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  • Why Is Google Untouchable?

    This is one of those nebulous questions with no concrete answer. But I figure I’d approach it anyways. Whether or not you like Google and how they run their business, there’s no question that they have become an absolute superpower. And there’s a lot to be learned from their business tactics. I’m going to concentrate on comparing them to Yahoo/MSN, and hopefully can sort out why Google is in it’s position of power, and the other 2 are floundering like an emo kid at a Snoop Dogg concert.

    They Expanded Inwards, not Outwards
    Back in the day, Google’s trademark was the clean search screen, while everything else was moving to portals.
    Yahoo and Altavista thought that if they could bring users in for personals, e-mail, and other such things that users would stay to search. This proved to be an epic failure.
    Yahoo’s acquisitions include: An internet radio company, fantasy sports software, and audio player, a computer game server locator, a Digital Video Recorder, and a College Football site.
    I think I can speak on behalf of a large part of the techie community when I say WTF were they thinking. These are not expansions that can be reasonably integrated into their search results.

    Google meanwhile, has hovered mainly around building out their Google Base product search/Google Checkout, map results, and video/image search. These can appear ABOVE the search results, creating instant leverage and popularity. I’m sorry, but the feedburner acquisition was absolute genius. They are instantly notified of any new blog courtesy of feedburner. And since it doesn’t ship default with WordPress, it reduces the potential to be spammed into oblivion. They even can garner traffic statistics about the blogs, and excellent metric for determining spam.

    They Created Rules to Lockdown their Control after They had Market Dominance
    I am of the opinion that all these rules like nofollow and such are maybe 50% about search results. The other 50% is to make them stand out. Optimizing for Yahoo and MSN is a pretty basic procedure. But by creating these rules specific to Google, Google becomes seen as the “holy grail” of search. They require an expert to rank with. In addition, by adding in HTML elements like nofollow, they give themselves an edge over the competition. They dictate the use, how it should be implemented, and more. As a result, the webmasters follow these rules, and Live/Yahoo are forced to either deal with the competitive disadvantage of ignoring it, or have to admit that Google is the leader in the industry, and they are merely followers.

    They Realized the Ultimate Fallibility of Algorithms
    I do a lot of theorizing and testing on this blog to figure out how not to get banned by Google when using various naughty tactics. If it was not for their manual reviews and a few red flags, this would not be necessary. Live/Yahoo employ less(if any?) people doing manual reviews of sites. They trust in their algorithm, and as a result get positively owned by everything from Link spam to cloaking.
    Want to know how to not get caught cloaking by Live? Use an IP list, not just a user agent. There. That’s all there is to it. In fact, you can use a user agent, so long as you block their FEW ips that stumble around the net like a drunk pretending to be Internet Explorer.
    Any algorithm can be tricked. Any human can be tricked. Trying to trick both? That’s much harder.

    They Were Not Afraid to Actually Change their Algorithm
    Yahoo has some incredible papers out there about web spam. Things that were written years ago, but could still be used to detect it. But guess what folks? Near as I can figure, they never used them. Live/Yahoo seem to be stuck in a stage where they’re tweaking the main components of the algorithm, or leaving them completely idle. But as far as I can tell, additions simply do not exist. Why is it that Live has not figured out that it is NOT natural for a site to get 4000 links in 2 days, then never get another link again? Especially when using 100% identical anchor text? I’m sorry, but you could ask the average 14 year old angsty MySpace girl if that’s natural for a website, and even she would know that no, no it is not. Being more advanced than a 14 year old girl should not be the standard of excellence for search engines.
    Google meanwhile has some actual limitations or red flags built in. Yeah, you’ll get indexed with them in place, but ranking is much harder, and banning comes sooner.

    They Hired Matt Cutts
    I’m not even sucking up here. The man is good at what he does, no question. But beyond that, it made Google(who has notoriously wretched tech support) accessible. It created an odd kind of kinship, even with people that have never talked to him. If you’re “spamming” the index, you’re not hurting Google, you’re hurting Matt Cutts. It put a human face onto Google for webmasters. And for a company that combats spam in large part by manual reports, the importance of having a connection to the webmasters is tremendous. As they gain more and more power, they have to prevent themselves from setting SEOs/Webmasters in a “It’s us vs. Google” mindset. Having a human face on their end really does wonders for that.
    However much they’re paying him, it’s not enough.
    Matt Cutts and Google
    (Yes, that’s a Boy George Reference)

    They Realized the True Potential of The Content Network
    AdSense is massive. And respects a healthy balance between arbitrage and whitehat traffic that allows for both volume and moderate quality. In addition, they actually maintain AdWords. I’ve been consistantly surprised at how much harder it is to game them than it is to game their search results.

    Yahoo meanwhile got too greedy with their content network, and did not respect the balance. As a result, a lot of their traffic is a steaming pile of crap. Indeed, it’s true. I have an offer I’ve been promoting pretty consistently lately. No matter what traffic I throw at it, it converts 1:20-1:30 (on a significant payout). It’s gold. Yahoo’s content network has now pumped through 300 clicks, without a single conversion. Obviously, that’s not too big of a sample, but I think it’s representative of the larger issue here.

    MSN went the opposite direction, and made a content network that is so tiny, it makes your head spin. I actually recently launched a campaign there, and after many calls to tech support in which both me and they were completely befuddled as to why I couldn’t drag out a decent amount of clicks from their network with some of the broadest terms you can imagine, the answer came down from the developers. “Errr…our content network is just really small”.

    Now, from MSN, I can understand their lack of maintanence and borderline sabotage of their PPC program; they have billions of dollars backing them. So they never face a “profit or die” prospective. Yahoo on the other hand, amazes me. That is their revenue model. It’s incredible to me every ad I put up gets a manual review. It’s incredible to me that they neglect their PPC program almost as much as their search results. But whatever.

    Conclusion
    I could rant about this for hours, so I’m going to close it up. Pretty much, Google is untouchable because their expansion almost always can integrate somehow into the search results. The other expansions function like a portal, but are never meant to be the initial pull to visit Google. They’re meant as something you check while you’re already at Google.
    Beyond that, they actually developed and updated their advertising platform to ensure that it was doing the best it could possibly do. They made the changes to ads go live quickly, and built out a massive network of sites in their content network, making it the truly predominant force in internet advertising.
    Lastly, they created a human face for Google. Someone to deal with and coach the masses. This solidified many of their fanboys, created a greater ethical dilemma for spamming the SERPs(when’s the last time you saw some put up a moral objection about spamming Yahoo?). By disseminating information through him as well, it gave them a platform for gauging how people feel about each change and development in a much more open way than previously available.

    -XMCP

    14 Responses to “Why Is Google Untouchable?”

    1. SEO Diva says:

      Great article! You are absolutely on target with every one of your observations. Giving a face to the Google monolith with Matt Cutts was a brilliant move on their part.

    2. Blackhat says:

      MY PENIS IS UNTOUCHABLE!

    3. Gab Goldenberg says:

      It is webmasters against Google (aka Big Brother). Matt Cutts is a nice, cool dude, but he still works for a massive conglomerate that would make George Orwell cringe.

      As to communication, he’s their only public face (ok, maybe Adam Lasnik does some stuff too, and Google GUy is occasionally present at Webmaster World). It’s frigging impossible to grab their attention and have a normal conversation, despite Matt’s assurances of efforts to improve webmaster communication.

    4. Jacek Becela says:

      I can tell one thing: This is the first good article in the cloud of shit posts from about a month that I read and liked a lot. A lot.

    5. Ross says:

      Great read.

      I agree with a lot of your views, however I think that Googles success is more rooted in their understanding and taking advantage of search results. You have access to what people are searching for, you just need to deliver what they want.

    6. Peggy says:

      I also agree with a lot you wrote but think that an understanding of what it is about google search results that people like is most important. Also, there is a certain amount of trust in google that they are not going to corrupt your files could also be explored

    7. Fission says:

      Awesome article, I must say. Google ftw. Gotta love picking a random page from a Google search and actually looking at it!

    8. advinci web design says:

      Actually if you read “The Google Story” you’ll discover that Google offered Yahoo and Altavista to buy their search technology, but they said that search isn’t important and declined the offer.

    9. Brian Turner says:

      It is a really good set of pointers, and very cleverly researched and presented.

      I think the one thing missing would the user experience aspect – Google have made it clear from day one that this was their own fundamental focus, and when you deconstruct Google vs Yahoo and similar, you can see how Google have applied so many small touches that help make Google so much more easy to use.

      2c.

    10. Will says:

      I think Yahoo has gotten better about buying companies or creating sites that can easily be integrated in their search engine. Flickr and delicious stand out. Of course they refuse to take the plunge and integrate delicious into their SERPs. They keep toying around with it. It should have been done months ago.

    11. D-Mac says:

      Awesome post! The funny thing is that when you look at Google’s services that don’t integrate right into search (gmail, orkut etc), they don’t do near as well. I don’t mean that like Gmail is a bad product (quite contrary), but it doesn’t have the usage that Yahoo or hotmail does.

    12. Links Only Your Mother Could Love - This Month In SEO - 5/08 | TheVanBlog | Van SEO Design says:

      [...] Why Is Google Untouchable? [...]

    13. PJ Brunet says:

      Is this nofollow for my own protection?

      I was hoping you would say something about Google’s worldwide footprint, which is somehow how I got here in the first place, I want to know how many countries Adsense pays out to. You got me sidetracked! ;-)

    14. EasyProfitPack says:

      Google is the emperor of all! There is no doubt about,I doubt if anyone can come even close to them. They have come a long way, I still remember the time it first hit the scene, and now its so big!

      Way to go Google!

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