Don't Trust Google Webmaster Central (or, Is Buying a Web Business Considered Spam?)

Aug 10th

Google has long hated publicly on people buying or selling links. Some of the better SEOs have moved beyond just getting a link here or there and have moved into acquiring trusted properties, improved them, scaling them, and marketing them. Google hates the practice though because they would prefer to have crusty dated content or incomplete blog posts ranking, such that anyone searching with a commercial interest is more drawn toward their Google AdWords program.

It is only a matter of time until Google tries to call buying websites and web based businesses a form of spam. They may not do it publicly yet, but it is well known in the SEO underground that they do it privately. It is just something they don't talk about.

Should Google be allowed to profile webmasters and ban them specifically because they are SEOs, even if their content quality is higher than that of the top ranking site? If so, then how can they justify rewriting their relevancy algorithms to feature YouTube more frequently in their search results after they bought the site?

Published: August 10, 2007

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Comments

August 12, 2007 - 8:33am

Even worse, how do they differentiate between a SEO racking up a bunch of sites in their webmaster account, and a company using a webmaster account for keeping track of analytics, web design clients, etc? They can't.

Anything beyond them keeping an eye on the interlinking of those sites would be just plain wrong.

August 13, 2007 - 3:50am

Personally I've always been very hesitant about using Google Analytics. Unfortunately there simply aren't any good alternatives in the same ballpark. I'll likely switch over to Gatineau when its finished with beta. Hopefully a few months after that my own analytics program will be sufficiently mature that I can switch over to it.

Anybody else end up creating their own? I rather like having complete control over my stats.

August 13, 2007 - 5:42am

I hate google, for the reasons stated above and will switch as soon as a good alternative arises.

August 13, 2007 - 7:55am

"If so, then how can they justify rewriting their relevancy algorithms to feature YouTube more frequently in their search results after they bought the site?"

Youch! I wondered who was going to be the first to call that one lmao! That's why I didn't buy YouTube myself. I thought Google would frown on me buying it and see it as spam.

Should have whipped out a couple billion and got it anyway. :)

August 13, 2007 - 4:00pm

First, I don't approve of all that Google has done or will do in the future. Yet, in terms of business, which is what Google is:

A) As a publicly-traded company, a for-profit organization, Google has the right to optimize their products and services to serve the corporate purpose, whether or not we think its nice. Is it legal? Right now it is, so we can't call for intervention because...

B) Google is not public domain! If we don't like it we should...

C) Use an alternative. In the economy, our dollar is our vote. On the web, our click (our usage) is our vote.

"But, Grant," you may say, "there IS NO alternative that can possibly compete."

Well, I think that for many of the services there are decent alternative. But generally you are right, Google has a lot of cool services on lock-down.

We just wish they weren't hating so much. So, I think a far more effective strategy would be to work WITH Google instead of against.

How can the population of the digisphere really make an impact by working WITH Google?

Any ideas?

August 13, 2007 - 4:09pm

One thing I don't understand is why Google just doesn't create their "own" location in the search results.

Right now they have Links at the top, 2 locations for paid ads, sometimes news and then organic search. Why not create another "google" zone. If you search for something and it triggers a google property they can place the link in this zone, instead of organic results.

Google is the Godfather of the Internet, but they fail to consider this responsibility when they act. Honestly re-writing an algorithm to make their Finance site rank? Wow how childish is that really?

Sometimes they act like they are just john-q-unknown-site.com, when in reality their changes affect thousands of business and millions of people.

August 13, 2007 - 4:20pm

[quote]B) Google is not public domain! If we don't like it we should...

C) Use an alternative. In the economy, our dollar is our vote. On the web, our click (our usage) is our vote.[/quote]

Your argument doesn't hold water because *we* cannot choose what our customers/audience chooses to use. As far as John Q Public is concerned if they want to find something, they look to Google first.

Tim
August 13, 2007 - 8:19pm

Are'nt Google Adwords basically PAID links.

You are paying to have a link which is the same as buying links to get to the top of the serps.

August 23, 2007 - 3:25am

Aaron, you ask why Google has rewritten its algo after it bought YouTube and why it shows up better. This is very, very simple.

Google learns new ways of how people value content. Once it bought YT, it learned the ways the people appreciate the video content (comments, links, views, shares, bookmarks, etc) and improved their algorithm.

Since they were doing it from YT, naturally, YT went up in the rankings.

Now the question is, did other video sites start ranking a tad better due to this, too? Because they should, since the algo tweak was video specific.

If they did not, they are either low quality, or Google has just upped YT.

Can you prove the latter? That'd be interesting.

Google has long been regarding whois info change as a new site. And yes, this is wrong, just as you described businesses change owners. I wonder why this hasn't been caught fire yet.

August 10, 2007 - 6:03am

I don't know, but I've been worried/wondering for a while how being part of Google Webmaster and/or Google Analytics stacks the SERPs in ones favor.

For instance... does G factor in Analytics results in it's algorithm? It would make the results likely better, but I've never heard of anyone gaming analytics to get better placement.

Any thoughts?

August 10, 2007 - 6:21am

As a public company, and a public company with very high investor expectations, I think that we're going to see more and more actions that favour the commercial needs of Google over the better good of webmasters/content providers.

MS new analytics app can only spell good news as the chronic addiction on Google apps is broken. Unfortunately there's no quick fix for the Webmaster Console problem - if you want to know what Google sees then that's the only play...

Mark Robertson
August 10, 2007 - 7:13am

Thank God someone doesnt mind calling them hypocrites in public. I am sick and tired of hearing about google. I am tired of their business practices (bullies) and am tired of the egocentric nature of google which believes it is ok for them to make money showing relevant search results but not ok for others to make money helping webmasters and site owners increase their relevance. I hope to God someone can figure out how to get better results cause unfortunately, I hate to admit, but I still find what I need through Google and not others. I would switch in a heartbeat if that was not the case. Ahhh. Thanks for this post. Heated my blood a bit.

Ivan Stanojevic
August 10, 2007 - 8:01am

I'm not trying to be a Google fan boy and do participate in many SEO strategies for my own business. If Google wants to stay on top of its game it needs to provide the most relevant results to the user. If that means attempting to identify purchased websites for SEO and reduce their influence on rankings, they have justification for doing so. You are attempting to use authority earned over time by another website owner for yourself. That should not simply be transferable to the highest bidder. The correct action for Google (IMHO) would be to not rank these older and often abandoned websites so well. They clearly are not the results the user would like to see in many cases.

Brandon
August 10, 2007 - 9:26am

Google is going to keep refining it's listing and making their money. I'm going to keep reading and trying SEO tricks to outsmart them ;)

August 10, 2007 - 9:27am

If that means attempting to identify purchased websites for SEO and reduce their influence on rankings, they have justification for doing so. You are attempting to use authority earned over time by another website owner for yourself.

Businesses are bought and sold all the time. Management changes all the time. What makes search different than the real world? Why did Google rewrite their relevancy algorithms after purchasing YouTube?

August 10, 2007 - 10:13am

I think the point is that you CAN buy authority, whether through business mergers, partnerships and acquisitions or through purchasing links on a website.

Google got the authority of YouTube by purchasing it and have since strongly integrated video into search. If it's good enough for them it should be good enough for anyone.

August 10, 2007 - 11:42am

...ah well youve hit the nail on the head aaron... if it benefits google (i.e. youtube) then they re-write the algo to help their property. Ive know of them doing this many times in the past which is why they ignore comments until it directly effects them. something with google news not ranking high enough for a key story was the last i heard.

August 10, 2007 - 11:51am

Hi Mark
In this NYT article, Google engineers highlighted that it was time for an algorithm rewrite when Google Finance did not rank as well as they would have liked.

HurtByGoogle
August 10, 2007 - 12:07pm

I always suspected this and have not subscribed for Google's tools. Wish I could kick Google's ass for trying to take away business from SEOs. Google doesn't like to see anybody spending on any kind of advertising online if it's not Adwords. In the coming months there would be more such attempts. Is there nothing at all that we could do about it all?

August 10, 2007 - 12:37pm

i'm about as suspicious as you can get of webmaster tools AND analytics.

They give you something for free and in return assume control over your website and where it ranks.

Without these things installed, you stay under the radar, away from prying eyes.

Good post Aaron.

August 10, 2007 - 1:46pm

"Some of the better SEOs have moved beyond just getting a link here or there and have moved into acquiring trusted properties, improved them, scaling them, and marketing them."

Could this be also know as "creating relevant content"?

August 10, 2007 - 1:50pm

Could this be also know as "creating relevant content"?

Perhaps, but I think it makes some of the search engineers scared, so they lash out at people if they suspect they are an SEO.

There is much more human editing to the search results than most people are led to believe.

Thomas
August 10, 2007 - 2:02pm

Google's SERPs are dominated by wikipedia and youtube. Wikipedia is the safest way to ensure that a result is right and youtube ofcourse belongs to them.

Running a search engine becomes so much easier this way!

trnsfrmr
August 10, 2007 - 2:34pm

I recently canceled my Google Analytics accounts for similar reasons to other comment-ers, Google Analytics users who have created goals to track conversion events are giving away extremely valuable information to the wrong people.

I'm now using a wonderful Analytics product that actually allows me to host my own data, away from prying eyes. I would strongly recommend others doing the same. The time has come to take back our data. Certain Web 2.0-type products have made us all far too gullable.

Cata
August 10, 2007 - 4:14pm

As long as there will be search engines, there will be SEOs. Google would better see that they improve their overall ranking algorithms because the real good results are not in top 10, not by far. Google has already lost some of its trust.

Philip Silberman
August 10, 2007 - 4:23pm

There is a lot of speculation about whether Google is actually individually targeting well known people that optimize sites for a living.

If there is any real evidence of this, an SEO or a group of SEO's may have a valid anti-trust claim against Google.

August 10, 2007 - 4:51pm

Aaron,
I think this also rings to the same tone as the speculation that Google uses registrar information in their algo. to influence ranking of an SEO's website or network of sites.

As you said, many sites are bought and sold every day. The reason they are is because the buyer sees or believes in the potential of growing that business even more than it already is. This is not different than Google buying YouTube or the numerous other web properties where they've left the brand name intact and instead focused on bettering the SERPs to give more results to their newly purchased properties. I think most people would agree with this for the most part.

Just because someone is an SEO does not make them spammers. Hell, we've purchased sites in the past, hired good writers within that particular niche to create value-added content, and put lots of effort into growing a useful resource for visitors. If this is frowned upon by Google because we are traditionally an SEO company, then where would/will the puppeteering end?

Yes, when we buy a website it has authority, age, and decent SERPs already. Google buys sites for this reason too. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.

August 10, 2007 - 7:45pm

How can they justify devaluing text links when that is essentially what they sell?

August 11, 2007 - 1:54am

Google needs to realize that just as they are in business to make money so are so many others. Domain name investors and internet entrepreneurs deserver to make a few buck now and then. Anyways who better to improve a site than an SEO who understands what users and search engines are looking for and provides it to them.

What concerns me more is that if someone was to purchase an online business or site and all of a sudden Google freezes their adsense account or their site gets banned for some bogus reason, then they just lost a ton of money and could be in a bad situation.

There seem to be lots of profits in internet investment, but the risks may be higher than I'd like sometimes.

I wish it was as easy to spam today as it was in the god old days :)

April 28, 2008 - 5:35pm

Switch to haveamint its better also imo.

September 6, 2007 - 12:22am

In light of this current discussion, I've been using Google Webmaster as a way to manage my client's websites.

Recently, my analytics have been showing a lot of hits from Mountain View. What should I take of this, and should I be concerned? I'm not doing anything out of the ordinary except taking steps to improve my client's rankings, and using Google Webmaster as sort of an assistant to my seo work.

Any thoughts, and should I be concerned about anything here?

September 8, 2007 - 11:18pm

Hi seoscale
Someday you may violate Google's relevancy guidelines. Or someday their guidelines may change. Or someday an engineer may come across your site while in a bad mood. Why risk ALL clients like that?

BTW...comment links are nofollowed to discourage people submitting comments just to get a link.

April 28, 2008 - 5:34pm

I've recently removed the tracking code from all my sites as one of them got wacked by Google. I don't trust them anymore, the data that I am sending them is profiling everything I do on the website, whatever it may be. I don't do anything extreme to spam it either, so Google analytics is being replaced by Mint, and Webmaster tools is deleted. I really wish Microsoft or Yahoo could gain some marketshare on search, because the big "G" has become to big.

May 29, 2008 - 4:42pm

Does having the word "SEO" in the domain name flag Google? Also, Aaron, what do you mean by.."BTW...comment links are nofollowed to discourage people submitting comments just to get a link."?

Ant

May 29, 2008 - 11:29pm

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