Nov 162007

Anyone with even a quarter of an eye pointing towards the internet in general or the blogosphere specifically must have noticed that Google seems to have gone insane with the latest Page Rank updates. First there was the specific targeting of specific blogs and websites for reduction and/or penalties in both PageRank and rankings in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). How is it not insane for a search on “John Chow” not to return as the first result? Then there’s the madly fluctuating PageRank adjustments which at one time had Google-owned YouTube down to a 3 and at a 2. An all out attack on blogs seems to have been occuring with a vast swath of the blogosphere first having their PR either halved or jumped a couple of ranks and then simply being reduced to zero (nearly) across the board. Finally (thus far) the Izea Blog filed the following report yesterday-

We now know from some of our friends inside of Google (thanks “bob”) that they are now looking for phrases such as PPP, PayPerPost,ReviewMe, Payu2blog, etc. in the text of your post. For that reason I would suggest refraining from using any type of this text in the body of your posts, sponsored or not.

While the blogosphere has been erupting over the chaos, Google has (as usual) remained silent on the issue. Not only have they not come out and explained what’s going on, they haven’t even acknowledged that anything is going on. But the market is still responding in a myriad of ways.

Market Reactions

From that same Izea Blog post-

This is Censorship.
One of our programmers actually had his blog de-ranked last night because he mentions PPP often as an employee. He has never taken a sponsored post, nor does he sell sponsored links. He is simply blogging about his day to day experience here. I find this outrageous. I encourage you to write to Google and your Congressmen.

This reaction is prevalent on many blogs, I’m just using the Izea quote as it’s handy. The problem here is that Google has every right to “censor” people in this way. They are a private company and have no obligation to provide a PageRank (or any other metric or service) to anyone. Writing Google would be very appropriate as you are a target member of their audience (since you surf the web). Writing your Congressman, however is totally inappropriate. Turning to Mommy Government is not only ineffective, but a complete misues of government power. We don’t need regulation to convince Google to act in a way that we feel is responsible, we simply need the market to realize that Google is acting irresponsibly and it will then act accordingly (by moving to other service providers) and Google with either readjust its actions or fade away like the oft-cited buggy manufacturers and blacksmiths who didn’t adapt to changes in the market.

If you’ve ever frequented the PPP forums then you’re probably aware of Cass. She’s one of the most regular of regulars there and is one of PayperPost’s largest all-time earners. Luckily, she’s taken a sane approach to the Google “problem” in a post on her Midlife Musings blog-

Now, one more thing, and this little tidbit is in defense of the internet giant, whose name Trevor has just asked us all not to speak for the rest of the day. They said PR was an internal mechanism. They informed us it was proprietary information. They warned advertisers and consumers not to rely on it for decision making purposes. They have only changed what was theirs to change. They haven’t taken anything from anyone, because it never belonged to any of us anyway. It was always theirs and frankly, they can have it back. And also shove it.

The bulk of the post is dedicated to her refusal to have Google dictate the terms of what she writes on her blog. The quoted paragraph is her conclusion, and it is a sound one. This is a very sane (read: freedom oriented) reaction to Google’s latest insanity.

Other reactions have, of course, run the gamut from bleating acceptance and rushing to change in an attempt to comply with Google’s (apparent) wishes to frothing rants asking what happened to “Do No Evil”. These are both appropriate reactions as well, for the people that made them. They are dealing with the problem themselves, and acting in their own best interests, as everyone should and is free to do.

Another very appropriate action may have (or may not have, it’s hard to tell in the blogosphere) begun with Kate at I Think Therefore I Blog. Although her conclusion is very appropriate, the path she took to get there is shaky as hell-

Want a hot stock tip? Sell Google!

That’s right, the search engine-turned-monopoly is at it again, this time specifically targeting bloggers who’ve monetized their site with any link-based method other than AdSense.

No, we can’t sue them. Other companies have tried that already, only to be told by the court that Page Rank is essentially Google’s opinion and therefore protected by the First Amendment. A second lawsuit claiming that Google defamed a company by dropping its PR was dismissed for failing to show that a PR0 is actually defamatory.

So, if you can’t smack ‘em back with a lawsuit, hit them where it counts: in the wallet.

Sell Google. Now.

Selling your Google stock is definetly one way to voice your displeasure over a company’s actions. Of course, if you actually have voting stock you might want to consider hanging on to it and “working from the inside” as well. But I’d wager most GOOG stock holders don’t have voting shares (or don’t have enough to have a genuine voice in the company). This suhhestion ran wild through the blogosphere yesterday with many bloggers crowing over the fact that GOOG dropped a few points (they claim) as a result of the mass selling by bloggers. Of course, today it’s on it’s way back up, so whether or not the bloggers had any real impact is up for debate. Still, it’s a very appropriate reaction.

The dangerous path Kate took, though is that she’d prefer to file suit against Google. For what, exactly? Where is this contract that both Kate and Google signed granting Kate (or any other blogger) some right to a specific PageRank? You can’t find it because there isn’t one. Google is free to do anything with their products that does not directly harm anyone. This would be like suing Ford because you’ve been saving up for years to buy a new car and they suddenly decide to stop making them.

Other appropriate reactions include divesting oneself of Google’s services (Google Earth, Maps, Gmail, accounts, search engine, Adsense, Adwords, etc). There are free alternatives for everything Google offers. The only reason they have power over the internet is because internet users use their services more than anyone else.

Personally, my Adsense ads have been slowly coming down since well before the PR hullabaloo, simply because they aren’t performing well enough. They should be gone from all of my sites by the end of the year. I’ve been using and Yahoo searches more and more often as well. I seldom use Google Earth, have always preferred MapQuest, have never used Adwords, and have always detested Blogger. My gmail accounts, however, are unlikely to go anywhere in the near future. I’ve never found a free email provider that is as easy and convenient as gmail. I am, however, open to suggestions.

  6 Responses to “The Market Reacts To Google’s Insanity”

  1. Thank you for the nod, I appreciate it!

  2. The dangerous path Kate took, though is that she’d prefer to file suit against Google.

    Actually, I don’t prefer to file suit against them. I’m an attorney, and as such I’m fully aware there are no grounds for a lawsuit. My comment about “No, we can’t sue them” was written in response to a thread going on in a forum. I should’ve been more clear that I was replying to a sentiment expressed by others there. (As soon as I find time I’ll be sure to update that entry to correct this, and am grateful you pointed it out).

  3. Certainly wasn’t trying to call you (specifically) out or anything Kate. It’s a pretty common sentiment in the blogosphere right now. I’m just tired of the reality that American’s first instinct whenever they feel they’ve been wronged is to sue and/or turn to the government for help. Not only are neither typically effective, but they’re both giving away the power that we have as individuals.

    Google can be forced to mend its ways, but it will take the power of individuals acting to do that. Blogging (and simply talking) about why Google’s actions are bad for the internet is really the key to getting them turned back around.

    Both you and Cass are excellent at that, so keep up the great work!

  4. Thanks, Aazh. I’m not a big believer in the power of the lawsuit to remedy all wrongs myself (which might sound odd coming from me).

    Like you, I believe that we as individuals can and should do something about it. Will I stop using all Google services? I haven’t decided (as my email addy reflects). But I will reject the notion that Google’s opinion of my blog is relevant in any way.

    That’s all that PR is, according to their attorneys: an opinion. Well, I can’t remember the last time I let someone else’s opinion of me dictate how I behave, and I’m certainly not going to make an exception to that attitude for Google!

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