back to article Google opens curtain on 'manual' search penalties

When the world learned that EU antitrust regulators were investigating claims that Google unfairly manipulated its search results at the expense of competitors, Google's European corporate counsel was unequivocal in her defense of the company. "We don’t whitelist or blacklist anyone,” Julia Holtz told journalists in Brussels …

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Silver badge
Unhappy

Nothing keeps you from making your own search engine

And as we see from Yahoo & Bing, nothing keeps you from making your own crappy search engine.

Anyway, because people are trying to game Google, they have to keep some of this stuff under wraps. I don't like it, but then I also don't like it when expert-sexchange is the top 10 results, either.

In my opinion... SEO should be a hanging offense.

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Silver badge

Barrier of Entry

The trouble is that when you have a very dominant player, they can leverage their size to squeeze out competition. That's the danger of monopolies (especially de facto monopolies that come about simply through the capitalistic competition process). Barring the upstart holding a BIG trump card (like a revolutionary natural-language search system), it's hard to unseat a monopoly in the normal way.

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Google got big by being better

Google didn't become the most popular search engine by being evil capitalist monopolizers exploiting their size - they got popular by doing an amazingly good job of providing fast searches that yielded good results. They *were* the upstart with a revolutionary new search system, which is why you're using them and not Yahoo or Altavista or Hotbot. Microsoft became a big player in the search business by using the size and money they got from their other businesses, and Yahoo's been playing the search game for a long time, and has managed to survive for a long time by doing other things besides search.

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power curropts.

there are three things that drives busuness.

Power, respect and money.

until you reach 50% of the market, market growth brings you all three of these.

with a 50% market share your power become near unstoppable, you have very little need for more power, one you reach two thirds market share your power is alway twice your nearest enemy.

and thats when curroption starts.

once companys grow to this size, responsibility for day to day operations pass away from the creaters and the driving force for the people who are not the face of the business is money and power.

if they get very little of the respect that the company garners then they will have no care for that respect, no care to look after it at the expense off power or money.

Also if the creative forces behind the company start beleiving anything they touch will turn to gold due to thier own pure brilliance, and not realise its because of the share market power, they have no need for respect.

when a company has no fear of its competitors or the respect of the public, it will stop at nothing to achieve its only goal left, money.

and thats when curroption really gets going.

because you had amazing ideas when you started out does not mean its amazing ideas that will keep you number one.

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Anonymous Coward

Sorry, but....

...corruption is not that hard to spell!

Or were you trying to be clever with words on a level above me?

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Silver badge

Foundem...

Could you know, try a little marketing beyond expecting google to do their job for them... I only know them from the constant reg articles with them blaming google for all their woes - where's their TV ad with annoying mascott? Where's their billboards, bus advertisments, etc?

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Foundem did not vanish along

All price comparison site SPAM vanished overnight from any searches that did not have price terms in the query. So that case was more likely to be an algorithmic tweak. At the time discussed in the Foundem complaint they were spamming up to the whole first page of results for anything making Google search unusable.

The tweak actually hit other price comparison sites worse than Foundem. Foundem is still alive. Most of other comparison sites ended up considerably worse off.

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Silver badge

Yep

I used to HATE that with a passion. For many search terms you had to go to page 3+ to find anything which was not a price comparison. An attempt to find the support page for a laptop, for instance, required me to try 6 different queries before it appeared on page 1, and then right at the bottom.

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JDX
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Are you high?

How does making your own engine help you rank on the one people use? The arguments are:

- Google has the dominant search engine and uses it to promote its other products

- People pay a LOT of money to get top-ranked for valuable keywords, and Google just stick their results at the top of the list

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But all this is based on the the idea of Whitelist existing,

and from what I understand, Google deny there being any such thing as white List, Foundem(Microsoft) have yet to show any evidence that such lists within Google excist, apart from there of theories.

I am pretty sure Google not dumb to keep any such lists around either. Same I am sure Google not dumb enough to send emails admitting such whitelist exists.

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Re: David 164

But Foundem did provide e-mails from Google mentioning whitelists. Google doesn't deny those e-mails, they deny that the lists exist. In other words, one division slipped the information unwittingly, and another denies it.

dZ.

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No Whitelists

Of course Google are probably being perfectly truthful when they say they don't have a whitelist. They've admitted that they are able to manually assign a score to demote a site, so I'm certain that this includes applying a negative value of how much the site should be 'demoted' - pushing results up the list, and I'm sure if they pick a big enough negative value it will result in it being negatively demoted all the way to the top of the list - but that isn't the same as having a whitelist honest.

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Anonymous Coward

Video replies

I find it interesting that Google does all these videos for things that really don't need it. They don't even illustrate anything on these ones, just a nerdy looking guy using way too exaggerated hand movements.

Is is so they can track (via Youtube) who's seeing it? I guess a text or e-mail message can be easily copy&pasted around, but videos are harder so people end up sharing the URL instead...

Umm I guess I could ask that question and await the video reply.. maybe omit the nerdy part.

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Stop

Google's Becoming A NastyCorp

The (probably) inevitable happened: Like any other greedy corporation, they start that "public relations" thing, which is just a sophisticated form of lying. Yeah, maybe "white lies" (whatever the definition of that is), but still lies.

It is totally obvious that Google Search is not an "objective algorithm". Rather, the algorithm contains a ton of heuristics which would hardly qualify for "objective", if that is possible at all. Secondly, some sites such as wikipedia.org and ezines.com have been artificially bumped up in the Google ranking.

Which is all OK with me if they would not claim this had not happened.

I have found the distributed YaCy search engine to be quite useful:

http://yacy.net/en/

Let me tell you this factoid with YaCy: It is developed by Karlsruhe University and there are persistent rumours Karlsruhe is a major R&D site for German Spookery. Whether YaCy has anything to do with that, I do not know. I do know though, that all wealthy governments try to spy on as many people as possible. Google certainly is a very useful source of intelligence, too.

Then there is Yandex.com from Russia (who have their fair share of spooks). But putting eggs in different baskets might be a wise strategy.

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Big Brother

Becoming?

Too late for that!

They sent their nasty little spy-mobiles out, which most people tolerate but others do not wish to have taking pictures of them. Eric Schmidt told those who didn't wish to have their pictures taken, "Simply move!".

The same Eric Schmidt who questioned why kids would need to read books when they can get all the info they need from Google's news feeds.

Giving away all that free software and lovelly free services, out of the kindness of their hearts? Sure they do. They get theirs one way or another, selling us and our info, the real product on sale here.

No matter what they say, it's in Google's interests to bump up those paying the biggest amount! If I ran an ad-agency and one client offered me $1 million for a campaign and another could only offer me $50,000, which do you think would get the biggest campaign with the most amount of attention?

They became a "NastyCorp(c)" many, many years ago, some would argue that that was the goal in the first place.

I might dispise Google intensely, but there's no denying they aren't stupid and I have to grudgingly admit some admiration for what they have managed to achieve. I would just rather stand back as an outsider, rather than end up in the Google compound supping the sweet Kool-Aid they're pushing!

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Thumb Down

Wish it hadn't foundem

I personally detest these vertical search engines like Foundem, I truly wish services like google had a "keep this crap off my screen" button to eliminate these lepers of the internet from my results.

If I am searching for "rubber thong polish" I generally want to find links to sites that sell rubber thong polish, not some ugly looking site that has a bunch of outdated links to poor quality sites that paid the site operator to list them for certain keywords, usually unrelated to what I was actually searching for.

Normally I would wish them a slow, painful death, however, in this case I will settle for wishing them a quick painful death.

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@Robin Szemeti

Not used Google that much? You've got the power to remove any site you like from your personal results, and I'm willing to bet you are fully aware of that. Could it be that you take offense that sites you don't personally like appear in other peoples results? Get over yourself if that's the case, or start your own search engine.

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RE: Wish it hadn't foundem

Have to agree with you there -- when I'm looking for a product review or trying to find which retailers sell a specific product I do not want the first three pages to be filled with meta-searches of "Best Price For ***" listing a mix of outdated links, dodgy-looking sites and similar products from the US version of whichever retailer I may want to look at if there UK site was listed.

@Andy Fletcher: Perhaps they put the results there so you have to accept their cookies or use "iGoogle" or whatever it is? I wouldn't know, as I don't generally allow cookies when browsing on the browsers I use most. These comparison sites add nothing you couldn't get from the first page of google results if they weren't there -- so it's hardly an assault on your freedom to remove them for the sake of clarity. I don't usually side with Google, but in this case I have to agree with their changes.

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Stop

One More Creepy Fact

Google Mail is setting a Flash Cookie, despite the fact that they do not use Flash for anything useful.

It is clear that the purpose of this is to track people and their equipment.

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FAIL

Whitelist?

Is it possible the "whitelist" mentioned is in fact an email spam whitelist? google admits those exist. Foundem's (foundem? neverheardofem!) entire argument seems to be based off "we SEO'd our way to the top and were too lazy to figure out how to do it and too cheap to pay someone to do it after "G" changed their algorithm"

but hey, i'm just a dumb american.

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WTF?

Google is a business

..and not a free public service. Why shouldn't they have links to their own services at the top of the list..

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So you don't understand the concept of abusing a dominant position.

Yes, at first sight your argument makes sense. But look at it another way.

Google is the dominant search engine - I don't think that's under dispute. Yes there are others, but Google is very dominant. Yes it got there by being better, but that's not the point.

As a business, Google search engine makes it's money from advertising - basically selling rankings/listings against search terms. So if I sell widgets, I can arrange that whenever anyone searches for widgets then my listing can appear in the advertising links. All that is fine.

Now suppose Google wants to get into the online widgets business. They can effectively give themselves a free ride to the top of the list. It's alleged that they are artificially boosting the price they charge me for my listings - so I pay more than I would if it was a fair auction for the use of widgets as a keyword. So immediately they have me paying more than I should be for getting seen in searches for widgets - that's the first offence.

Secondly, whether their online widgets are better than mine or not, they can (and it appears do) promote their own widgets service at the top of the list. If it was anyone else trying to get into the widgets business, they couldn't do this without outbidding me for the search keyword and getting to be a popular site - ie any other new competitor would have to compete to be the best widget provider and so get the sort of online linking that popular sites get.

But Google doesn't have to be the best to be at the top - they can give themselves that free ride. No 1 spot in the results - effectively buying market share since so many people will just click the first result.

The nearest sort of analogy (and I admit not very good) might be if there were a large commercial/retail park somewhere - and all the roads on it were private and owned by the park. Because it's a huge park, with lots of retailers, most of the local population shop there.

Now I own a widget shop, and I rely on those passing customers for business. Suppose the park owners decide they want the widget business. I pay for an advertising hoarding near the site entrance promoting my widget business - but the site owners put up their own hoarding so it partially obscures mine - and they put up signs all over the park with something like "Widgets - this way" and pointing to their own new widget shop.

I'll still get some business, but a huge proportion of potential customers will never find my shop. The park owners have used their dominant position (don't forget, nearly everyone comes here to shop because of it's size so just moving elsewhere isn't really an option) to deliberately to shove their own new business ahead of everyone else.

If it was fair then they'd have the widget shop as a separate unit that had to buy advertising space in exactly the same way as I do. Then they could compete on who sells the best widgets, who has the most polite staff etc. As it is, they can effectively cripple any business they want to take over the market for - simply by giving themselves a huge (and free) advantage, paid for by the rest of their business activities.

I suggest you read a bit of history on anti-competitive behaviour. There's plenty to look at - Standard Oil back in the 50's IIRC, then IBM with cash registers, Microsoft. In all these cases (particularly Std Oil and IBM, Microsoft used more technical methods), the company used cross subsidies and other techniques to effectively kill off competition by running one part of the business at a loss so they could undermine any competitors who weren't able to provide such cross funding.

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Silver badge
Coat

I wonder what would happen...

... if you googled for "Whitelist"...

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Megaphone

Meh Thinks

Google only came to the top after Lycos screwed up HotBots search engine.

Whell its when I started to use it 100%

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Pint

the google rep discussing white-/black- lists is named 'Cutts'?

Kudos to the casting director.

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Humans !

How many people in Google are adjusting weightings ?

If it is not thousands then how can their effect be significant ?

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Silver badge
WTF?

Don't you just love semantics?

"For years, Google told the world that its search engine was completely objective, and only now is the company beginning to freely explain that this is not the case."

They lied, repeatedly. What else can we really call it? I do not in fact have a problem with the company having to intervene to prevent external attempts to manipulate the search results. Indeed I expect them to do what they can to keep the bell ringers from getting away with that kind of crap. What I really do not understand is their unwillingness to admit it. If they are worried that we will believe that *they' are manipulating the search results in an unethical manner then they have contributed big time to giving us that impression by lying about what they are doing!

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Silver badge

easy to fix

add a +searchengine flag to include results returned by other search engines. If I go to google, I probably don't want results from bing, or foundem or somewhere else.

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rvt
WTF?

google is evil, we all know that

Google is one evil puppy lying and hiding things they don't like us to know about.

it's just that there google.com is simple and there search results usually contain a lot of good results in the first 10 hits, then way to much crap in anything below 10. But well... they need to get there ad income,right?

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Headmaster

Their

The word is "their"

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Re: Their

There are times when reviewing written material by third parties where you may not approve of their spelling, however rather than behave like a pedant, why not accept that they're contributing to the discussion? At the very least you could have responded to the points raised in their post!

I sure hope I didn't unintenshunally spell anything wrong!

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Badgers

Sigh

Witty retort

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Unhappy

Almost Impossible...

As small web-trader with a custom written web-shop and blog we've found it almost impossible to sit in a good place in Google rankings without purchasing adwords space. Our main problem is our core Google pagerank, which since the last algorithm adjustment is now back to zero.

Our site is fully optimised for the products we sell, all the meta tags are correct, the urls are friendly, the images have full titles, the body of each page is keyword heavy, the sitemap is current and auto-submitted, the rss feed is fomatted correctly, and the youtube account (as that's Google too) is linked to the site. From an SEO point of view we've done everything we can to increase our visibility.

All of which is utterly pointless if you can't get any of the big-hitter sites to link to you. Incoming links feature so heavily in Google's ranking system that without them you may as well give up.

Their index is dominated by high ranking sites who will not link to you unless you are also a high ranking site, making it a closed members-only group - good luck breaking into that.

We're a small outfit, and don't have £100,000s to spend on advertising or 'bribing' for non adword links. We're 3 years into trading and our web visibility has just taken a nose dive.

This is why I hate Google. They are not a search engine, they are the Gatekeepers of the Internet; They fully control what you see and what you don't. Thinking that they are offering you a (free) service is pure folly.

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Whats the alternative?

I'm neutral about Google, but I am curious about what people see as the alternative outcomes?

Search is worth big money as a business, which means it will attract other competitors (Bing, Yahoo) and other approaches (Wolfram Alpha). If Google tweak or alter their results/algorithms to the point where people feel they're not useful or relevant, then a superior solution will step into the breach - that's how they got their foothold remember - by building a better mousetrap.

However, as far as I can see it boils down to the fact that there are only a certain number of results that can appear on the first page and there will always be more peple who feel that slot belongs to then than can be satisfied.

The above commment is a perfect example. In the days of the yellow pages, you'd pick a business from a local directory. Nowadays the net provides you with a global customer base but it also means you're competing in a global supplier pool.

What is there about that business that makes it *more* relevant than the ones appearing above it? I accept the point about adwords, but page rank has been shown to be a valid way to sift results. I can't see how a solution where searching for an source of specific items returns a page of global suppliers randomly organised is superior.

Think about the pre-search-engine days - you'd be relying on people guessing your URL or you spending money to buy the single relevant URL for your sector to be found. Propose your vision of a better solution

Give us a clue what you make and I'd be interested to play with seaching criteria to see what scenario would mean you appear as one of my top three results.

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Who is Google's customer? And have you tried name recognition?

"404 Not Found Novelties" probably seemed like a cute business name at 2am three years ago. 404 coffee mugs, 404 tee shirts...

If you're unique and I ask Google to bring you to me then I'm confident that it will. If there are a million like you then I have no preference. What's missing is a reason for me or for them to connect me to you if I was not particularly thinking about you. That could be classy advertising on web sites that I use that are interested in the thing that you do. It could be spam e-mail, but I hope not. It could be AdWords, although I hope that AdWords DON'T improve your placing in search-as-search results, and also I want you to consider that I and others are quite sceptical of statements attached to AdWords results. Be matter-of-fact, tell me what you can do for me, modestly.

I am the Google user, and I am who they are working for - except when you're paying them and I'm not. You do not have an intrinsic right to receive my attention.

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Anonymous Coward

Pre-search Engine ??

So, pre-1993 then ??

I was fairly sharp onto the world wide wibble (post the early 1980's BBS days) and even I struggle to remember much before AltaVista (1995).

Prior to that most users were using content providers (AOL and Compuserve), which didn't require a search engine, as content was delivered direct to you.

This era also predates most online shopping (my first foray into that was late 1997 when DVD's had to be imported from the US).

But going back to those heady days of AltaVista, it was a search for those most likely to be on the web - tech savvy, probably some programming background. It was assumed everyone knew that a search phrase required quotes around it, that a quoted word with a preceding minus sign excluded those terms, that boolean arguments were the norm.

I remember running searches, looking at the result and then refining my search parameters to either include more terms or exclude those I didn't want.

Which is the problem with the big G, the lackspittal, slack jawed morons that have decided to join the web cant grasp the concept of looking at more than one page of results and G have decided on a quite low number of results to display per page, resulting in massive fighting to get to the top.

Fuck em, give me back my old school search engine that just does what I tell it too.

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