Grasping the enormity of issues Google is currently involved in, should the web’s dominant search engine throw things in reverse? More importantly, will the FTC throw a monkey wrench in Google’s gears?
While “death and taxes” may be two things that are certain, another is that Americans love powerful stuff. As kids we start craving and savoring all things powerful. Scotty, We Need More Power!, Shelby GT 500s, Saturn V rockets, Intel Quad Core processors, Silicon Valley, Shock and Awe attacks, on the edge Wall Street investments, vastly over-inflated housing markets, maxed-out credit cards, Google’s search engine, even wipeouts – we Americans want our “stuff” bigger than Texas. But wait! Is it possible power idol worship could be detrimental? Much of the love surrounding Google, mirrors these American sentiments.
I was just reading a very well organized post by Courtney DeWinter of the Denver Business Journal. While the story ends up illustrating how Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates help the overall online business ecosystem, DeWinter’s early points about “collateral damage” strike a chord many interested parties need to understand. That is, the fact that most business people, even most consumers, are not Internet experts. DeWinter brings this home in simplifying how SEO actually impacts businesses – a majority of which have no idea they’ve been “hit” by these algorithmic alterations. I quote from DeWinter’s introduction addressed to non-expert Internet companies:
“But what many of them don’t seem to know is that, in the past 1½ years, Google has introduced massive changes to its search engine algorithm that have huge ramifications for businesses.”
For those who are unaware, Google has rolled out drastic changes to their search algorithms since early 2011, changes which have dramatically altered the way a significant number of search queries end. Now here’s part of my point in brief. When we start seeing explanations that are point to be litigated, rather than discussed in SEO terms, when the rhetoric reaches down into the society of business and consumerism, these are signs akin to spotting icebergs in the North Atlantic. Excuse the metaphor here, but this Bloomberg report yesterday by Sara Forden tells of “sources” within the FTC ready to pounce with an antitrust suit versus Google.
Now that the election is over with, U.S. Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jonathan Leibowitz is pressuring Google for concessions that might forestall a suit claiming that Google is, in fact, a monopoly. While anyone reading this knows Google does monopolize search, being adjudicated one is a whole different ballgame. The FTC thinks Google is “abusing” their search position, and apparently Google is not yet willing to table any conciliatory burnt offerings. The negotiations being private, no news of exactly what allowances Leibowitz and the FTC are seeking have gone public.
Add to this “all powerful Google” equation that EU regulators are in upheaval over basically the same “unfairness” issues, and Google could almost claim underdog status if lawsuits are impending. Also, Google shows little or no signs of real concern with regard to how their execs react to these potentialities. This is at least true to the extent that no apparent “dampening” of Panda’s and Penguin’s engagement (attack on links etc.) is readily seen. Finally, the video below of head of Google web SPAM Matt Cutts, just after PubCon in 2011, speaks of Google be reactive, even reflexive of users’ feedback, needs, and so on.
Cutts suggests SEOs be more interested in what end users want than in what Google wants. The way he explains this concept of what was then, the future of search, makes brilliant sense. However, as we sit and watch experts at the FTC question Google’s motives and operands, should we be questioning why servants of the people are not being heeded? I mean, these FTC commissioners represent the people of the United States of America, as do EU officials the hundreds of millions there.
Some may argue here that modifying search to ostensibly drive better quality search results, is a whole separate issue from undermining competitors – but this is not so. “Undermining” in any event, using unfair leverage, could be argued in reality. And on the PR side, collateral damage, if perceived by enough people, is a losing game too. Certainly there’s quite enough contention and at least circumstantial proof there’s more going on in search than meets the eye – at least the uninformed eyes.
All this complicated litigation is pretty simple to break down for the average Intenet user, if not the SEJ readership. The FTC, all the regulators in fact, are tasked with protecting the public, period. Whether or not they do so adequately, this is not the issue here. The question is; “Is Google chasing user wants and needs, or the almighty dollar?” You see the dilemma I hope. Complaints from a lot of decent web publishers keep coming in as this one yesterday. A stickler would point out here, ANY interruption of traffic flow may seem to the site owner an onerous setback.
If it turns out Google’s competitors are being squeezed too tightly, and especially if Google is squeezing little publishers out in favor of “paying search customers”(which some allege), Cutts’ assertions toward SEOs above may need to be applied to the world’s most powerful Internet company. At the extreme some would cheer if Google rolled back the Internet to before February of 2011.
The possibility of rolling back panda and penguin has to be on the minds of Google top brass? - That is unless believes Internet users really do detest all forms of regulation -
Image credits: Google wipeout – courtesy © EpicStockMedia – Fotolia.com.