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Why Does Google Lie to SEO’s?

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 16 years and 9 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

Okay, I *DO* really understand *why* Google feels the need to bold face lie to SEO’s, but this post is more about wondering if it is really beneficial. As SEO’s, we all secretly understand that the big G regards us about as highly as the bubonic plague or typhoid fever. We are the parasites in their eyes that feed suckling from their golden juicy teet. Sergey Brin was once quoted (in Wired I believe) as saying something to the effect of regarding SEO’s about the same way that a mother bear regarded someone poking at her cub with a stick. So we understand WHY Google feels the need to lie to us, but is it really beneficial? Have the pre-IPO idealistic folks who started an exciting and innovative company really fallen into the realm of search copy-cat mediocrity and disinformation to maintain the status quo?

Examples of Google Misinformation and Poor Communication
These are not to say that I do or do not agree with some of this methodology…only to establish things that have served to misinform or redirect the attention of those who follow Google closely. I think these need to be established before going further

  • “De-syncronizing” the update of backlinks, toolbar Pagerank, and actual search engine ranking listings.
    “Google Dances” were fun, but this is an obvious example of trying to keep SEO’s from gathering to much information about how the engine actually works.
  • Toolbar Pagerank
    This one is my favorite as there is a micro-economy that is still based around it. When this started being for entertainment purposes only, they might as well have just said “we’re tryin’ to keep SEO’s off our scent.
  • “There is no sandbox” *snicker* *snicker*
    This is fairly true, but it is how the message is being given. Folks new to search engine marketing are asking what is happening (as well as those who have been around a while) and Google reps are shrugging their shoulders asking what they are talking about. I’m not asking for the algorithm, but playing stupid and acting like nothing has changed is a bit silly. If it is a secret bit of proprietary information that helped to solve relevancy issues…than just say that. Don’t claim there is no such thing as the sandbox, and try to make SEO’s feel like they are searching for a non-existent fountain of youth. Discrediting the folks that help you doesn’t help you. If there is no sandbox, perhaps mention some non-specific reasons WHY there is no sandbox.
  • Come join our cool Adwords Professionals program
    Oh you have BIG clients? *Yoink!* We’ll take good care of them. Thanks for signing up!
  • There’s nothing your competitor can do to damage your rankings
    Well, except maybe scraper sites with high PR, Anti-trust links, Google Bowling, or even perhaps feedback on competing services.
  • We have the 302 hijack issue under control
    The Adsense 302 Hijack was just an accidental fluke
  • We’ll just leave autolink and the web accelerator , and alone for now.

Possible Reasons for Google’s poor communication

Okay, maybe they were giving SEO’s too much information in the first place, and felt they needed to pull some of it back. It could be, however, that giving away this abundance of information was part of what helped contribute to their success. I really think that Google was put under the microscope at an individual level when they went public. To that point, they did an excellent job of communicating with SEO’s/SEM’s. Most of the communication issues that I bring up are comparison based to Yahoo and MSN. Both of these companies have been publicly traded for quite some time, and have had ample opportunity to adjust to the issues that come with an IPO.

Duping SEO’s vs. Losing Precision (or relevancy if you prefer)
Does lying to SEO’s increase relevancy? My short answer is I don’t think so. (though perhaps I’m biased) Sure you don’t want to give away the secret sauce, but you don’t want to alienate sneezers either. SEO’s often manage dozens of websites. They are online obsessive amounts of the day. They LOVE to voice their opinion online. By trying to dupe these folks with questionable information, Google has managed to turn some of their biggest advocates into critics (myself included). It has even become somewhat hip to turn on Google in the same way it is “cool” for system admins to rip on Microsoft.

DG has a nice commentary on Google’s imprecision. It’s not necessary to have 1000 GOOD results, as a user I only want 10 or so useful, PRECISE results. Working WITH SEM’s can help Google to improve their precision. SEO/SEM’s are the folks that study search results all day long (probably near as much as the engineers themselves). The early adopters that can provide the best feedback and the most assistance are being shunned because Google sees them only as a threat to their business model. Maybe they are still getting it through places like Webmasterworld when PR magically disappears for a week, or an update occurs, and because of the ease of access have increasingly less respect for the opinion of webmasters and SEO’s. I guess if I could find out all the flaws in my system publicly everytime I released something, I wouldn’t place a high value on what I’d be willing to spend in order to garner that feedback either.

Why is Yahoo Better at Communicating with SEO’s?
From what I have seen Yahoo is just older (as a public company). They understand what they can and cannot share with SEO’s and they tend to do it more effectively. They consider answers a bit more and tend to not give rushed answers that are outright lies. They understand that informing webmasters about an impending update is going to be good for public relations. They understand that SEO’s will spread ideas far and wide quickly and they embrace that.

The biggest area that Yahoo is better at communication, however, is from a customer service standpoint. The biggest example is the dramatic difference in a reinclusion requests, although I can say that in my personal experience Adwords support has been marginally more helpful than (formerly) Overture support (both are about dismal at best).

What are the Benefits of Misinforming SEO’s?
SEO’s are out for their own. Misinforming SEO’s has the potential to increase relevancy. This is quite short-sighted though in my humble opinion. While relevancy has become the golden goose, it is really only a state of mind. Winning over the minds of those using the engine, and convincing them that the results are relevant is much more important in the long term. Winning over advocates will be increasingly important to avoid the “anti-Microsoft syndrome” as they start to move away from search and into other areas in the future. SEO’s are sneezers. Don’t lie to your sneezers!

What are the Drawbacks of Misinforming SEO’s?
SEO’s are much less likely to reciprocate valid communication with Google if they feel the information is bogus. Google has relied on the feedback of those in the optimizaion community for quite some time. To me, it seems that there is a bit more reluctance to cooperate in trying new things and give opinions on new services. The reviews that are given are much more critical. They are strongly detracting from the same word of mouth adverstising that they have built their success on.

Signs of Improvement
It looks like big G is improving on their communication skills. I started writing this post several weeks ago, and since then, there have been some pretty good strides.

I hope that this article has not come across vehemently anti-Google. It was definitely not intended as such. I am one of the biggest fans of Google. I have also turned into a bit of critic at times as well, because I think some of their ideals have slipped into the corporate mentality. I think they can do better. It looks like the communication is getting better, and they have some of the smartest people in the world working for them. Moral of this post – Don’t try to dupe those who want to tell your story. It takes a long time for them to want to tell the story without an asterisk again. At some point (right around IPO time) Google stopped talking WITH customers, and started just shouting AT them. Let’s hope they can turn it around and not just mutate into another faceless corporation with profit generation as the only ideal.

Other posts fear, search lies, and pissed off publishers

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