Saturday, August 18, 2007

Power Corrupts, Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely

The full and correct quote is:

    "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

It is fascinating that this quote is from 1887. It was first written by Lord Acton in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton.

The topic of today's short post goes back to my original intent for this journal: Discussions of the Internet and it's impact on the real world. And my subject today is
Google. They have absolute power.

I'm not going to bore you with a lot of details, but one of my clients (in the real world) is having horrible problems with their placement in Google Search Results. This small company is a leader in their particular field and a company with great integrity. Suddenly and without any known cause their search placement results for ALL key terms virtually disappeared from all Google results last July 9th.

Technically they didn't disappear. Key search terms went from a consistent rank within the Top 10 to about 180 (eighteen pages down, where no one ever looks).

I'm not writing today to cry about this one incident. The problem, as it turns out, is it isn't just one incident. It happens a lot, to a lot of different companies, for a lot of different reasons.

There are legitimate reasons for such penalties from Google. Link Farming, or buying links on multiple , unrelated, websites is the most common prohibited activity. My client doesn't do any of the prohibited activities. They don't even employ an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) consultant.

But a gigantic industry has sprung up just to assist companies who have been delisted or punished by Google. If you have a few moments and the technical stamina to read a terrifying article on just one specific problem, link over to
Google Proxy Hacking: How A Third Party Can Remove Your Site From Google SERPs by web guru Dan Thies

Now we don't think my client has this problem, but they might. This is only one of dozens of possible problems, many of them malicious. This little company believes the Google delisting could cost them one million dollars $1,000,000.00 this year alone.

There is no functional appeal process at Google. Contact Google and someone might or might not listen. They will never respond directly. You simply have to watch your search results to see if anything changes.

Google claims that such distance and formality and silence is required to maintain the integrity of their search engine process. They rule from on high like the Greek Gods.

And petitioning Google is like petitioning the Greek Gods. Pray. Make Sacrifices. Burnt Offerings. But expect no response.

Google, you see, has over 80% of the entire search engine business. They power AOL Search and perhaps a hundred or more other engines behind the scenes. Yahoo is number two and everyone else is a very minor player.

They can destroy a company with the single stroke of the keyboard. Go to any of the SEO Forums and the stories are legion. My little client is just one story out of hundreds.

My client has about fifteen key search terms. Type in any of these terms on Yahoo, MSN, Alta Vista, Ask or Alexa and they are always in the top 5, frequently number one.

But not on Google. Google ranks them at about 180, eighteen pages into the search. Since my client only has a dozen or so competitors, they show up after nonsensical sites with totally unrelated products or services. Chinese Laundries without any relationship to the search terms queried show up before my client. I'm not joking. Have you ever looks at results around 90 in Google?

This is a huge windfall for my client's competitors. Imagine if you operated a little store in a small town and suddenly, overnight, without warning, Walmart or Target or Dillards or Kohls simply disappeared entirely!! Building gone! Parking lot gone! Your business might increase a hundred fold overnight.

On the other hand, as a customer you might be distraught. You would be deprived of dealing with the industry leader and forced to deal with someone who has higher prices or lower quality or both.

Would a competitor pay to have his competition disappear?

Perhaps my client is the victim of competitors underhanded programming. Perhaps they merely offended the Google Gods. Perhaps someone on the Google staff took a disliking to them.

The key is that Google has ABSOLUTE POWER. They answer to no one.

What if just one small employee takes money to bury a few sites? What if it became institutionalized? Surely Google works to prevent this. Or do they?

All I know for sure is on July 8th my client was consistently ranked in the top ten for every applicable search term. On July 9th, they disappeared without a trace.

Enough about this relatively small issue. This isn't the war in Iraq. Or genocide in Darfur.

But it has taught me one practical thing. I've tested out the other search engines and I find that the new
Alexa Search Engine is simply the best for most searches.

I encourage you to download and use the
Alexa Toolbar. If you are in the Internet Business it also has some tools you'll find invaluable. If you're not, the search results are the most targeted and accurate I've found.

And yes, you'll notice it includes a really slick direct link to
Wizard Radio and and another directly to Amazon (they own Alexa) right on the toolbar. Check it out. It will uninstall easily if you don't love it.


Dan Thies said...

Wiz... assuming this isn't a "hand job" from Google, there may be other causes. Feel free to email me at the proxyreports address and I'd be happy to look at your client's URL. (I'm not trying to become part of the gigantic industry you mentioned... just trying to help.)

Vigilante said...

Installed and immediately pleased, Wizard.