for doing the same)?

Mr. Wall isn’t the only high profile SEO who does this. There is an entire industry of early pioneers in the space who run together and bitch bitch bitch that Google doesn’t favor them in its policies. They have a very unhealthy dose of rank envy.

The difference between these jokers and Google is that Google’s arbitrariness is a part of its business model (as it should be). But some people are more than a little uncomfortable with

I’m not saying Ann Smarty falls into this category, but she did say

(Source) Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else.

And so the FUD police come out in full force. Reading the comments on the SEJ post are downright hilarious.

Google as dictator SEJ comment

Dictator? I don’t recall any algorithms that gun people down in the streets or chop their heads off. Where is the Guillotine Update or the Gas Chamber Update?

Google is the mafia SEJ comment

Mafia? Do these people even think before posting this kind of nonsense?

Google is bully SEJ comment

Now, here’s a good one. This nutcracker doesn’t even have the balls to put their name on their comment. Instead, they’ve artificed some faux freedom fighter persona. What are they afraid of? Running afoul of Google’s quality guidelines and being confined to Page 100 on the bottom 50 SERPs of all time?

If all else fails, get personal.

Matt Cutts is the problem

This guy doesn’t like Matt Cutts, so clearly, SEO communism is the answer.

I’m not a Pollyanna. I know Google has problems. I believe Google knows they have problems. No business can grow to a respectable size and not have problems. Right MBG?

But the issue is much deeper than Google’s problems, or MyBlogGuest’s, for that matter. And that brings me to my next point.

Quit Being So Damned Sanctimonius!

I‘m talking to all you hawkers out there who think you know how to run Google’s business better than Google does. Let’s mention a few inconvenient truths:

  • Without Google, most of you wouldn’t know what a ranking is
  • Google isn’t perfect, but it is the best search engine the world has ever had
  • All these SEOs who are barking about how evil Google is were singing Google’s praises 15 years ago. Think of any A-lister right now and they were all singing and dancing about Google’s new search algorithm in 1998. They were talking about how accurate Google was and how much better Google was than Excite, Alta Vista, or any of the other umpteen search engines who were struggling to come up with a model that cataloged the entire Web. No one succeeded. But Google did. And we were happy.

What happened? What changed?

What changed is that these SEOs, these self-proclaimed gurus of all things search marketing, started writing books and getting people to listen to how smart they are about getting their web pages ranked. And they were good at it, too. So good, in fact, that they could get any web page in the world to rank for any keyword they chose to optimize it for. And then Google got tired of the web spam and changed their algorithm. OMG, these self-styled experts had to rewrite their books!

And this circle repeated itself. Again. Like, every two years or so. Google kept changing. SEOs kept adapting. And spamming. And Google changed again. And again. And again. And yet again.

SEOs just can’t win for losing. Every time they get good at ranking with Google’s new ranking policies, Google changes the game. How unfair!

Except that it’s Google’s fucking business. Not yours. And that’s what pisses you off.

So What’s The Answer?

Instead of whining about how Google is being unfair to all the people we like, wouldn’t it be more fruitful to try and understand what Google’s ultimate goal is?

Let’s explore one more inconvenient truth.

Instead of whining about how Google is being unfair to all the people we like, wouldn’t it be more fruitful to try and understand what Google’s ultimate goal is? — Some Random Jackass

None of us have to play Google’s game. We all have the option of blocking Google’s bot and refusing to be ranked in Google’s search engine. We can totally ignore their quality guidelines. We can all promote Bing or any of the smaller search engines that can’t compete against Leviathan. No one has to play the game that Google has rigged in its own favor. Not you, not me, and certainly not Ann Smarty. So why do we?

We do it because if we don’t, then we can’t possibly hope to rank in Google’s index.

Imagine that. Fail to follow the search engine guidelines and you can’t expect to achieve high rankings nor can you expect to escape penalty. The fact that Google frequently changes its guidelines or chooses to penalize sites willy-nilly even when they do follow them is no defense. It’s Google’s business. And if you don’t like it, start your own search engine. Good luck!

This is not a defense of Google. It’s a defense of common sense. You don’t have to like Google or its policies, but if you want to rank in its search index – just as you have to follow the proper legal procedures if you want to obtain a drivers license – then you have to take common sense measures to guard against being penalized, de-ranked, de-indexed, or see your rankings fall. Focus yourself on doing the right thing and running a good business based on integrity and a strong work ethic.

I know it’s the 21st century, but a strong work ethic and integrity are still worthwhile values. Are they not?

Oh, yes.

One more thing: Quit chasing rankings! You guys act like being No. 1 in some silly SERP is the most important thing in the world. What’s vitally more important is providing a good service, converting your traffic to sales, realizing a positive ROI, and maintaining your profits. That is, if you care at all about your business.

Stay tuned. Next week I’ll tell you how to keep that editorial control you covet so much.

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