I should preface this with “I’m not attempting to spread FUD” as I’m not entirely convinced that it’s true…actually, I’m not convinced at all. But there are some reports in the blogosphere (here, here, here, and here…among others) all saying the same thing; their Google page ranking has dropped either significantly, or doesn’t exist altogether. In the case of the first link, I believe he’s running into the same issues I did earlier…he has a Google search box, but no Google logo. Google (apparently) doesn’t like that too much, and it’s a total PITA to get reindexed. It has taken me almost a month to get back to number one, but it does eventually happen once you’re back on their good side. But that still doesn’t explain the other folks, of whom none seem to have anything on their site to violate Google’s terms.
The reason I’m not buying it is because what vested interest would Google have in dropping bloggers (why would they specifically target bloggers, wouldn’t they target some other crowd…i.e. porn?)? I can safely say that over half the questions I type into sir Google ends up leading me to some random blog that gives me an answer (though perhaps not always the right one); point being is that blogs are increasingly becoming a great source of information (as if we didn’t already know this), and Google’s system revolves around one underlying concept…the number of people linking to your site. They do their reindexing around the middle of the month, so it’s not surprising to see all the reports coming in around now…but perhaps that’s just the way the dice fell this go round. When I was banished from Googledom a month ago, I eventually figured it out…I was violating their terms of service in some way (as mentioned before, I didn’t have the Google logo on my “search this site” section), so a good start would be to head over and read them (or just Google “google terms of service”) just to double check that you didn’t do something to make Sergey mad and order the immediate droppage of your site (if you blog with one of the popular blog sites, ping whoever's in charge to make sure the site itself doesn't violate their terms). Or, you can also simply ask them…it took me a few emails, but I did finally hear back from them…I violated their TOS, their spiders figured it out, and I was dropped. I already knew it, but it was nice to get some confirmation nonetheless.
What is my point? It’s always easier to point fingers at the mighty behemoth than to ask questions and try and figure out wtf is really going on. I would be absolutely shocked if it turns out that Google is targeting bloggers (and I really hope to not be proven wrong on that one…more on that in my sidenote below). As is evident by some of the posts, the other search engines aren’t doing it…and Google has to stay competitive so from a logical standpoint it simply doesn’t make any sense.
Sidenote/caveats: Google is what I refer to as a “black box” company…it’s next to impossible to really know what is going on over there. Sure, they have a blog, but IMO it’s one of the more worthless corporate blogs out there (man I hope saying that doesn’t get me dropped again)…it amounts to little more than a PR conduit which basically reiterates their announcements page. There are no opinions on it, no place for comments, nada (not to mention their “Search this Site” section violates their own TOS…no Google logo )…just a stream of “we’re doing this/that/whatever” drivvle; this is in stark contrast to the blogs over at Microsoft/Sun/etc, where information flows freely and the bloggers attempt to reach out to their customers. There is virtually no way for us (the customers) to get in touch with these guys…it took me 8 emails before I finally heard back from someone. Sure, they may say that their “customers” are the ones who pay for advertising, but that’s incorrect. We are their customers…the web itself; that’s what drives people to the sites that their “paying” customers, well…pay for. You drive us away from Google, and then the paying folks don’t see a reason to pay anymore. Their B2B depends wholey on their B2C, as is the case with lots of companies. As one of my favorite comedians said (referring to the Ottoman Empire), “it’s collapsing like a flan in a cupboard”…ok, maybe not entirely correct, but staying this guarded (especially for a now publicly owned company) about what’s going on inside the company is simply not good. Look at another behemoth, Microsoft. Yes, it’s entirely too easy to hate them (and sometimes for very similar reasons…they choose to break something, and we’re left to deal with it…but they have lock-in and can force our hands, I’m not condoning it, just trying to make a parallel), but the channels to communicate with them are wide open, and best of all they do listen…and if they do break something, there is usually some sort of explanation (again, not always what we want to hear…but as I mentioned above some sort of confirmation is nice). They have learned this the hard way, and their customers demanded it. I think we’re entitled to know what’s going on over at Google…not just new products/services, but about changes in their fundamental business…the business of search. If they were to target bloggers (and this is equivalent to Microsoft making a breaking change in a product), the public should know why, and we should be provided with a workaround. One of the things that really peeved me when I was dropped is that it came without warning, and then there was simply nothing I could do except email them and hope for the best…IMO this isn’t a good way to go about business. Yes, I realize it would be impractical for them to contact every site that violated their terms or whatever…but a clear line of communication is a must (no, an email address doesn’t cut it anymore), especially for a company which is virtually a monopoly in a given market, and you don’t have to give away the recipe to the secret sauce in the process.
I honestly don’t know where I’m going with all of this (just sat down to type a short blurb…call it inspiration/insanity/whatever), but IMO Google is beginning to act like a monopoly (it’s ok to be one, just don’t act like it!), meaning that they can make breaking changes (if indeed they are targeting bloggers…see above for my opinion on that though) and leave us, their real customers, left to pick up the pieces knowing that we really don’t have much of a choice but to simply grin and bear it. Cheers.