Prediction: 2011 – the year when Google will turn into an enemy

When a new year starts everyone is making predictions or lists of predictions on blogs and newspapers. More or less i will make a prediction myself. But it will be only one prediction. I think that 2011 will be the year when we will witness something that a few years ago we couldn’t believe. I think that we will witness Google turning from friend to foe.  This feeling has been growing in me for some time but lately is getting stronger and stronger. And from what you’re going to see in this post, it’s not only me.

Why is this happening and what are the reasons ?

Well, the reasons are many. It’s not a single reason and that’s why its more likely that this prediction will turn into reality.

1. Google search results getting more and more useless

I’m trying to acquire a new phone and being a Sony Ericsson customer for quite some time i wanted a new Sony Ericsson phone. I didn’t know which one is the best right now because i don’t really follow that niche very much. I searched for the best sonyericsson, results are mostly useless spamsites, i searched for sonyericsson ratings … results are also mostly useless spamsites.  Accessing a site from the above results can gives me in most cases no additional information to my query. I receive polls, lists of sonyericsson phones but not any good content site where i can see a comparison of the phones or a breakdown of their characteristics.

2. Spam is ruling the search results and they all profit (Google and the spamsites)

If you’re trying to do any real research with Google you will end up seeing lots and lots of spamsites.  Sites that were made with one single goal. To attract visitors who will click on the paid advertisements displayed beside the content. And this content is in most cases very poor content. It’s either syndicated from other content sources, either poorly written in very short time just to have some content to sell ads with it. When one single website produces 4000 pieces of content a day or when content farms are thriving then traditional media and blogs should raise an eyebrow and ask Google what is happening.

But Google has no real interest in solving this problem. Because in most cases they are selling the ads together with the spamsites (through Google Adsense). So their interest is to have as much content as possible and to sell as many ads as possible against this content. It doesn’t matter the quality of the content. The money is pouring in, Google is happy, spamsites are happy, end users … well who cares about them anyway ?

3. Content syndicators regularly outrank the original source of an article

Often i find my articles and pictures ripped of and posted on some crappy spamsite. Sometimes they mention the source and link back to it, sometimes they only mention the source without link and sometimes they doesn’t mention the source at all. I often found that they even removed watermark from my pictures and presented them as their own.

Every time i find such a site i try to get them to remove the article or give credit to the source. But many times i get no response and the ways to remove them (lawsuits, cease and desists, suspend hosting) are costly (either as money or as time effort). Leaving things as they are wouldn’t be that bad if Google would credit the original author of the article or picture. But this is not happening. In fact in some cases the stolen articles end up showing in search results ahead of the original article.

And this is not a single isolated incident. Others have also lived this painful experience: read about Trouble in the house of Google and Google, Google, Why Hast Thou Forsaken the Manolo

So on the long term for original content creators its not worth creating content because they are being buried in Google results. Scrapers on the other hand are thriving but this isn’t helping the end users. Often people run into the same article on 4-5 different sites, all showing up on the first page of the search results. I’m just curious though what will happen with scrapers when no one will be left to scrape.
4. Google promotes its own products in top of search results
The other annoying thing is that Google shamelessly promotes its services in search results effectively killing of competition, competition which is in some cases better then Google at some things.

For example i will present you a very good example. When i search after a map of Huedin (Huedin is a small city in Romania) Google will return its service (Google Maps) on the first place, even though they have a very poor map of that city.

And what is more important is that Google has maps for Romania only for about 1 year. Before they had nothing and it still showed up on the first place some time before they had the maps. This is clearly an artificially introduced alteration of their algorithm to promote their own service.

And meantime they are killing of the other local mapping websites that had good maps long before Google employees know where Romania is on the map.

5. Google spams when it suits him and disobeys its own Technical Guidelines
Yes, Google spams its own search results by indexing search results which is a clear violation of their technical guidelines. For example when you search for “tab mix plus chrome” which is a Google Chrome extension in the search results they show indexed search results from their own domain : chrome.google.com.

This is forbidden for us mere mortals because it would pollute search results with useless junk and Google’s guidelines clearly state that one should block these pages from indexing. You can see below what their technical guidelines say (look for the highlighted text) :

Of course they are allowed to do this because Chrome needs to be pushed forward. If i would do this i would be penalized in an instant. So i’m sick and tired of them lecturing us on ethics.
6. Google is getting its nose in everything
They are into search, maps, email, social, blogs, mobile business, advertising and constantly getting into all kinds of new niches. Now they want TV, netbooks, travel and whatnot ? One epic example is the ITA deal. ITA is a company that provides air fare software and services,  which are used by many of the major players in the online travel industry.  Obviously Google wants a piece of that pie too. So if the ITA deal would be approved they could just display their service on the first place and kill off the other industry players. That’s why approving the ITA deal would be a dangerous precedent. To prevent this the online travel industry has setup a website on this matter which contains more information on this:  http://www.fairsearch.org

Google’s big advantage over the world is that they have “The Database of Intentions” – basically Google knows at any given moment what are the most searched keywords in their search engine. If one day they would discover that crap is the most searched term, they would get into that too. This looks like kindergarten where kids try to do everything that the other kids do.

Unfortunately this is not kindergarten. Google now has more information on our society than any other entity has ever had and Eric Schmidt (CEO of Google) admits it: “We don’t need you to type at all. We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about” (source). So we must realize that never in the history of mankind was this kind of power in the hands of  single entity.

7. Increasing privacy implications

As i pointed out in the previous section Google knows more about you then anyone else. But this is not enough for them, recently they were caught collecting private wifi information from unprotected wireless networks while they were creating Street View images of cities. They say it was by mistake but that’s very improbable. Quality control and testing is usually very strict in this kind of companies. Such a software goes through many people and i can’t believe that no one noticed.

Conclusions

Well, these are the facts, everyone draws its own conclusions. As for me, i’m convinced that Google is heading into a wrong direction and this comes from someone who a few years ago was an absolute fan of the company. It is a matter of time before Google steps on the toes of too many people and too many authorities will be scrutinizing Google for its practices. They will be the “Microsoft” of this decade, ending up just like the Redmond giant was ten years ago, hated by people,  considered evil and watched carefully.

I’m not alone in my thinking, see what others say on this subject:

You could argue that most of the above applies only to webmasters and only the webmaster community will turn against Google. But end users are being affected as well. When you have to search for a new home appliance and the first two pages of results are full of spamsites you are losing time and money. Not to mention your mental sanity. Also lots of people working at companies that compete with Google or offer services that will be killed of by the Mountain View company will have a reason not to like Google. And the number of these companies is growing daily.

It will be an interesting year, that’s sure.

P.S.

The research and the writing of this post took 2 hours. I’m pretty sure some scraper is reposting this in about 3 minutes. So if you’re not reading this on the domain www.lacisoft.com/blog then it is stolen without my permission. Watch out what sites are you reading!

UPDATE 21.01.2011

It seems that the recent posts about Google search quality, prompted a response from Google’s Matt Cutts on their official blog.  He says that search quality is better than it has ever been. Should we believe him ? Do you believe that search quality is better then ever ?

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Comments

I can relate to most of your issues with Google. I would like to see a blacklist feature in Google search results. Once i lost 5 minutes with a webpage and determined it is a spam site i would like a button in the search results to permanently remove it from my results. Something like “Never show this webpage again” beside every item in the result list. That would solve the spam issue. The others remain though.

Well – no sites indexed yet with your content:

http://www.google.com.au/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=%22When+you+have+to+search+for+a+new+home+appliance+and+the+first+two+pages+of+results+are+full+of+spamsites+you+are+losing+time+and+money.%22&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&channel=suggest

I’m in the IM game myself actually. Whilst I’m not guilty of scraping anyones content I do have an extensive blog farm where all content is scraped using WPRobot wordpress plugin. This scrapes from about 15 different sources, all within the T&C’s of the originating sites I might add.

I do agree with you to some extent certainly however the majority of my sales of physical products are made through niche autoblogs – basically I hijack customers who search for a product name and direct them to Ebay or Amazon. Try typing in any (at least marginally popular) product name and I can almost assure you you’ll be looking at a page of autoblogs redirecting you to Amazon: the content is scraped directly from there.

However basically they sit there and make money, I’m working in other areas now: the competition is too intense in terms of link building for my liking. Now I use various ad networks for PPC (not Adwords BTW: WAY too expensive) and I’m exploring PPV advertising which is proving lucrative.

I agree though. Once people get it into their heads that Google just turns up junk people will start to shift and Google will either have to change or slowly recede, I can just feel it. It’ll be like when Google first came along: SEO people such as myself had worked out how to game the system. It took a while for us to work out how to game Google but I think well and truly we know how now.

Andrew: shoudn’t be too hard to implement as a plugin for browsers. You could even crowdsource sites to block: which would be funny considering first thing that would happen is webmasters would whack their competition :D

It mostly applies to webmasters, regular people don’t have a clue that they are fed spam and making spammers rich. Which is, in a way, amazing – but then millions watch stupid shows like Big Brother 10th edition (maybe first one was original, rest is just spam) which are TV equivalents of cheap worthless content wrapped around commercial breaks. TV this day is a bit like autoblog with duplicate content peppered with ads all over the place.
Like Ned above I am in the IM game as well – if you can’t beat them, join them!

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