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Is Google Wrong to Make Changes that Affect Small Businesses
Posted 19 November 2005 - 09:46 AM
- SEO is just part of an overall marketing strategy; it's an important part, but not the only one
- If you want guaranteed search engine rankings, there's always PPC. And it doesn'thave to cost mega bucks. (Combining the right keywords with proper geo-targeting, focused landing pages etc. can deliver excellent results.)
- Use your Search engine insights (i.e. what your audience searches for) to write articles, press releases etc.
On a completely different note: do we really all believe that Google is worth the combined value of Amazon and Yahoo?
Posted 19 November 2005 - 11:20 AM
Why is there any responsibility in that? They are indeed a major play in search. But why are they? Because they gave people what they wanted -- results that answered the search queries entered into their search box. This they all present for free, at no charge to the searcher.
You seem to feel that they have some sort of relationship with the site owner. And that is where your flaw is in the logic. They have no relationship with them whatsoever.
Since they want to provide their searchers with the best results possible, they want to seek out the best sites possible. So if you're lucky enough for them to feel that your site is the best one possible, you may get to show up when one of their searchers does a relevant search. This doesn't mean that your site actually is the best possible one, but for whatever reason, the search engine believes it is.
That's great for the site owner obviously because they have been helped by the search engine that has deemed them to be a good site!
It's a priviledge for the engine to deem your site a good site. It's by no means a right.
If the searchers start to notice that the results they're getting at the search engine aren't really matching what they were looking for, or the pages they're getting to are pretty crappy, the searcher may decide not to use that search engine any longer and try another one instead. If they find that the pages they find at this other search engine are more in line with what they were seeking, they will probably continue to use that search engine.
I can't stress enough how the site owner does NOT fit into the equation whatsoever from the search engine's point of view. They have nothing to do with anything.
Yes, search engines do use sites and provide nothing in return (but traffic). If one doesn't like to be used that way, they can disallow the search engine from using them.
From the site owner's point of view, obviously, they would love to take advantage of these search engines that are filling the needs of searchers all over the planet. They would certainly like their site to be one of those that are deemed "the best" fit to the search queries related to what they offer. Of course that is the goal of many websites because it can bring them lots of extra traffic they wouldn't have otherwise received.
But again, they have NO relationship with the search engine whatsoever. Their job is to figure out what it is that makes a search engine deem some sites to be "the best" and others sites to be not good enough.
The search engine is in no way obligated to tell anyone why certain sites are chosen over others. No obligation at all. And if they want, their choosing of the sites can be completely arbitrary even. Maybe the search engine decides to play eenie-meanie-miney-mo as a way of determining which they'll show. If that's how they want to do it, then they have every right in the world to, because it's THEIR search engine, their results.
If their searchers don't like the results that show up based on their arbitrary formula, then they don't have to search there any more. Obviously if a searcher keeps getting junk, they will seek a better way to find what they're looking for.
I really don't understand how anyone can see it any other way but this. This is how it is, whether you like it or not.
That said, I do understand a site owners frustration when they can't figure out how to become one of those "best" sites for the search query. And I do understand the frustration when one day a site that was considered "the best" suddenly is deemed not good enough anymore. I do understand that, as it's human nature.
But it's not the search engine's problem, it is your problem. They are entitled to randomize the results, show the worst sites, throw darts and choose results that way, or personally pick ones they want to show first.
IT'S THEIR ENGINE, THEY CAN DO WITH IT WHAT THEY PLEASE.
It's your job to roll with the punches and try to figure out your next move.
Posted 19 November 2005 - 11:30 AM
Google's only responsibility is to their shareholders and their searchers. Period, end of story.
They have no responsibility where individual web sites are concerned. None.
You may not like this. I may not like this. But it is reality.
Posted 19 November 2005 - 11:42 AM
|Funny, I made a long post and Randy made a short one saying the same thing. (Usually it's the other way around!)|
Posted 19 November 2005 - 11:58 AM
|There's a good Master Po -> Grasshopper quote from the old Kung Fu television series that would apply I'm sure.|
Posted 19 November 2005 - 12:01 PM
Your post, Randy, is a perfect follow up to mine in that respect!
Posted 19 November 2005 - 06:44 PM
As background, for over 30 years I've set up and run a number of different businesses, which have offered me areasonable living, and all of which have started with nothing but an idea, which was put into action and followed through on. But in every case I've always considered all those involved, not only customers, suppliers, and employees, but also innocent bystanders - those who are affected by, but not directly concerned with, my actions and the actions of my businesses.
And also those that take advantage of it. The guy who sees my tour bus pass by his village every day, so sets up a drink stand. We stop, passengers buy a drink and talk to a local, and over time we see the village kids a little bit better off. I do feel some responsibility to at least warn him if we are going to change the route, not let him spend his money preparing drinks for a couple of weeks not knowing we're taking a different road, or possiblity enter into a major expense believing that his income won't suddenly change. After all, he is nice to our guests, treats them fairly, and even learned a little English because it made it easier for our guests to talk to him. We did mention to him how to be fair and nice to our particular style of guest, at one stage, and he did in fact act on that. Do we have any responsibility to let him know about the change? No, we didn't ask him to set up the stall. He's making money off us, not the other way round. Sure it improved the experience of our guests, but so do other things. Some guy will probably set up on the new route, and his village will improve. We're not going to maintain the same route just for the first guy, but we will try to ease his change, as we know it will hurt him.
It seems to me the idea of corporate responsibility being just towards its shareholders - that is, its bottom line (customers only function is to enable the bottom line, aka the earlier newspapaer quote) has got us into the sorts of pickles we see about us today, form Enron bilking to pension plan scuttling to Thanksgiving being swallowed by the hungry maw of Christmas selling (how's that for off topic!).
But that's a discussion for a completely different forum. By now, probably this one too.
Cheers, and thanks for all the comments.
Posted 19 November 2005 - 07:30 PM
And that makes perfect sense on a small scale.
But think about a search engine dealing with 8 billion sites. How do they tell them all, without giving an unfair advantage to some?
It's simply not possible on this scale.
Posted 20 November 2005 - 05:32 AM
Forget the search engines. Focus on consumers. What is best for Joe Searcher?
Hypothetical: there are ten businesses, all mom and pop stores, and they are all well ranked on Google. Suddenly, four new competitors spring up. Now, there are ten first page listings and 14 competitors.
What should Google do? Not rank the new sites because they migth end up "hurting innocent people"? Or will not ranking the new sites also end up "hurting innocent people"? When you make the "hurting innocent people" argument, what does that mean?
This whole argument that Google should not do certain things pre-suposses Google are out to get Mom and Pop. Not true, as Google are simply making the best changes for their product, and they have every right to do that.
To be super blunt, the thing is that if free Google traffic is your livelihood, you are essentially a beggar living off Google's charity. The problem with charity is that, long term, it is a risky and unsustainable way to survive. Look at Ethiopia. Decades of grain drops have left the country, in many ways, dependant upon foreign food aid to survive. If that Aid ever stopped, for whatever reason, many people would die.
One needs to ask oneself if they really want to be in a position in which a third party for whom you have no contract and supply no revenue is really the best source of livelihood derived traffic.
Posted 20 November 2005 - 11:26 AM
I'd also add: risk.
Those people relying exclusively on SEO for their business are engaging in a high risk strategy, whatever color hat they wear. The risk is obvious: few suppliers, and no contractual obligation with said suppliers.
In order to mitigate that risk, get additional advertising supply. PPC, classifieds, word-of-mouth, speaking engagements, publishing, networking etc. If you can't spend money, spend time, and vice-versa. Those who spend neither aren't in business, or won't be for long.
Diversify, in other words
Posted 20 November 2005 - 12:41 PM
Posted 20 November 2005 - 06:34 PM
Google didn't ask people to depend on their results for their income. Have you ever read Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose?
But after the bug takes a seat, a spider jumps on. Then a bird makes a nest, marries the next day, and then tells his wife's uncle, the woodpecker, to come aboard. The uncle calls in a squirrel, saying:
This big-hearted moose runs a public hotel!
Bring your nuts! Bring your wife! Bring your children as well!
The best part, they agree, is that life in Thidwick's antlers is totally free.
Eventually Thidwick has a veritable zoo in his horns--including a fox, a bobcat, a turtle, a big bear and fleas and bees--riding along gratis and demanding their rights. The greedy "guests" are so annoying that the other moose kick Thidwick out of the herd.
When migration to the south shore of Winna-Bango begins, the moochers in Thidwick's horns take over and insist that he has "no right" to move their home. To be fair, they explain, they will vote. Thidwick loses out to the majority, and the poor moose is left starving and freezing.
When Thidwick finds himself in the crosshairs of some big guns who want his head for the Harvard Club wall, he lopes ever so slowly with 500 pounds of freeloaders on his head, a clear emblem for the weight of the welfare state. But just when it looks like curtains for our hero, we find out that it's the time of year to shed antlers. So Thidwick tosses his horns, full of his "guests," who are then caught by the hunters and stuffed for the wall.
Thidwick had to do what he had to do to survive, and all the hangers-on were most unhappy with him... they would rather have seen him dead than have him mess up the home they had decided create in his antlers.
To tell Google they "have to think of the impact on the sites that depend on them" every time they need to update their index or change ranking factors would certainly kill them as fast as the hunters (translate as "Yahoo and MSN") would have taken down Thidwick. And the freeloaders would still complain! How dare you not send me the customers you used to send me?
Posted 20 November 2005 - 07:10 PM
That's another one of my favorite Suess stories.
And very fitting for this Google situation. They should print the story in their webmaster faqs (with permission of course!).
Posted 20 November 2005 - 11:02 PM
If you have Adwords, then you have a business relationship with Google, and can and should expect business-like behavior. Demand it, even.
If you are in their organic listings, it's more like a mutual self interest. They want your website for listings, and you want the traffic that brings. But this is a completely self-interest based proposition.
Let's say that Google lost it's share of the market due to a loss of relevance and started losing money. What would you say if they sent you a letter asking you to give them some money, or to keep using them even though they didn't work very well anymore, in exchange for all that free advertising and help they gave you? After all, don't you owe them?
No, most people would switch their focus on Yahoo or another search engine, and not give a thought about those poor Google employees or their shareholders. After all, it's not like you owed them any loyalty. you only cared as long as they fed your self interest (ie traffic).
As long as website owners feel no loyalty to Google, why should Google feel anything back? Their loyalty is to the users of the search (and the clickers of ads). The sites that are in the top results will either provide content worthy of clicks and user happiness or will be replaced by sites that don't. Simple. Not personal.
I used to be a personnel manager for a very large company. I did a lot of hiring, discipline and firing as a result. I heard arguments all the time about how I should not let someone go (or demote them) because they had a family to support.
While I certainly have sympathy for supporting families, the fact of the matter is that if you are supporting a family you should start showing up for your shifts on time, and not doing drugs, or not stealing things, which were the usual reasons I fired people. I have no sympathy for the worker (or ex-worker) in those cases. Frankly, losing your job due to preventable misbehavior while supporting a family is akin to child abuse, in my book. How dare you put them at risk!
This is also my general feeling towards people who spam, yet rely on the search engines to support their families. If it's not criminal negligence, it should be. Don't blame the search engine for catching you doing what you should not have done in the first place!
Sometimes, I had to lay people off. That was a lot harder, because there was no fault involved in this case. They didn't deserve to lose their jobs. The company didn't want to lay anyone off - they would much rather be so successful they were hiring, not laying off. No one wins in this case. But it's not personal. In this case, there was a relationship, and an obligation. We did the best we could to mitigate the damage by offering resume services, support, good references, and so forth. Google has this obligation to its employees.
Sometimes, the demise of a unit (I did a lot of "troubleshooting" which is a fancy way of saying that every time I got used to being in a nice place, they moved me to a broken one and expected me to either help fix it or to wind it down or move it. Not fun, btw) also resulted in business partners being harmed. These were people we had contracts with that now had to find other sources of income. We also had an obligation to fulfill our contracts with these people, giving them proper notice, making sure that all payments were made, and so forth, in accordance with the contract. This would be akin to Googles Adwords clients, and their technology partners.
The units also had two other effects on the world around them - to their customers, and to the neighbourhood (these were popular restaurants). the effect on customers was direct a but short term. The customer paid and expected product (food and service) back. When a unit started, the customers were given the benefit of a new place to spend their money, and when it ran down (or moved) they lost that. The store also, gained money from being there, and lost it by not being there. But customers are a fickle bunch, they can be very loyal, or they can all abandon you without a moments thought to go over to someplace new and exciting. They owed the business no loyalty in truth, and the business owed them nothing either, outside of the actual transactions.This is akin to Googles relationship with it's visitors - they may be very loyal at any one time, but in truth will skip to another without care or thought to Googles well being.
The final effect was on the neighbourhood. Usually, there was a "halo effect" on the neighbourhood due to the effectiveness of the units advertising in bringing in traffic. People eating at a restaurant may also go across the street to get their car fixed, or play in an arcade, or whatever. In some cases the major beneficiaries were actually the units direct competitors, who were able to woo away people who were lured by the advertising of the unit in the area. The advertising was so effective at bringing in traffic that business usually went up by 30% or more (many times double or even triple) in the immediate area, which was good for everyone. Let's not also forget that the other businesses also fed the unit traffic, too. If they were good, then the people coming in to visit the video store might also go to the drive through on the way. Both parties win. However, no one asked the units, in my experience, for any advice or cooperation in promoting traffic. It was every one for themselves, and everyone just took advantage of the situation. If the video store folded, they certainly did not apologise to the restaurant - even though it would often have a direct effect on the restaurant's business. Likewise, the units would not apologise to the others if they had to fold up or move. It was just business. The effect was not on purpose, and there was certainly no business deal. Sometimes, when one business in the group failed others would fail as well. You can see this in malls if a major anchor (like Walmart, etc) leaves. The rest of the mall suffers, as well. But that's not Walmarts fault.
Now, what would have happened if a business had moved into the area ONLY to take advantage of the traffic supplied by the others? Do those others now owe that business because it's even more at risk of harm? I don't think so. Frankly, it's their fault for putting all their eggs in one basket, a basket decidedly NOT under their control or influence. In my opinion, this is akin to Googles relationship to websites it lists. Yes, it benefits from having them, and yes, the websites benefit from the traffic, but they owe each other nothing.
Let's flip things around. Let's say that Google want the best relevance for a certain SERP. Let's say that it feels that it's visitors are well served by the site that it puts at the number one place. In return, of course, that site gets lots of traffic. Great. Now, what happens if that site closes down? Or maybe disallows Googlebot but allows YahooSlurp? Google is now being harmed because it has a less relevant SERP than it's competitor. Can it complain? Demand to be allowed to list that site? Sue? No, I don't' think so. The websites listed by Google owe no duty of care to Google, just as Google has no duty of care to them.
If several major websites (like Microsoft, Yahoo, some governments) decided that they would not allow Googlebot in for whatever reason, Google would lose relevance (and users) so fast there would be a near stock market crash. And they could sue no one. They might try, but it would not work. The only person who is obligated to take care of a business and make it profitable, whether it's big or small, is the owners.
It can be a harsh lesson to those living in the neighbourhood (or antlers) but it's a lesson that needs to be learned.
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