My esteemed blogging colleague, Seth Godin, really missed the point in the story about the company suing Google over its disappearance from search results.
Here is Seth's entire post on the matter:
The new SEOs--lawyers
Joe points us to this article--a company is suing Google because their pagerank is too low.
Perhaps the same strategy could be used on consumers who don't want to watch your commercials...
The brevity makes me conclude that Seth didn't really read the article, Kinderstart Sues Google Over Lower Page Ranking. At best he just scanned it. The article states:
A parental advice Internet site has sued Google Inc., charging it unfairly deprived the company of customers by downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning.
Search-result ranking does not refer to Pagerank. They are two different things. It refers to what SERP (Search Engine Results Page) your site appears on for a search on a particular term. (Yes, it's a bit confusing at first.) Let me give you a personal experience with this. I run a hobby site at www.antiventurecapital.com. For many years, if you did a search on "venture capital", it usually showed up on the second or third SERP at Google. It was always top five. Then one morning two years ago, I discovered that the site was no longer in the first five SERPS. My immediate assumption was that it had slipped a few pages downward to maybe 7th or 8th SERP. To make a long story short, the site had completely vanished as far as Google was concerned.
It was as if the site no longer existed.
About two months later it magically reappeared in Google's search results--but this time it was on a SERP in the mid-80s. I was only able to find it because of www.googlerankings.com which will scan up to the first 1000 SERPS to find your site's position in the results. No one drills down past the 5th SERP manually.
That's what this story is about. This is what happened to Kinderstart and why it is going after Google--and rightfully so.
Some SEO readers will jump to the conclusion that I was trying to game the system and that Google penalized me for it. The truth is that I wasn't. Recall that above I called my site a "hobby site". I had better things to do with my time than spend endless hours tweaking it for SEO purposes. Besides, the site was always sitting pretty somewhere in the top five SERPS.
Seth compares Kinderstarts move to suing consumers who don't want to watch your commercials. Bad analogy, Seth. A better one would be to describe it as a situation where a shop-owner goes to work one morning and discovers that his Main street store has been bulldozed, the debris removed, and a mobile taco vendor is parked in the middle of the now empty lot.
That's what it feels like for site owners when this happens.
"Google does not generally inform Web sites that they have been penalized nor does it explain in detail why the Web site was penalized," the lawsuit said.
No, it certainly doesn't. There's no recourse at all when this happens. Google is your judge, jury, and executioner.
Now you might be thinking, "So what Peter, if this does happen it's probably a rare event." Wrong. It happens a lot. Everyday Google nukes a few hundred sites in this manner without warning or explanation, according to the scuttlebut on webmaster forums. Hang out at some of the popular forums and you will see that it's true. I used to frequent Webmasterworld where tears are shed daily over these vanishings. Here's some irony. The guy running Webmasterworld was always firing off private messages to anyone who dared critiscize Google in anyway telling them that they would be banned from his site if they continued. Then one day last year, his own site was nuked by Google in the same manner--although I take it he was able to eventually have the situation rectified. How he did it, I don't know.
I wrote about my own experience last fall. Someone in the SEO field then accused me incorrectly of whining. No, when you have a site in the top five SERPs which then vanishes overnight, you have a legitimate reason to complain and even pursue legal recourse, as in the case of Kinderstart. I think I know what I'm doing since all of my other sites appear in the first two SERPS on the big three SEs. Whining is when someone complains about never being able to crack the top 100 SERPs.
That's a big difference.
So what's the lesson here?
It's simply this: don't base your online strategy on Google delivering traffic to you. Google shows itself daily to be a fickle mistress. One day she adores you and the next day it's as if you never existed.
The silver lining:
There's actually a happy ending in all of this--at least for me. Having the site vanish and my traffic decrease as dramatically as Kinderstarts' "cataclysmic 70 percent fall", forced me to find other ways of driving traffic to the site than tedious SEO techniques. Eventually these other techniques paid off and I now have have traffic that's 1.25x greater than when the site was in Google's first five SERPS. That's not bad considering it's a narrowly defined niche site aimed at startups having trouble raising venture capital or angel investor financing.
In conclusion, as I have stated here many times, having one search engine dominate the search market so heavily is bad for everyone. It's bad for online businesses which can see years of hard work aimed at building traffic evaporate overnight, and it's bad for individual searchers who are delivered increasingly lower quality results Google.
It's also time that people in the online community stopped being afraid of Google and kissing its ass. There's way too much fawning over Google on blogs. The performance of both of its key revenue drivers, Adwords and Adsense, has plummeted dramatically over the past two years. Every passing day Google looks more and more like a house of cards. (Just Google "Google click fraud" if you don't believe me.)
It's time to admit that the emperor has no clothes.
Best of luck to Kinderstart in its suit.