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Google - Publisher Or Advertiser?


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#1 bwelford

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 09:00 AM

In his excellent round-up today, Lee found that most interesting link. I commented as follows on the item itself.
Poor old Google really has got itself on the horns of a dilemma here. After all Google is really a publisher. It publishes its search results. It adds paid advertisements and the more you pay the more visible your Adwords will be.

It is trying to maintain that the non-Adwords content is commercial free. However it realizes that big advertisers may well spend money to get higher in the organic results ( the publication side of the business). It needs to be visible in trying to preserve the integrity of that noncommercial content.

If the New York Times was wrestling with this key question, then everyone would be jumping into the debate. Somehow most people seem to like Google, so there is little public debate on Google's stance. Perhaps it's too complex for most people to understand. Given Google's increasing dominance of search, I wonder whether this debate will stay so hidden.

What do others think on this?

#2 Ron Carnell

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 11:31 AM

Interesting article and certainly a perspective I wouldn't have otherwise considered. The next time I get pulled over for speeding, I think I'll try to convince the officer he should let me go because he can't possibly catch everyone else who speeds. I'm going to hope real hard he never heard the word deterrent before? :)

Oh, and Barry? The NYT does wrestle with the division between news and advertising, as does every other reputable publisher in the world. That battle has been raging for decades, and rarely with any clear winners. Google's situation isn't unique and, in my opinion, has very little to do with paid links. If AdWords didn't exist today, Google would still be battling paid links.

From the perspective of a search engine, paid links aren't advertising. They're bought votes.

#3 EGOL

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 11:33 AM

I think that it all boils down to two things... 1) owners can do as they please, 2) owners can do as they please to please other owners.

Let me explain....

Google drives tons of traffic to my website. I love Google. :flowers:

Google decides that they want to determine the position of your listing in their search results based upon links but then decides that paid links do not count. #1 applies. Google is the owner of google.com and can do as they please.

Now, I decide that since I get lots of traffic from google and i want to do anything necessary to stay in their favor :flowers: Then I don't sell links. Thus #2 applies.

Google hopes that enough #2 applies to enforce their desires.... but the only way that they can do that is to *visibly* whack a few people... maybe a lot of people if a few people don't do the trick.

All of the above is based upon the idea that google determines their SERPs by *ranking websites*. However, I think that, although links continue to have some influence, google is getting further and further from *ranking websites* and instead is doing the same type of analytics that I do on my website and using that data to *arrange SERPs* based upon how people behave on the page, Isn't that how I run my site? Huge difference in how it is done but should yield same result. And, since how they arrange SERPs is based upon private data which can be kept secret it becomes less easy to game. Further is complicated because google has tons if data streams that might include: adsense, toolbar, feedburner... etc. etc.

Now what used to be a "battle of links" becomes a battle of content creation, presentation and good old smarts.

Edited by EGOL, 06 May 2008 - 01:01 PM.


#4 bwelford

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 03:35 PM

I hope you're right, Egol, that Google's rankings will be determined by searchers' clicks. After all, its relevance to the searcher that counts.

I still feel that Google chooses not to grapple with the thorny problem of major companies which may have a whole network of interconnected websites. Buying paid links is a much more visible way of improving SERP ranking that major companies do not need to use. Paid links are a very minor part of the reason why rankings may be distorted.

Given that Google has an Adwords program, which is a competitor of paid links, I do feel this raises some ethics questions. Should Google perhaps have an ethical journalism policy as the New York Times has? As Ron pointed out, newspapers are wrestling with this editorial / advertising dilemma. Newspapers are going through hard times financially. Google can hardly claim that as a reason for its actions. I've discussed this at greater length in a blog post today.

#5 EGOL

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Posted 07 May 2008 - 05:41 PM

Thanks for tell us about the blog post. I enjoyed it.

A few reactions....

You said... "the more you pay the more visible your Adwords will be".... I get it now.. that's the same thing as, "the more links you pay for the higher your SERPs". You are right. And, I never viewed it that way.

Also..."Such a clear distinction is what the Federal Trade Commission has ruled must occur on Search Engine Report Pages (SERPís).".... I didn't know that. I thought that a search engine could do ANYTHING on their property.

OK... so based upon that concept, would the presence/absense of Adsense on a website be an inappropriate element of their webpage ranking algo? How about Yahoo! demoting pages that run Adsense?

Great blog post, thanks again.

#6 MaryKrysia

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Posted 09 May 2008 - 06:28 PM

Very insightful article. You made a great point here:

Major companies can easily create a network of associated sub companies, affiliates and partners. These might quite naturally link to the mother company website. These links are technically not paid links but certainly generate benefits for their creators. It would however be a task worthy of King Solomon to decide which should be deemed paid links and which not.


Not all paid links are created equal and cannot be as clearly defined as paid by Google. For example: web designers :angel: often place their links on every page of the web sites they work on. Since they get paid (usually) for their work, these links can then be clearly considered paid links.

thank you again for the eye-opening article,
Mary

#7 Vanderpos

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 12:21 AM

I'm a small business owner and I can only view Google as a business and family destroyer.

Google has successfully reduced my income by 75% (well done Google). I don't have the time to wait for nice folk on the internet to provide me with free links. Finding suitable free links is a very time consuming task, you can spend all day finding useless links - small businesses need to advertise and that means buying links. This is also good for business - it gives people the opportunity to trade. However Google has destroyed this part of the internet. I can't see that this was only done for SERP's I'm sure Google is doing this to drive more business to Adwords - after all where else can you buy a link without being punished severely?

Google always used to say create a links page and link to similar sites. Have you seen most link pages these days - they have no PageRank whatsoever - so who would even want a free link on these pages? Google has even removed all PageRank from Yahoo Directory category pages. The is no way Google is doing this from the goodness of their heart to cleanup SERP's, they doing this to drive every competitor out of business - quite effectively too.

Google only thinks about themselves and their greed - they don't consider that there are others that depend on doing business on the internet is an important part of their lively hood. I can only say that Google has taken away my family's standard of living leaving me in a desperate position where I have to find alternative ways of bringing in money.

I had a site received 40k visitors from Google per month with PageRank 6 - obviously "respected" by the Google - now it has PageRank 2 on the homepage and banned (grayed out PR) for the rest of the site (20000 hand created pages). Now that five years work is worth nothing. Because of PR customers don't return. PR is a great Google scam only benefiting themselves and it keeps the rest of the web terrified as to what Google will do next.

I could write more - but Google is such a disappointment. They are the pinnacle of success, but think nothing of destroying a small business which could never harm Google SERP's in anyway - ever. I don't know how they can hold their heads up high when they purposely destroy family livelihoods. The problem with Google is that one day your site is the bees knees the next day it's the dogs breakfast.

However maybe what goes around comes around - people have long memories.

#8 bwelford

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 12:24 AM

Welcome to the Forums, Vanderpos. :wave:

My heart bleeds for you. "Do No Evil" sounds pretty hollow. :infinite-banana:

#9 EGOL

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 07:51 AM

I was really disappointed yesterday. I looked at my "what's changed" report in ClickTracks and was excited to see traffic from one of the most respected sites in my theme. This is a site that has superior content and they link out to the sources that they use to prepare their articles. I have always viewed this site as nothing less than excellent. So I naturally want to find the link and see how I was cited. The fast way to find a link is to view source and search for your URL. I did that and was shocked to see that all of their references were nofollowed.

I thought.... "Why did they nofollow my link as well as the very high quality university articles that were used as information sources?" The only reason I can think of is to keep from passing linkjuice to their references - because their references compete for the very same keywords as their article. They cost me income by not giving me a clean link - actually lots of links because I am a common reference for their articles. And, they increase their own traffic because a page on my site (or other sites) might not rise above theirs in the SERPs. They will use my words as background information for their content - and sometimes quote verbatim in the article. Then they put a condom on the link. Thanks! Those Friggin' Weasels!

So, I am really mad. I have links on my site pointing to theirs. And I did not use nofollow. I gave them the credit that they earned. Should dig up my site and cut all of their links or nofollow them or link to someone else who has similar information on their site? I am not going to do that, would consume time that I should spend on making content. However, if I said that I will read their content with the same pleasure or link to them as freely in the future... well, that is going to be difficult for

Bottom line is that I now see nofollow has corrupted the entire link profile of the web. When respected sites nofollow reference links to other respected sites - even when they quote verbatim - then that link attribute has been abused and it can not be trusted at all.

Maybe we should think that all links are paid? If somebody uses your words on their site maybe that makes you "entitled" to a link. So, in reality, your are getting *paid*. (if that was not the case then why do I feel cheated?) . So, even though you don't go to another webmaster and say... "link to me for $50", when they shop your site and use your words they give you compensation. Also, maybe they don't quote your words but just say... "more info here" and link those words. That is like putting a coin in your "tip jar".

So, I now think that every link can be considered as payment. Either solicited and paid, or compensated because they cited you or gave you responsibility for a fact on their site.

All links are paid. It has always been that way.

#10 bwelford

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 09:20 AM

All links are paid. It has always been that way.

Well said, Egol. Perhaps Google's attempt to use this nofollow hammer may cause us all to look more carefully at their technology.

Their initial justification for PageRank, and the notion that backlinks count as votes followed the model of scientific papers with their citations. More authoritative papers would receive more citations. Anyone in the research community is aware of the problems that simple view creates. Here are just two references, but it would be easy to find many more.Superficially the PageRank system seems interesting. However once you begin to think about it, the logic is bound to fall apart. Google has no way of knowing the authoritative value of any link. It has no way of knowing to what extent benefits may have been confirmed on the creator of the link.

Inadvertently as their popularity grew, a new video game was created. It was called 'My PageRank is bigger than yours'. The Google toolbar was in effect, one of the earliest widgets. It was buzz marketing at its finest. Everyone became obsessed by the PageRank of each of their web pages. If your PageRank wasn't big enough, then there were hosts of of people offering magical cures. Unfortunately many of them were snake oil sales persons.

So perhaps it's time to stop the bus. Emperor Google, are you sure about those clothes you're wearing.

<later thought>
It's somewhat of a coincidence, but Mark Pilatowski is asking a very pertinent question: Is No-Follow the Real Google Killer?

Edited by bwelford, 10 May 2008 - 09:29 AM.


#11 Ron Carnell

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 11:37 AM

Of course every link is "paid," at least in the sense that human beings don't do anything without selfish reasons. But while every link is paid, not every link is a vote. Therein lies a key distinction.

Link juice has become a currency, and it's inevitable that it will be subject to the same laws of commerce that govern capitalism. Everyone's heard the old saw, "It takes money to make money?" Well, just as a business can't expect to put every dime in the bank and long survive, a web site can't hoard its PR and continue to grow. You have to spend link juice to make link juice, and in my opinion, nofollow is less likely to kill Google than it is to destroy the sites misusing it. And, yes, in my opinion, that includes Cre8. The way this forum hides links predates nofollow by several years, but is nonetheless the same. Whether one hoards money / link juice out of greed or fear, the results will ultimately be the same.

Using links/votes to help determine relevancy and importance is hardly perfect, Barry. But did you really think Alta Vista's results were that much better? One of Churchill's most famous quips was that democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the others. Pragmatically, I think we can say much the same about Google.

It sucks, but everything else we've seen so far sucks more. :infinite-banana:

#12 bwelford

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Posted 10 May 2008 - 12:12 PM

You're right, Ron. As for most people here, Google is my default search engine. That's because it's fastest. It's also because I can quickly check blogs and know it will be speedy on that too. However in terms of relevancy, I find that Yahoo! and Ask are equally good (or bad). I don't use MSN Search, because I find a lack of consistency.

Having said all that, that is really not the point at issue. Google is currently campaigning on paid links and holding high its "Do No Evil" banner. It uses the argument of technical purity. That's just a load of bosh. The central core argument of PageRank is flawed. Hopefully they are working diligently on using searchers' clicks on items in SERP's to confirm what their clients really find relevant.

#13 yannis

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Posted 11 May 2008 - 01:35 PM

The central core argument of PageRank is flawed. Hopefully they are working diligently on using searchers' clicks on items in SERP's to confirm what their clients really find relevant.


The core argument of PageRank served its purpose well for a while, until the no-follow and Google forcing webmasters to artificially change their pages occured. Let me explain. Any search engine (until AI and text analysis progresses to the level of human brains - somewhere in 2040 or later) needs human input. Let me explain. I have this beautiful algorithm that can pick-up 200 pages with the words 'blue widgets' in the text. How do I rank them? Some methods like keywords etc can reduce the 200 pages to say 20, but all 20 offer identical statistics. Here the PageRank method was a way for webmasters to say, hey! we are voting like this or like this.

Another way to have users or webmasters vote is via social websites. Hey! 2000 people voted that this site is very good in this category. (Hence some social websites not allowing Google to index them). And yet another way as Barry said is clicks from users. However, the way suggested by Barry is higly unlikely to be an efficient way of finding relevant content as it will introduce a positive loop only within the first 10 SERPS, i.e., if Google shows websites 1... website10, users will be likely to only click amongst these 10 websites.

IMHO a better way would be:

(01) Better contents analysis and scoring that includes the one page model as well as the multipage model. If Barry's website has 100 pages that fall within the cluster 'Fidel Castro', the search engine should be able to automatically score it higher than the one page from Wikipedia with only a page on the subject. It is more likely that as a user, I will find what I am looking easier in Barry's website than in Wikipedia.

(02) Human assisted feedback in terms of counting links (PageRank is an unecessary wasteful calculation) simple link counts and other similar simple statistics, plus feedback from the social web and blogs.

(03) Another method for scoring is to score pages that users clicked on adsense lower for the query! Simple logic dictates that the user did not find what he was looking on the page and clicked away! (Hear!,hear!)


Yannis

<edited to remove doubled text>

Edited by bwelford, 11 May 2008 - 02:06 PM.


#14 A.N.Onym

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Posted 11 May 2008 - 10:52 PM

EGOL, it has never siezed to amaze me how Wikipedia routinely nofollows links to external sites it recommends.

#15 EGOL

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Posted 11 May 2008 - 11:50 PM

They don't want to help their competitors.

#16 A.N.Onym

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Posted 11 May 2008 - 11:56 PM

I think the initial move was to prevent spam - and I suspect it reduced the amount of link inserts, too. I don't think they have done it to specifically not help their competitors (which are all the information sites out there). Not that they don't benefit/profit from it, though.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 12 May 2008 - 12:01 AM.




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