Google is getting increasingly arrogant and as people gradually grow accustomed to each new level of irritation, Google's "creepy line" shifts.
But is there a maximum tolerance? Is this a case of decreasing quality or is it just unfair (and to whom)?
This article describes 10 annoying aspects of Google.
1. Too Much Steering of Visitors
Whenever functionality and layout of the Google result pages change, it increases the focus on preferred navigation. In most cases this limits choice and steers towards Google's best interest.
For example, Google Suggest limits choice and Google Instant makes sure the first suggestion is already shown. If you're looking for [nokia”, you must be looking for the official brand and its "impartial" information, right?
If you want to buy a Nokia, you probably only want Google's Shopping results or Google AdWords. What's next? No other choice but http://www.google.com/phone/?
2. Your Content, Their Platform
Google is continuously adding task specific platforms to its collective. These platforms take over the roles of existing websites and replace their ranking in Google Web Search.
Normal search results are packed with Google products. Some initial research I've read indicates that visitors are less likely to leave Google property. News, business listings, video, shopping, and reviews are all viewed from Google, and only if a transaction is the logical next step, do they leave.
With functionality like Google Checkout, even that remains to be seen for the near future. Only websites that fully embrace Google and share all their content the way Google likes it can benefit from these developments.
3. No Openness
For many types of data we have become heavily dependent on Google. Every time they initiate an act of more openness toward webmasters, they close it down or dramatically reduce its accuracy soon after.
Things like Google Trends, the AdWords Keyword Tool, PageRank, Webmaster Central, API functionality, and interesting search operators for webmasters have all been made worthless after we grew accustomed to using them.
The dependency on other Google products is increasing and people keep deluding themselves that Google will in no way use or abuse everything it knows about you.
Keep feeding Google with information from Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Chrome, Google Web Search, Google AdSense, and all those other options and it will know you better than you know yourself. It's just a case of gradually increasing your acceptance before many forms of extremely personal advertisement start to reach you.
4. Privacy Concerns
Local law only determines the ways in which online platforms may collect data from its visitors. In most cases it doesn't say what data may be stored and how that data may be used.
Google has created so many ways to collect too much data about you. If it would connect the dots, it could have full details on your online behavior.
Because Google falls under U.S. law, the government can demand specifics. Even misdemeanors and tax evasion could easily be proven with their data. Is it in the governments interest to protect our privacy?
Some conspiracy theorists even came up with the notion that Google has paid Firefox to become unstable, which in turn would get more people to try Chrome. Thus far I don't believe such accusations, but if anyone has the power to bribe, mask opinions, elude detection, and deceive the masses, it would be Google. It is time someone creates a movie around this topic.
5. Weird Evaluation of Some Ranking Factors
As a search engine optimization (SEO) consultant, website owner, and web surfer, I find it illogical how important Google finds some ranking factors. It happens far too often that I see irrelevant, unimportant websites high in a top 10, just because they have an exact match domain name. Or their domain happens to have a lot of generic authority and ranks for everything they accidentally entered in their text.
As I do a lot of tests on the weight distribution of ranking factors, I have seen illogical factors come and go. The ones that stay, all come down to the following: early Internet entrepreneurs are the only ones benefiting.
If you got your domain names early enough, if you've had links to you for ages (since Google collects time information), and if you're well connected with other Internet dinosaurs, you can rank for anything. New sites need to get the favor from existing authoritative sites or make up for that with a multitude of links compared to others.
6. Unnatural Behavior?
Google seems to determine the extent to which something is unnatural on averages.
If every website on a specific topic would grow 1,000 links a day, that would become the standard. If everybody buys links or gets many links from their own network of sites, it is instantly condoned. But does "if everybody does it, it can't be bad" make it any less spammy?
To be a player on competitive search terms in Germany I have to buy links just like everyone else. This is just one example of how the masses dictate the required strategy.
7. Casualties of War
In the unending war between SEO spammers and Google, there are a lot of accidental kills. Google constantly shifts the weight of ranking factors and adds additional signs for unnatural behavior.
In most cases, the abusers are flexible and find other weaknesses to exploit. Websites with factors that are mistaken for spam are impacted much harder.
The good thing is that these people then come to SEO experts like me. Basically, it comes down to "follow Google's guidelines to the letter or risk the chance of penalties."
8. Manual Intervention
Where the Google algorithm doesn't give a clear ruling on potentially spammy SEO activities, Google could use its search quality team. This team looks for characteristics with which they can teach the algorithm to detect future occurrences of the spam tactic. It also looks for the people behind the website and sites with similar characteristics.
The SEO industry has been reporting an increasing amount of manual interventions and websites mistakenly effected by the spammy activity of others. When quality control becomes production work, accidents are just waiting to happen. Especially when Google has a bias against certain types of websites, manual intervention can prevent these sites from hiding their true identity.
9. Specific Business Types Rooted Out
Many characteristics can be used to determine the type of website. Especially when a type of website might have conflicting interests with Google we see them less and less in the SERP top 10.
If you once typed [air conditioning columbus ohio” it was the realm of business listing and directory websites; [Versace” showed only online shops and their affiliates; and [jackass” showed popular video platforms. Is this in the user's best interest?
10. And it Keeps Getting Worse
It isn't so bad for Google to see how far it can go in playing a monopolistic dictator. It's much more frightening to see how much influence people allow them to have.
All under the misconception that they have a choice. Maybe I shouldn't hate Google, because it might just be envy.
Should we all abandon Google? No, not just yet!
Are there alternatives? For an SEO, a monopolist makes life easier.
Should we make Google listen to us? Their users should make them because quality and searcher experience are at stake.
How do we dampen their influence? Change your focus: Google for initial website discovery is OK, but create returning visitors who show personal involvement. The added value of content and interaction that really make your site valuable should be kept from Google!
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!