Does Google Spy on its Customers?

Sometimes people think I am a cynic when I mention things like "avoid Google Analytics," but you never really understand how Google perceives the web until they chose to try to wipe you out. Jay Weintraub recently posted about how he was permanently banned from AdWords because one of his employees accessed his company account AND their personal account from the same IP address.

A person who has access to the company's AdWords accounts has their own AdWords account. They are a good employee and don't work on their personal project at the office, but as a good employee they do work on your business while at home. By accessing both AdWords accounts on the same machine, Google decides both accounts are the same person despite their being different. Worst case, the employee breaks the rules with their personal account. The employer finds their campaigns stopped and can't get them back online.

There was a point in time when some people who practiced PPC claimed that it was safer than SEO, but in the face of

it is certainly a bit harder to claim that PPC is a safe and effective long-term marketing strategy.

Worse yet though, if Google is willing to ban people paying them millions of dollars, what happens to those who publish AdSense ads and are dependant on Google for revenue as well? What happens to those who are dominating the organic rankings without paying their Google tax?

If Google connects up all that data to use against their advertisers, surely they are using the same data to hand out punishment to other parties as well. Just by using AdSense you make your business more reliant on Google (and eventually more likely to be penalized by Google). Just by using Google Analytics you are leveling the competition field for everyone except yourself. And the problem there is that you can't get away with many of the things that your competitors do.

How many emails like this could I send out before my site would get banned?

My threshold and the threshold for Sallie Mae are two different numbers. I wonder if I offer PageRank 6 (and above) bloggers a free membership to my site if they linked to me (like Demand Media does) if I would be deemed a spammer?

As Google's stranglehold on the web grows (Google just closed the DoubleClick deal - giving them access to a lot more affiliate data) the solution to remove yourself from risks associated with Google's influence is to create a business that is not reliant on Google...a brand and a destination. But to do that you really need to ignore Google's advice.

And if you are an end consumer and searcher, you are hosed already. Ads already track you and know who you are, and Google has patents to target ads to leverage and exploit your mental weaknesses:

Examples of information that could be useful, particularly in massive multiplayer online RPG’s, may be the specific dialogue entered by the users while chatting or interacting with other players/characters within the game. For example, the dialogue could indicate that the player is aggressive, profane, polite, literate, illiterate, influenced by current culture or subculture, etc. Also decisions made by the players may provide more information such as whether the player is a risk taker, risk averse, aggressive, passive, intelligent, follower, leader, etc. This information may be used and analyzed in order to help select and deliver more relevant ads to users.

Hat tip to Andy for the link to Jay's post.

Published: March 11, 2008 by Aaron Wall in google


SEO Junkie
March 12, 2008 - 7:51am

What do we do if we don’t want to depend on Google? We need them for organic search as well as paid search. And as a publisher, we don’t find an equivalent to their contextual ads network. We can use other analytics and email services but there are some core things like I mentioned above that we MUST have to depend on them.

Any ideas what to do not to depend on them and still profit from the web?

Dave Keffen
March 12, 2008 - 12:58pm

Google seem to be throwing caution to the wind as far as retaining their trustworthiness goes.

With the purchase of Doubleclick and by extension Performics, they seem to be breaking all their own rules.

How can Search Marketeers trust them any more?

You're absolutely right Aaron, we all need to retain a certain amount of independence from them.


March 13, 2008 - 11:16am

a lot of sites use google analytics, after all it’s a great service. I wondered how many big sites run analytics or are tracked by google. So I ran a little test and 41 of the 100 most popular sites are tracked by Google. You can read more at

March 14, 2008 - 12:52pm

Maybe Ask can take this opportunity to stop using bonehead commercials and instead use some negative google mojo to build their search audience. Or Yahoo/MSN will start actually polling search marketers on how to make their offerings better... and follow through.

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