Google is the Biggest Web Spammer

Mar 22nd

Andrew Goodman recently posted about SEO industry reputation woes, but the real reason for the problem is the self serving agenda of search engines. Don't underestimate the marketing of the search engines, which outside of their own link buying and selling, generally like to hint at this equation SEO = spam.

People spam everything though - media creating biased news, misquoting interviewees, blending ads in content, ads as content, free votes driving communities, deceptive article titles, spinning numbers from small sample sets, bogus posturing formated as research studies, etc.

Look at how much Google had to clean their PPC ads. Yet we don't associate PPC service providers as people pushing thin content arbitrage sites, fraudulent search engine submission services, and off target cookie stuffing offer spams. Should we?

If spam is hosted by Google, ranked by Google, and displays Google ads, then why the need for outsourcing that fault? Why can't we just call those people Google affiliates and leave it at what it is, Google = spam?

Some people claim that Google is out for the best interest of their users, but why the need for cost per action ads that are only labeled as ads on a scroll over? Ads cloaked as content are what is best for users? In a couple years we will see:

The game is now to manipulate consumers not only to click, but to take some further action. And I don't use the word 'manipulate' arbitrarily. This is about turning the web into one big pile of junk mail, aimed at getting you to sign up, buy, or commit to something that you hadn't necessarily wanted.

Published: March 22, 2007

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Comments

Shawn
March 22, 2007 - 3:17am

Every time I read or hear something about Google now I always think of SkyNet from Terminator.

jay
March 22, 2007 - 3:59am

Aaron, I believe exactly this will happen. We will see more hype sales strategies applied to websites to push people into buying something. If really that many people jump on Googles cpa ads which is very likely, it will be a must for every company to sign up. No matter what, they have nothing to lose if they go for pay per sale.

One move I can see on the other side is that browsers will have standard plugins that actively highlight advertising links. But does that really help if most of the content you can find has a matching affiliate link?

As a publisher I kinda like the move because I will get paid for conversions but on the other hand I probably will write more marketing copy instead of just unbiased reviews.

Greg
March 22, 2007 - 4:14am

i get sicker and sicker every passing day by being in this business. so many blogs now have these horrid double-underlined aff links that are worse in my eyes than pop-ups ads. sure, i'm in this biz, so i know there isn't some link to a wiki when i see that ... i know it's a cheap ad ... trouble is ... we all have moms and dads that grew up in a simpler time ... this is the kind of stuff that drives my mom nuts ... she finally gets it that the right hand side and the off color top links in se results are ads ... now this?

google is the biggest web spammer. hey, they have to make money and all ... but self serving is just about good of a description as i've heard. it sums it all up.

Danny
March 22, 2007 - 5:05am

I have to agree that I have seen an increase in the "I've got the right solution to your problem" sales pitches on the web.

Most of them start with a strong sales copy page, and it seems to be effective because someone has to be making money at it (or everyone is following the leader).

If you look at Aaron's SEO book sales page it has the standard format, but the difference in my opinion is that I've read his book and it delivers on what is promised and then more. Also, I figured the guy ranking across the board in organic search results, especially in the area of SEO, pretty much knew his stuff (which he does).

So, my point is that it's like anything...reputation will build your business more than a slick "come buy me" ads on web pages. Which gets you back to the basics of Internet marketing (or marketing in general)...people are eventually going to weed out the good and bad.

Deliver value and you have a business...deliver junk and you'll snag a few people, but destory your brand in the process and people will never buy from you again.

Peace!

Patrick
March 22, 2007 - 6:53am

What if Google goes totally overboard with it and users get sick of it?

Great chance for another search engine to only display sites without (much) Google stuff on them? Might be a lot less sites, but usability might win...at least gain market share.

that makes me believe, it won't be *that* bad, as competition might be out there to keep Google (at least a little) honest

Patrick
March 22, 2007 - 7:12am

"We will see more hype sales strategies applied to websites to push people into buying something."

I'm wondering, if this will mean that hype-selling copy strategies will work less and more serious looking copy will gain momentum (like the redone version of SEOBook by "Copyblogger")

March 22, 2007 - 11:03am

Just a quick comment on something mentioned by Danny:

"If you look at Aaron's SEO book sales page it has the standard format, but the difference in my opinion is that I've read his book and it delivers on what is promised and then more. Also, I figured the guy ranking across the board in organic search results, especially in the area of SEO, pretty much knew his stuff (which he does)."

I'd like to point out that there are people out there who use the standard long copy sales letter on the web format, and that sell things, who aren't Aaron, who ALSO know what they're on about.

I'm putting out a free ebook soon, that's over 200 pages long, to teach people how to be successful in online marketing areas, not just SEO and PPC.

And yes, it'll be using the long copy sales letter format. Does that mean it's rubbish? No. I really know my stuff. But this has made a point:

The question isn't do I know my stuff. It's do YOU think I know my stuff. Because if you don't, I won't be able to sell it. And at this point, it becomes about reputation. Selling by brand, and showing to people who've never heard of you, that your brand is one they can trust.

Danny
March 22, 2007 - 2:47pm

Patrick - I think you're right, and in some circles it's blasphemy saying Google could be taken out, but I've got two words for those folks "Alta-Vista." I know there's more to the story than just 2 words, but I think Google is only as good as its search results and how people feel about it. If the masses leave then Google's P/L drops like a rock (along with their stock price). If Google does drop the ball I wouldn't be surprised to see someone else move in, and then some odd split of the traffic ends up in the search engines when a new kid comes on the block.

Pete - You make a good point that I missed...the real question is do "I" (i.e. the consumer) think you know your stuff. So, the I think the question then turns on what is going to make someone think the seller knows his stuff...that could be reputation, it could also be a strong sales copy page, a referral from a friend, pricing, etc...it could even be BS.

Thinking about it more, the process I used when I bought Aaron's book was 1) I found him through a search after looking for information to solve a problem I was having; 2) he convinced me via his copy, page rank, etc that he might solve the problem; 3) his price was at a level that if I made a mistake it wasn't going to break me; 4) it was a business deduction; and 5) it was simple to purchase.

Now, once I bought the book and started reading it, Aaron did what any great business does...he over delivered on what he promised. This uplifted his credibility in my eyes. My opinion of him increased even more when I sent him an email one day and he responded quickly to a question. Plus, you add the benefits of the blog and you've got a winner. If I hadn't found any value in Aaron's book, I would have walked away with a "I got ripped" feeling, told anyone that would listen and gone on my way.

So, I agree the real question is does the buyer think the seller knows his stuff. The trick is how does the seller communicate that to the buyer. Let's face it, someone can be the smartest person in the world, but if he or she can't communicate the value of their idea/product then no one is going to hand over their cash (or credit card number).

Ahhh...the secrets of marketing!

March 22, 2007 - 6:49pm

I agree that major engines need to redefine their outward stance towards SEO being spam. While I think they don't go so far as to say SEO = spam, they also don't do much to say SEO != spam.

While we're on the subject, I think the term search spam, in and of itself, is as silly as defining white and black hat tactics. If the end user looks for viagra and finds it on a student edu page, is that spam? Technically the end user was actively searching for and finding the desired product. The serps don't look as "clean" in that instance, but are still relevant. Therefore, I propose that:
spam = irrelevant results (such as a search for silverware yielding cloaked porn sites)

Anything else is just marketing to one's audience via a variety of diverse methods.

Patrick
March 22, 2007 - 8:30pm

@Pete: When will your e-book come out..if it's free, I see no reason why I wouldn't like to download it and spread the word if it's good ;-)

I have to agree with Danny..the main reason, why I bought the SEOBook was because I figured if the guy is #1 for 'SEO Book' on all the major search engines, that pretty much proves his point.

I also remember doubting a little as he might have an unfair advantage over the competition, because he owns an exact matching domain name, but all in all ranking #1 for a product on SEO is a pretty convincing..

March 22, 2007 - 8:34pm

Aaron,

I've become a recent SEO Book junkie and appreciate your insight into how the Internet works both fundamentally and from a marketing standpoint. I was pleased to see the Wall Street Journal article last week (although I shed few tears for Rich Skrenta and the manipulation of organic search results through manual inclusion of Topix.net to nearly every DMOZ category) which highlighted some of the problems trying to "chase the Google Tail." I'm equally pleased to see that industry experts such as yourself are not afraid to tell it like it is.

We have a solid network of sites that provide consumers information on financial, healthcare and business services. I pride myself on the fact that we try to provide high-quality, relevant content within a structure that is seo-friendly. I've been saddened by the fact that our "white hat" strategies are being pushed into what I consider to be a contribution to the irrelevant link structure of Google's web. I find myself pushing strategies that promote trying to get links from trust sources, such as .edu/.orgs and "topical hubs" instead of building quality partnerships with other sites that complement our core product offering. At the same time, I'm amazed at how advertiser's have continued to support the ineffective, and frankly archaic PPC model that has infected the web.

Did you ever wonder why Google hasn't moved towards a more advanced performance based marketing model earlier? Do the math. At $9 to $14/click for the term "mortgage" - and 20,000 clicks/day, they're raking in $200,000/day off of 'mortgage'. At a 2% conversion rate to mortgage lead, they are charging advertisers an effective $500/lead cost. The same lead, in smaller cost/lead networks, sells exclusively for $50. Go figure.

Google's addiction to ppc revenue is the company's Achilles heel. As other search companies provide more effective ways to provide relevant access to information (search results) and ad platforms provide advertisers (and publishers) with a stronger ROI, the guerilla will either have to get with it or become extinct.

I'm curious to your thoughts on what opportunities have been created by the stones that Google has blindly left unturned both in the search and ad platform markets. How can advertisers, publishers and users influence Google in order to create a web that caters to the informational and marketing needs of both individuals and businesses? On a personal note, are you currently invovled in, or have an interest in, any projects that are geared towards creating a better web environment?

March 22, 2007 - 11:45pm

The analysis should go deeper from the advertiser's viewpoint. The 2% conversion rate to a lead you discussed needs to then be taken further. What is the lead to application conversion rate? We see about 10% running through typical operations; much higher in others. Then what is the application to closing ratio? Federal Home Loan Disclosure Act data indicate less than 75% of applications actually close. At these conversion rates, $500 PER LEAD is not profitable to mortgage originators.

March 23, 2007 - 3:44pm

I hope that isnt what happens! I am really starting to enjoy my time online.

March 25, 2007 - 10:42pm

Google lures users with content as a bait
Google advertises a simple search service with free access to top content. For commercially interesting keywords the search result pages are dominated by AdWords sponsored links. The good content is often penalized and/or buried by spam, from eBay and similar companies, several pages down. Thereby, many users are fooled to click on sponsored links.

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