Is Google difficult for cottage owners?
This blog post is about Google and how little many of us realize how it works and the way it expects us to behave. It may sound astonishing but if you innocently add a link to another web site (an outgoing link), you could cause damage to those you wish to help. Google considers many such links as ‘spammy’ attempts to manipulate and to debase the quality of its search engine results. If others link to you, in an equally friendly helpful and supportive way, Google could, equally, mark down your web site on organic search rankings because it assumed that you paid for those spammy links to cheat your way towards a better web ranking.
Of course, Google has every right to do as it wishes because its organic service is free. However, it must be aware of its quasi monopolist position in the World of search engines and that it can easily destroy businesses by judging wrongly that they have been trying to subvert its work to ensure high quality search results. Any web based business upsetting Google sufficiently, unless it has excellent alternative sources of traffic, could face total business failure.
Holiday Let owners struggle to keep up
Most small holiday let owners either have to rely on the services of an SEO person or a well-informed computer services business to have much of a chance of adhering to the increasingly stringent rules and stipulations put out by Google. Sadly, in many cases, smaller operators often end up unintentionally upsetting Google and they pay the price accordingly. We are told by Google not to resort to SEO people but such essential things as disavowing incoming links which can be done by telling Google about them are not the sort of thing normal people know about. At one time Google is saying do not use SEO services whilst it has developed a system that needs the expertise of specialist SEO people. You will find more of this contradictory approach below.
We struggle to keep up
For many years, we used to run an extensive information section on Country Holiday Lets featuring many links to different rural leisure businesses, pubs and much more. However, we have now had radically reduce this service because Google, suspecting someone has paid us to offer this free service, will punish the people we are trying to help by assuming they have paid for those links to artificially increase their web ranking and generate better organic search results. We provided the information and links for the use of our guests but Google is likely to suspect foul play and will judge, with no reference to the facts, that they are suspect. The problem is that many of us have little or no idea of how to put in the ‘no follow code’ and many, once they know the danger, will follow suite and simply be rid of the links and information. In addition, it often takes three times longer to put in a link with a ‘no follow’ as it does to create a simple link. All this is nothing new; Google first set up the ‘no follow’ regime way back in 2005, but developments, sanctions, their application and strength have gathered momentum over the years.
Google, in its search to improve organic search results, seems to be relying on sanctions. This method, in effect, is beginning to determine how authors write and, in some cases, determines aspects of content. It is a little like a copyright library ordering authors how and what they should write. Google has a major problem on its hands.
In our case, we adhered to the rules but it was costly because in the WordPress portfolio grids there is no direct way to input the ‘no follow’ code. Instead, a developer had to add a bespoke tweak to the program. This has to be repeatedly added to WordPress for every update. We were advised that linking between Country Holiday Lets and Holiday Lets for Sale could well be considered ‘spammy’ linking and so impact on our organic search results. The fact that Google Analytics revealed good quality traffic interchange was not considered relevant. There were a healthy number of visits with good duration and numbers of pages. The attitude seemed to be that, regardless, if Google thought links were suspect the target web sites would be judged and their organic search results could suffer accordingly.
Sooooo… we have given up on any sophisticated attempts to satisfy Google or any search engine. The cost, time and uncertainty are too high. Instead, we are majoring on generating traffic in other ways. We feel that trying to convince Google or any search engine of the worth or quality of our site, is to fight a losing battle. Meanwhile, the SEO people are delighted with the situation. Despite Google saying that SEO is not the way to go, at the same time Google appears not to be letting up on the duties and conduct it expects all businesses with web sites to obey. In a way, it wants its cake and eat it.
Google is struggling to keep up
Some of the strongest support for Google’s approach has, ironically, come from SEO businesses. They know that they would have no business if it were not for Google trying to order web sites and the way information appears on the web to suit its search engine indexing and ranking systems. In an ideal world, Google would have such efficient systems that it would not need to rely on orders and sanctions to ensure good quality organic search results. Sadly, as things become more complex and demanding for web site owners and small businesses, so the SEO people who Google does not like, will prosper and, increasingly, many more businesses will abandon trying to keep up with Google’s requirements.
The situation is shaping up to one of potential vulnerability for Google. For the last 14 years or so it has ruled the roost but it has not done much to finesse its presentation. Early Google search results do not look much changed from today’s… then, again, dictionaries and encyclopaedias did not change their look from one decade to the next. The real danger is that with increasing sophistication from spammers, manipulators and other I.T. people intent on subverting or getting around Google’s quality system, Google may go too far with its demands on the average web site owner and business, leading them to simply ignore the sanctions and seek other methods of generating quality traffic and business from the internet.
Will or can Google make sure we will keep on following its rules?
Both Country Holiday Lets and Holiday Lets for Sale will continue to do the basics to ensure some adherence to Google guidance. However, with a combined Twitter following of 10,000 and several other useful sources of good quality visitors with high conversion potential, we will channel most of our time and effort into other areas than to keep Google 100% happy. It is a matter of cost-benefit. Increasingly, the balance is weighing against working to ensure good quality Google organic search results. We may lose search engine traffic but, cumulatively across many thousands of businesses, Google will find that organic search results may deteriorate with an increasing domination of SEO guided businesses and those who have not yet transferred time and energy to more effective ways of generating good quality web traffic.
You shall and you shall not
There are signs of problems, let’s hope it sorts itself out. Take a look at this Cutts video (a very senior Google employee); it is revealing: what he appears to be saying is that Web sites should do Google’s work for them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnVEERmbdpo Every link we put on our site, because we are not well known authors or similar, is liable to damage the target web site unless we put a ‘no follow’ on.
Matthew dodged the question about whether it was wise to put a blanket ‘no follow’ on all external links. It appears that Google does not have a sufficiently sophisticated system to detect the good from the bad and has resorted to a default position that the vast majority and, most likely virtually all outbound links from small web sites, are spammy. On the basis of this video, Google could be facing a growing problem which will delight SEO people giving them a greater reason for existence offering claimed clever methods of subverting Googles intentions.
Google, the spammers and SEO people seem to be in an unholy alliance; they appear to be feeding off each other. A deadly embrace is in danger of destroying the Google business model as it increasingly uses sanctions against third party companies trying to make a living. Google’s organic search results are compromised by spammers so Google applies wider sanctions and conditions on web sites. SEO then works to ensure these conditions are adhered to and also seeks ways to subvert them. Spammers then use these ways to compromise Google search results which in turn causes Google to increase sanctions and conditions on web site operators. This viscious circle benefits large companies and it has, in effect, pulled the ladder up for vast numbers of small high quality content well intentioned web businesses. The only way out is for Google to find an alternative solution to trying to order information to suit its search engine indexing and ranking requirements.
There is no doubt that the rules Google seeks to impose to prevent spammy activity are creating significant and, potentially, serious collateral damage to the information environment and hundreds of thousands of mainly small, well intentioned businesses. The viscous circle is destroys competition and favours large established businesses.
The danger of the future
Google is our most important supplier with Adwords amounting to about a third of all our business costs. It has a great history but the question is beginning to form, will it have a greater or diminished future? Matthew Cutts speaks with a confidence that what he says will go. The question is, how far can Google go before it tips companies over the edge and they give up and accept that Google will apply whatever sanction Matthew feels is appropriate?
There is a constant danger that another service could consign Google to the same fate it visited on Yahoo a decade and a half ago. The company now depends not only on its internal expertise but on the continuing impact of the application of sanctions. This has introduced another factor and another area of potential vulnerability. We would be short term losers if Google suddenly faces meltdown and feel it would be better for us if some solution could be found. But many might think that a company with an attitude to order authors as it now does should be ready a major upset.
Google is in danger of facing a similar middle age crisis that appeared to hit Microsoft. When a company is no longer in the exciting early days of development staffed by young, often unmarried people, the political information landscape is easy to form, focus and control. Life’s exciting, progress, growth and development motivate staff and the future looks bright. Ten years later families, children, mortgages, healthcare costs and so on arrive en masse. Putting down roots, protecting jobs and ‘family first’ can cause radical changes in attitudes towards creativity, risk and towards the market place. This has destroyed or come close to destroying many I.T. companies in the past. We can only hope that Google has a clear and highly competent provision for morphing and attending to the foundations of its corporate culture so it does not to fall victim to these immense and potentially, lethal changes.
The fate of many large IT companies has often been determined, not from the outside, but from internal challenges. There is an increasing resort to sanctions to discipline how and, growingly, what information is available on the web. This is, perhaps, symptom of a lower willingness to create and take risks to develop strong enough products independent of the need to rely on sanctions. This might be a growing problem.
I, for one, am growing tired trying to be 100% obedient to Google but will try to continue doing my best always with an eye to the value of alternative approaches.