Corporate Sites Deserve to Rank #1 (Brand Ad Dollars)

May 13th

Facebook is a Sleazy Organization

Facebook recently hired the PR firm Burson-Marsteller to plant a Google smear campaign in the media:

Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.

And why would Facebook run such a campaign?

Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.

So now Facebook is trying to position itself as an advocate of consumer privacy rights?

Seriously?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

The bottom line is this: Facebook is a sleazy organization.

Google is a Sleazy Organization

The above Facebook complaint sounds like the same complaints that came from the old media powers which Google used high power lawyers to steamroll over.

How can Facebook be surprised with Google entering a new vertical by not respecting the property rights of existing market participants? It has been Google's approach to virtually everything:

So far Google has only fell flat on their face once: when they challenged the pharmaceutical corporations:

Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws, according to people familiar with the matter.

The pharma corporations are powerful & are in bed with the government. In spite of repeated felonious behavior in marketing their drugs for illegal off label use (which has literally murdered millions of people) these companies can have the government step in and protect their property rights, by having the government enforce unto others the same laws that these same pharma corps regularly break (literally killing millions of people).

Maybe Google is Philosophically Opposed to Property Rights?

Yes, but only when convenient!

Everyone *but* Google should be open.

While Google tramples on the property rights of everyone else, the first sniff of someone operating anything like they do drives Google into black-ops mode & they conduct a smear campaign. Google launched Buzz without warning, but when their feared Facebook was collecting more personal information than they could Google went into black ops PR mode warning against security issues in Facebook.

Remember that bogus "Bing is copying our results" stuff Google engineers did earlier this year? Google later rolled out their content farm update & many of the sites which were torched by Google are now getting more traffic from Bing. What does that tell us? If Bing was putting *any* significant weight at all on Google rankings & traffic then why didn't that carry any weight when Google torched a bunch of websites?

Here is the Google traffic profile for a site that was torched by Panda

And that same website's Bing traffic

Google traffic fell through the floor, while Bing traffic kept climbing. Some sites that were hit by Panda are getting more visits from Bing or Yahoo! Search than from Google.

Conclusion? Once again Google distorts media to promote itself & its business interests, while bogusly smearing competitors with fabricated trash.

Part of why Microsoft's search marketshare is less than Google's is that Microsoft is willing to block sleazy traffic partners, unlike Google. But Google's treatment of their partners is inconsistent. Using "inside voices" Googlers openly explain in plain English how they treat their partners: "we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want" - Google's Dan Morrill.

Big Companies Hate Honest Market Innovation

Large companies are largely counter to honest innovation in the marketplace. They are comfortable atop the perch and want to lock down innovation to maintain their current dominance.

Sure the big banks welcomed CDOs, MERS, etc. ... but those were welcomed precisely because they were part of an elaborate scheme of dishonesty and fraud. But the same society which brings us CDOs built on fraud (that ultimately cost you your job, your house, your retirement savings, the value of the currency, etc.) is also a society where dirty corporate whores push to force smaller market competitors to be entirely transparent.

This stuff is literally everywhere. Consider this: Major Record Labels Forced to Pay $45M USD for Pirating Music. Once again, property rights are only important when they are forcing their own rights, but they are willing to walk on the rights of others. Consider the actions of MarkMonitor, yet another seedy Google partner:

I have for years been telling you even if you have no interest in the new gTLD’s you had to pay close attention to the process as whatever rules come out of that process will be attempted to be applied to all existing TLD’s including .com, .net and .org.

This is especially troubling because as you know the new gTLD process has not even been approved yet since the .Net contract is up for renewal, trademark groups are going to push for this new system to take away domains, be imposed on .net

The very domain name of the front organization that is pushing to remove domain privacy is registered using a private registration. ipconstituency.org uses Domain Discreet!

Read this piece on Google & Skyhook and ask yourself if Google is actually open & is promoting or suppressing market innovation.

Small Businesses Typically Can't Act Sleazy

Try getting customer service from Google & you will quickly find yourself in a hall of mirrors. Compare that to the customer service you get from a small company. Sure some small companies may decide they have no interest in supporting freetards, but if you are actually a paying customer you will usually be treated well by small companies because word of mouth marketing is the most important lead channel for many small businesses.

When a consumer or small business owner gets caught (acting like a big business, and) doing something illegal they go to jail. When a big business repeatedly commits serious crimes the wost thing that could possibly happen is a shake up of management. A company has no soul. A corporation can't go to jail.

This is precisely why Google's corporate-first approach to relevancy is bad.

Soon after the Facebook/Google story broke a friend of mine told me they put “facebook smear of google” in Google & they got:

  • Image result = Globe and Mail
  • Number one result = Huffington Post
  • Number two result = TechCrunch (top websites are both AOL properties)
  • Number three result = Get more results from the past 24 hours
  • Number four result = The Daily Beast – better known as the site that broke the story.
  • All other results are a retelling and mashup of the original.

The big publishers complained that smaller sites were stealing their stories. Google made secret arrangements with the Online Publishers Association & now the big companies get to rank at the top of the search results for stories that they stole from smaller outlets.

While small players are desperately fighting against each other for scraps off the table, the pawns have been driven out of the search ecosystem.

All webmasters are equal but some webmasters brands are more equal than others

Society hierarchy has been restored.

Don't be evil, just be corporate.

Published: May 13, 2011

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Comments

May 13, 2011 - 9:07am

Heh, the Manics in an SEOBook post, I like it! :)

Great clarity as usual Aaron. It's only our closeness to this particular industry that makes it apparent, but as you point out, this has been going on in all lines of business since corporations began to spring up in place of small localised businesses.

May 14, 2011 - 5:57am

...a lot of them have similar patterns.

And all the above doesn't even count the ponzi start ups cross-brokering reciprocal ad deals to create phantom "revenues" to fleece the population with fraudulent no-value IPOs.

May 13, 2011 - 10:07am

If our rip off socialist government had spent even one fourth of the trillions wasted on the "economic stimulus" making loans to small businesses the economic crisis would have been over long ago. Gov. supported only big business while they wallow in the pig trough of excessive benefits across every department. I hope some people will go out of their way to find and do business with small companies. Even if it costs a little more, you are getting more value. It is up to people to change this. If enough spend at small companies the Corporations will be affected.

May 13, 2011 - 1:14pm

When a consumer or small business owner gets caught (acting like a big business, and) doing something illegal they go to jail. When a big business repeatedly commits serious crimes the wost thing that could possibly happen is a shake up of management.

That sums it up Aaron.

May 13, 2011 - 3:01pm

Aaron,

Where do you think Google's trend of favoring large, established websites in search - even when those websites are aggregating others' original content - is taking the internet?

A common thread in your blog posts these days seems to be the notion that Google is mistreating site owners, web searchers, and just about anybody on the planet with and possibly without an internet connection. But what do you see coming out of that mistreatment?

May 13, 2011 - 3:55pm

I think if you just read some of the blog posts about Panda you could think my view is far bleaker than it actually is. The costs of communications & computing keep dropping, so that alone will be a huge win for societies around the globe. Increasingly powerful open-source software is also amazing.

The main point of these blog posts is to pound and pound and pound on the idea that "just because it is corporate does not mean it is good." It is perhaps a bit obnoxious after the 10th one, but my goal is that one of these posts actually matters to a Google engineer & helps get one of them to think through their philosophy a bit. Will it work? No idea. But I can't say that I failed for a lack of effort. :D

I think the opportunity for "pure play" SEO is decreasing rapidly as Google hosts more data (video, ebooks, places pages) & is pushing at monetizing big $ verticals with additional ad types (ecommerce, credit cards, hotel/travel, mortgage, etc.). In each case Google captures more of the value chain. As that happens existing players end up getting greedier & more closed off (fighting for a bigger slice of a shrinking pie), so it gets that much harder for newcomers. I look at all the infighting in the domaining market & think of that as being a leading indicator of where the SEO market might be in 3 or 4 years. (It makes sense too, as Google commoditizes their way up the value chain: links, domain names, websites).

I think it is hard to answer what one thinks of the future of the web because the answers people state on that front typically reveal more internally about that person than they do the external world around them. I have read both Clay Shirky & Nicholas Carr. Both make compelling cases, but both are too sold on their own visions. :D

My general view (heavily biased by my own experiences) is that due to an increasing flow of information people will become more distrusting toward government & many large authorities. This in turn (combined with cheaper computing, free software, and cheaper communications) will lead many more people to be parts of smaller niche communities built around their interests. For some folks a key element to marketing will be breathing the data, but for many other folks it will be just the opposite...those who ignore the data & do what they are passionate about as though it is an art form will do well. As a marketer this puts me in a bit of a torn position...because I am good with math, but wish I were more artistic & the whole SEO thing does get to feel a bit myopic after nearly a decade. Though I must say the constant change is interesting, and that change is both what is challenging and what creates opportunity. :D

Of course in the above there is no mention of peak cheap oil, our lack of investment in alternative energy sources, etc. And as we have already seen in the middle East, changing oil prices & rising inflation can disrupt whole societies in a flash. A lot of folks are naive enough to think that they won't ever be impacted by anything like that, but the stability in the society in the recent past has been an aberration in the history of the world. The rising speed of communications also speeds up some types of moments by allowing some anonymous opinion sharing & providing social proof of value of ideas that were once only thought in private. I have no idea where all this puts the future, other than to say things will be much different & quickly so. :D

May 14, 2011 - 4:06am

Hey Aaron, I've really been enjoying your posts lately. "It is perhaps a bit obnoxious after the 10th one..." I don't find it obnoxious at all. Its not like you are just whining about all this. You've made a lot of really valid points. You have a strong voice and I hope your messages are being heard. I think if Google keeps moving in this direction it will be bad for everyone except for a handful of dominant companies but that will ultimately kill Google. I was pretty naive when I started my e-commerce business about 4 years ago and go into search. I thought Google was the benevolent god of the interwebs and was inspired and motivated by how indiscriminate their search algo was. I started my company with some pocket change and a lot of hard work. We put out a lot of good original content and were rewarded. Google search gave my small town midwest company access to a huge market where I could compete on an even playing field with big companies. Four years the content that I personally wrote, working long hours for years, is copied all over the web and Google slammed me for it. I think its small companies like mine that really add a bulk of the value to the web. We provide great variety in products and in smaller markets that bigger players don't care about. We provide a lot of valuable information and other value that large retailers don't care about. Do we really need Google to help us find Walmart, Amazon and Target? These sites simply don't add any value to the web. It's not like they provide great information or anything else of value. I've not given up and I hope Google will come around but I am spending a lot of time reevaluating my strategies and looking doing anything and everything I can do to build my business outside of Google. I am sure many people like me are doing the same or will soon follow suit which will have a significant negative impact on the web as a whole and (eventually) Google. Four years ago all I needed was Google to compete and build my business. I invested all of my resources in building a high quality site with great content and didn't even consider anything else. It was silly to think this way four years ago but you would have to be a complete idiot to invest all of your resources for your small business into Google now. Google doesn't know who we are and doesn't care. With a few lines of code G can turn your business off overnight. I always knew this was a risk but felt like if I just kept doing things clean and creating valuable content I wouldn't be at risk. After all, Google's primary mission is to not be evil. I was willing to live with the risk that I might get turned off because of some well intentioned and even-handed algo update. I'm not willing to take this risk now that it seems clear that Google is perfectly willing to make algo updates that have nothing to do with improving the quality of their results and are designed to serve the special interests of those who have the resources to get Google's attention.

The worst thing about all of this is that I think that most people who don't really pay attention to search won't even realize how shitty the Google's results have become. Most people have come to trust Google's results without questions and blindly assume that whatever Google returns are the best and most relevant sites out there. So when people enter a search query now and Google returns Walmart, Amazon, Target, ehow or whatever the average person won't even notice that this is crap, will assume whatever Google returns are the only good options and look no further. This would be a sad occurrence and would greatly devalue the web and stunt or halt the extraordinary positive impact Google search and the web have had on society by providing us with instant unbiased access to the wealth of this world's knowledge.

Keep after them Aaron.

May 14, 2011 - 5:19am

Do we really need Google to help us find Walmart, Amazon and Target? These sites simply don't add any value to the web. It's not like they provide great information or anything else of value.

I would agree with your perception of the lack of website value add in terms of Walmart & Target, but I would disagree with your take on Amazon.com for the following reasons:

  • they do offer a broad selection of items (even if some are drop-shipped)
  • they invested a ton of money in the proof of concept of ecommerce (which encouraged the investment in & allowed the creation and commodification of other software platforms)
  • they pushed for removing friction (one-click checkout, free 2-day shipping for prime members, etc.)
  • they pushed hard on building quality consumer reviews
  • sometimes they have went against established powers to create things consumers want (their MP3 music locker service, the Kindle) and even when existing powers feared change (eg: ebooks) they helped create additional volume. further they added an additional layer of value over the top by sharing top highlighted passages in each ebook amongst Kindle readers
  • Amazon.com has also innovated as a technological ecosystem, providing many start ups & such with affordable, scalable cloud computing

A large part of the reason Amazon had to be so aggressive with online innovation is because they were not only trying to win ecommerce marketshare, but they also have a long history of growing the ecommerce pie by taking marketshare away from brick & mortar stores like Wal-Mart.

The worst thing about all of this is that I think that most people who don't really pay attention to search won't even realize how shitty the Google's results have become.

Some do notice...but it will take search moving more toward a 60/40 market for Google to be concerned enough to change their approach. Obviously setting your default search engine to Bing helps push in that direction, but somehow 100 million people need to do that for Google to care ;)

May 19, 2011 - 4:48am

Hey Aaron, thanks for the thoughtful response. Valid points with respect to Amazon. I am whining a bit because Amazon is now beating us for some key terms. I also had a love hate relationship with Amazon before they started beating us after Panda. Love them because (as you pointed out) they have provided us a venue to sell products in another market in which we couldn't have competed (at least organically) but we're able to sell on Amazon with little investment. I hate them because of how their stupid super saver shipping (or whatever its called) gives them the buy box even when our price after shipping is less. Maybe I am doing something wrong here but that is the underlying source of my frustration with Amazon. Previous comments on Amazon were probably a bit misdirected.

Your thoughtful and constructive response to my negative comments on Amazon helped redirect my energy. At the end of the day whining about Panda isn't going to help. Its more productive to research and identify those things that sites like Amazon are doing well which allowed them to benefit from Panda. Your point about the customer reviews really hit home for me. Quality and independent reviews of products are useful and I think most would agree add value to a site. While our customer's can post product reviews on our site, we've never really done anything to drive or encourage them to do so and we don't have any as a result. As I mentioned above, I think one of the reasons Panda does not like us is because our original product descriptions are copied all over the web. We can rewrite the descriptions and perhaps do a few things to discourage copying but we'll never be able to prevent it and rewriting decent descriptions for several hundred products doesn't seem feasible. Having unique reviews on our product pages will help keep the content on these pages fresh and different from any future copiers (at least until they start copying the reviews too.) Having the reviews should also be useful to our customers and generally add value to the content. So, rather than wasting any more time crying in my soup I am working on a process for soliciting product reviews from our customers.

This is just one example that happened to be really relevant to our site but I am sure there are several others out there we (and others) can and should look at. No matter what animals (previously thought to be cute, cuddly, docile and endangered) Google unleashes on us there will be some who win and some who lose. Some of the loser's will not deserve to lose and some of the winners will not deserve to win. We've all got to play the hand Google deals us and the constructive dialogue you are facilitating here will help us all reevaluate the cards in our hand and devise strategies for playing them wisely.

This, in conjunction with your insightful and well supported criticism of Google's practices and underlying motivations, should serve us all well. Thanks again for the thoughtful response and keep up the good work!

May 13, 2011 - 4:51pm

Thanks for the bountiful reply.

"My general view ... is that due to an increasing flow of information people will become more distrusting toward government & many large authorities. This in turn (combined with cheaper computing, free software, and cheaper communications) will lead many more people to be parts of smaller niche communities built around their interests."

As somebody who has approached the internet first and foremost as a tool for learning, I have always been aware of some of the problems behind the "increasing flow of information." With the rise of scrapers and aggregators, as well as content farms, finding good information amongst the bad has become more difficult.

It seems like Google (or would "Search Engines" be more accurate?) is/are driving the creation of an internet of slums, of masses of low quality, highly duplicate information that obscures the much smaller (though still sizable) neighborhoods of useful, original information.

When you say that more people are going to become parts of niche communities, are you suggesting that this will happen as a reaction to not being able to find what they need among all the crap? Or for some other reason entirely?

What do you think those communities might look like?

May 13, 2011 - 5:59pm

Based on that, I don't have many examples...but a few examples that really stand out to me are:

  • I know how much effort I put into this site & I see the difference between our private forums and what is on the public blogs...and I know that has real value based on our member's feedback.
  • I am a paying member for iTulip & see it as much more valuable than say my subscription to the Financial Times or the Wall Street Journal.

There are likely many great sites in many niches where I am not as interested in...but my SEO/marketing/investing/economics interests are likely replaced by art/painting/music/nanotechology/biology/etc. interests in the mind of someone else.

That to me is the key...is that people are connected by their tighter niche passions rather than more broad strokes (I am also on Facebook, I am from the same city as you, etc.)

May 13, 2011 - 11:03pm

Right now, Facebook is opening their arms to all the marketers that Google has kicked out. Sure, there is a lot of crap out there but plenty of good businesses have been caught up in Google's "scorched earth" advertising policies.

Direct response advertising (that is, targeting consumers directly rather than using branding) is paramount for small business because the budgets required to brand are often astronomical.

I really see Google becoming totally corporate. Look how well that's worked out for mainstream media outlets...viewership, subscribers and revenue are way down. The average person (outside of the 20% who'll believe anything they are told) are no longer buying the corporate line on anything.

You can go out to the store, the doctor's office, really anywhere and I see so many people questioning everything from medications, food additives, the banks, the state and on and on. I think the age of big media is over for a large majority of the population; simultaneously, corporations are acting in more flagrantly criminal ways than ever before.

If Google wants to propup a dying corporate culture I think they will eventually go down with the ship.

"All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride legitimately, by the grace of God." Thomas Jefferson

May 14, 2011 - 1:59pm

Google corporate decisions are making to much damage to the company. If you examine Google as a corporation you will see that apart from the Search Engine and Android it has been a failure after failure. They have invested a lot of money into rebuilding (not innovate or create a new product) Facebook, twitter and Wikipedia. All three of them a failure as you can see Buzz, Orkut and Knol. The bad thing is that Google always says concentrate on your site and not others people site but they are fixated on other sites such as Facebook!

Android is an open software (which is good) but produce no income to the company! In the mean time they are bleeding money and trying to burn adword advertiser's money as fast a possible so they can meet profits. Who they are going to offer privilege positions on the SERP? Of course they will get Demand Media and Huffington Post since they profit from that traffic as well. That is why Matt Cutts said that they can draw a line and have the NY Times in one side, etc...What he was saying is that they can draw a line between those content farms that produce lots of money to them and rank them better. In the mean time Facebook is taking big steps into the Google market. They released their email and tons of sites are using the Like Button which they collect information from. Soon they will release a search engine with an algo based on likes and recommendations from users around a topic. This creates an advantage over the link based algo at Google. No wonder why Google is copying Facebook again with the +1. But again, they are behind the game. No innovation but stealing other people ideas!

The issue is getting worse as Google is getting crazy and try to competes with every company in the planet. Look at the most recent failure: Google Music. Trying to compete with Apple Store, the music industry said NO to Google. The people at the music industry are smart enough to know that if they give Google the information and power, Google will take control of it sooner than later. They were forced to open Google music as a service to upload music as a cloud. WHAT?? There are tons of better services that are not fragmented like Dropbox, etc... Again another failure from Google.

Other failure has been Google Books. Again you see how the company is lost in terms of guidance and focus. Trying to compete against Amazon has been a total failure. I do not know a single human that has purchase a book from their store. In the meant time Amazon is focus on its core business and innovating it with the kindle, kindle mobile apps, etc...

As long as Google keeps trying to copy and compete with all the big business in the planet and forgetting about why the are Google you will see a company in deterioration. Google does not has reinvent itself, Google has to go back to its main core business, to be that company everybody admired and loved. A company were webmasters deposited their trusts.

May 15, 2011 - 9:03am

Android is an open software (which is good)

And so would Skyhook wireless. In Google's own words (about their openness): “we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want.” - Google's Dan Morrill.

Other than that, great comment. :)

May 15, 2011 - 1:09am

As always, great post and comments. I am interested to see the next Hitwise stats to see if there is further erosion of Google Market dominance. It is interesting that the same antitrust laws that led to the break up of Ma Bell (Telecom Reform Act of 1996) never led to any real scrutiny of Google's market dominance/near-monopoly in the search space. Maybe innovators like blekko (cool feature in new SEOBook Toolbar by the way!) and established players like Bing/Yahoo! will continue to chip away and maybe a 40/60 market may not be too far off assuming more of the same in terms of low quality SERPs.

I do think main stream people are noticing the degradation in the Google SERPs and over time, the search engine with the superior user experience will always gain market share and ultimately dominate. That's how Google built and maintained its dominance. In hurting the niche, specialty content providers by rewarding the thieves that plagiarize their content, Google not only hurts the publishers, but also hurts their users, and therefore themselves. Maybe Google, like many other huge corporations, are spread too thin causing them to loose site of their core competency - connecting users with quality content faster and better than any other search engine.

Call me naive, but quality content is what users crave and if Google can't get users to quality content quickly/efficiently, others will emerge to deliver the goods. I think the key takeaway for me at least is from an SEO perspective, small independent publishers investing in generating unique, quality, specialty content now need to focus more energy on cultivating organic non-Google traffic. This means that for more of us, the search engine traffic distribution will ultimately end up looking more like example in your post.

As far as Facebook investing in generating a smear campaign against Google on the basis of raising privacy concerns, I think that's definitely a great example of the pot calling the kettle black and Facebook should realize that corporations operating from glass buildings definitely should not throw stones!

May 17, 2011 - 12:47pm

Okay, so Facebook is sleazy, Google is sleazy. There are so many issues in just one post. How many times has Google had a face-off with their haters? I do have to agree that I did notice Google has been using a lot of its links to youtube, for instance. I didn't know it was sort of a "rip-off". Well, we will see who wins this battle between these two giants. I can't say who will win this one.

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