Schema, Scheme or Scam?

Jun 4th

"I am just like a robot - following only what I have been told." - Katutu, Google toolbar testimonial

As long as end users get their Angry Birds they really don't care how it comes to them. But they should!

Right now, an aggregated link to this entry places higher in a search of the title than my own site, which is a Page Rank 5 site (i.e. it has a lot of "strong" links in and a lot of content). That is a snapshot of what is pushing the Media to spewing ever louder and more meaningless sounds and furies.
...
search engine offshoots have failed the nation, profoundly, deeply and irrevocably. - Charles Hugh Smith

Google & Bing recently launched Schema, a way to "help" publishers mark up & structure their content.

If you are the first person in your vertical to leverage these new formats that can help your listing look more appealing & help you capture a bit more of the traffic (for a while). But after a half-dozen sites in your vertical use it then it no longer becomes a competitive advantage, rather just an added cost of doing business (just like Google Checkout or +1).

Then eventually it becomes much worse. Rather than being a "top resource" you get to become a "top reference" (unlinked, of course).

Your content ends up in the search result and you are an unneeded artifact from the quaint & early days of the web.

"Many answers to search queries can be computed, rather than simply returning a list of links from an index." - Eric Schmidt

In *totally* unrelated news, ...

Google Places is at it again, brazenly borrowing reviews from Yelp. But this time it’s in their iPhone app and they are not even bothering to link back to Yelp or attribute where they are getting the reviews.
...
Apparently the issue is also happening with other sources of reviews and local data such as TripAdvisor. Google says it is a mistake and it is fixing it.

If you go outside Google's guidelines & they try to penalize you for it, simply remind them that it was a technical glitch, a misinterpretation, an accident. No need to worry, as you will fix it on your end at your leisure.

It is almost universally far more profitable to do what Google does, rather than to do what they tell you to do. A fact many webmasters are waking up to 100 days after Panda torched their websites.

On a related note, JC Penny (which flagrantly violated Google's guidelines with bulk link buying) was allowed to rank again after 90 days.

"You don’t want to be vindictive or punitive, so after three months the penalty was lifted." - Matt Cutts

Those that were hit by Panda are still left in the lurch over 100 days later.

If penalizing for greater than 90 days for flagrant guideline violations would be considered "vindictive" or "punitive" then how would one describe a 100-day penalty for not breaking the guidelines?

The slow recalculation isn't an accident.

Google whacking a webmaster & then paying someone to steal their content is no different than a crooked bank that commits accounting fraud & then throws their own customer in jail for the crime the bank committed! It could become temporarily inconvenient if the press covers it, but until then who cares?

Certainly not Google.

As the original content sources disappear from the web, the aggregators eat more clicks & get fatter on the no-cost, no-effort profits (in some cases their duplication not only replaces the original source, but drives the original source into bankruptcy, making the duplicate become "unique" content). Youtube's traffic from Google has grown over 4% a month for a few months in a row. Ask grew their Google search referral traffic by roughly 25% in a couple months (while starting from a rather large base).

Keep working on adding quality and value. Then mark up your work. Google will keep working on sucking profits out of the ecosystem.

Possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Published: June 4, 2011

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Comments

June 5, 2011 - 3:16pm

Youtube's traffic from Google has grown over 4% a month for a few months in a row.

I was trying to help a friend fix his car yesterday, and searched on "Volvo distributor caps". I looked at the video results, and the entire page went to Google-owned properties - flanked by paid ads, all of the organic results were sent to YouTube. Clicking deeper, very few results in the top 50 were not going to You Tube. (didn't know how to attach a screen cap, but took one) I saw it as a sign of what's brewing...Google inserting themselves - by acquisition or algorithm - into every result. They are testing the waters and reducing the market-shock with things like videos and eBooks, but these won't remain isolated examples for long.
Your illustrations of how they reward scraping are sad - unlinked top references going out of business to build-out ad platforms they can't really afford to use. Still waiting for the official decree of "Evil."

June 6, 2011 - 9:50am

Well, there are a lot of things to be scared of, but I can't help to think that at some point, Google would rather that you don't own a website, just provide them with all the information they need to keep a user on their properties. Then anyone, a shop owner or a service provider is practically held hostage to paying Google's webpage hosting fees.

"Oh, we see that your product has earned a place in our Google Shopping pages. We, of course, provide no link or information on how a searcher can purchase this product or service from you, but for a small click fee..."

June 6, 2011 - 4:11pm

"To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.". The missing part of the sentence is "within Google.com or your favorite Google TLD"

June 6, 2011 - 8:35pm

When you put all of the content creators out of business, there's no one to create the content. Less people create stuff to scrape and profit from. People can't even sell stuff without Google, will they stand for that?

Or is it that when content dries up, Google becomes a a content creator?

I guess I understand how this is working NOW, but not how it will CONTINUE to work long-term...

June 6, 2011 - 9:24pm

When you put all of the content creators out of business, there's no one to create the content. Less people create stuff to scrape and profit from.

There are numerous costs though:

  • relevancy
  • effort to maintain that level of relevancy
  • monetization
  • effort to maintain that level of monetization
  • etc.

From Google's perspective, maybe the optimal number of people operating in the ecosystem with intent to profit from their efforts should be a lower number? Sure this harms diversity (and thus innovation), but it is easier for Google to police a few thousand companies than a few million individuals. Further, as Google monetizes into the tail of search with other enhancements to the "organic" search results, it is easier for them to manage relationships with a smaller number of companies. One *great* example of how this works is the Google product ads. It started off as a big box only CPA ad unit, and it didn't get extended to smaller players until Google created a CPA version. They will absorb the risk of relevancy issues with some of the larger players, but the cost of policing the smaller ones was too expensive if they absorbed risk as well.

Or is it that when content dries up, Google becomes a a content creator?

I think this is largely right. Youtube already gets over 4% of search clicks from Google.com (and is quickly closing in on 5%). AdWords ads get something like 20% of search clicks (at least in mature ad markets like the United States). Then some of the other listed results carry AdSense ads. In mature markets Google has likely already monetized about 1/3 of all search clicks directly or indirectly, with the percentage being even higher for the most valuable keywords (as they come down from the top with an additional layer like Boutiques.com, Google Comparison Ads, Google Advisor, BeatThatQuote, etc.

I guess I understand how this is working NOW, but not how it will CONTINUE to work long-term...

As one analogy...for longtail keywords, imagine search results where 2 results per page are from Youtube and 2 results per page are ebooks which are hosted by Google and wrapped in Google ads. Mix in a couple brands and the associated Wikipedia page and you basically have a full search page. Google will say they needed to do this for quality reasons, ignoring that they funded & created eHow.

You can see the same trend with review sites as well. Google is squeezing the entire review ecosystem out of the search game. Then over time they will insert themselves there. Just like they squeezed value out of HTML links, video content, affiliate models (and then ran their own affiliate network + boutiques.com + like.com + beatthatquote.com + CPA lead generation ads + etc.) For the head queries, I mentioned above stuff like Advisor, Boutiques.com, etc.

Google is not prohibiting the ability for anyone & everyone to profit from the search market, they are prohibiting the ability for smaller players to compete & are working to lock down the opportunity through direct monetization and working with larger and less profitable publishing institutions, where Google can more easily police them and manage who is getting the bulk of the profits (while allowing the "partners" to eat the bulk of the risk & costs).

June 6, 2011 - 8:39pm

Isn't the classic way to make a lot of money to provide people with a platform so that THEY can make some money (Apple App Store, Android Marketplace)? When you and I stop making money from the internet (So in turn, basically Google) then aren't we going to move on to something else? At least in theory?

June 7, 2011 - 2:53pm

But I still think that Google is shooting themselves in the foot. The best content comes from normal people, new guys to the web, kids, whatever. Granted Google and it's content providers could just steal it as they do today. The thing is, not everyone is going to want to work for these "trusted few" for pennies. Think about the xkcd guys doing comics for Google? I don't know about that. Also granted that these guys are not the most profitable markets, so maybe Google doesn't care.

I just can't help but think that when Google ceases to find the latest and greatest stuff, people will go elsewhere to search for it I think. This transition will be slow, and lead mostly by webmasters and IT guys (like how Google rose to power in the first place). This transition to a new search engine also requires some serious competition to Google (or a seriously better alternative). With Google "Defining" what a search engine is, this will be pretty hard I guess. I almost feel like if someone would come out with an old version of Google (2-3 years ago) but improve the relevancy algorithms, that would be the best type of competition. Not like how Bing tries to create a totally new experience. Just my $0.02 :)

June 7, 2011 - 9:48pm

Aaron, I have a friend who is working diligently to build her down-home DIY type blog with awesome, original content and photos. Today we searched her domain in Google Images, and found that the website that ranks #1 for her domain name is a site that has no original content at all. It was built only for Adsense around Google Image RSS feeds to use other people's content for free. What's new, right?

When you click my friend's original photo of her baby on the site, you find that the spam site has disabled most of the live links to her site and when the photo pops up on the spam site, you can finally click a link to where the photo sits on her server. They use her bandwidth to host the image, and Google doesn't see this? They let a fake site rank #1 for a virtually stolen image? It's so wrong, but I guess you get extra credit for using Google's own feeds.

My friend is going to use the classic 'replace the original image' trick to have some fun with this--we'd be happy to send screenshots if you're interested. Too bad that REAL bloggers have to resort to this.

June 8, 2011 - 7:13am

When you put all of the content creators out of business, there's no one to create the content. Less people create stuff to scrape and profit from. People can't even sell stuff without Google, will they stand for that?

June 8, 2011 - 4:22pm

"Possession isn't nine-tenths of the law, it's nine-tenths of the problem."

June 17, 2011 - 6:53am

Google just spread their "resources" scraping stuff using Squared...and it crosses things like images, album titles, related keywords, etc.

And yet there are SEO professionals out there ignorant enough to claim that this sort of garbage is a "savior to webmasters." Sorry, but no. You still have to spend the money to create a significant portion of the value chain, even as Google pushes webmasters to mark it up & replaces those webmasters with "more Googley goodness" ... owning the pageviews and monetization that you got for your work.

To borrow a line from Google's Amit Singhal:

“It’s cheating to me because we work incredibly hard and have done so for years but they just get there based on our hard work,” said Singhal. “I don’t know how else to call it but plain and simple cheating. Another analogy is that it’s like running a marathon and carrying someone else on your back, who jumps off just before the finish line.”

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