Saturday, February 12, 2011

How Google punishes

A NY Times podcast (Weekend Business, February 11, 2011, at 11:00 to 18:40) has reported that Google demoted a JC Penney search rank from 1 to 76 after discovering that JC Penney was benefiting from ads in a non-Google ad network. The podcast went on to say that Google likes to use its monopoly power to enforce its own unwritten rules about business should advertise on the web. "It is extraordinary to see what happens when Google decides that they want to sink you." (at 15:57)

The podcast also told about how Google has used its power to punish businesses who offer advertising services that compete with Google's business model. Google has even taken a company off of its search engine, just because it advertised for employees to work in search engine optimization.

The article credits Google with "trying to not seem despotic". Google seems despotic to me. I suggest using Yahoo search.

Update: The NY Times article is now online as The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. There are also some comments on Google Buzz suggesting that Google's view may be found on the Matt Cutts blog. The article quotes Cutts, speaking for Google:
“I can confirm that this violates our guidelines,” said Mr. Cutts during an hourlong interview on Wednesday, after looking at a list of paid links to ...

Mr. Cutts avoids the word “punished” ...

“Am I happy this happened?” he later asked. “Absolutely not. Is Google going to take strong corrective action? We absolutely will.”

And the company did. On Wednesday evening, Google began what it calls a “manual action” against Penney, essentially demotions specifically aimed at the company.

You get the sense that Mr. Cutts and his colleagues are acutely aware of the singular power they wield as judge, jury and appeals panel, and they’re eager to project an air of maturity and judiciousness. ...

The tweak affected “how we trust links,” Mr. Cutts said, declining to elaborate. ... But the real damage to Penney’s results began when Google started that “manual action.” ...

MR. CUTTS said he did not plan to write about Penney’s situation, as he did with BMW in 2006.
Google likes to pretend that its search is driven by an objective algorithm. It is not. The bottom line here is that Google management made a conscious decision to punish JC Penney for having a network of paid ads that allegedly violate Google guidelines. Except that Google prefers to call it a “manual action” or a “strong corrective action”, instead of punishment.

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