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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Recent Google Update Giving Critics Ammunition

If you're involved with search engine marketing and haven't heard about the uproar after the latest Google update, you must have been fighting "terrorists" in Iraq or hiding under a rock. Or both.

Sometime around November 15, the new, monthly "Google Dance" was begun. It took several days to coalesce their search index, but I think it's pretty stable at this point. The result of the new index for competitive keyword phrases has been horrific for webmasters and marketers. Thousands of sites that once enjoyed plum rankings have found themselves completely off the radar for those terms. Some lucky sites have seen no ranking changes at all.

As one can imagine, the causes and long-term effects of this new algorithm are being hotly debated on the search engine forums. I try not to bother with that kind of speculation and rumor-mongering, but as a marketer who has seen several client sites vanish from once-cherished positions in Google's rankings, I know this is a problem -- a big problem.

Given all the hand-wringing about Google being too powerful, too commercial, too "whatever," I'm not so sure that this was a smart move by Google. While their goals were probably noble (making the search results as relevant as possible and minimizing the manipulation of its index by overzealous marketers), the fallout of this action could be far-reaching. Many Google critics are just waiting for them to flub up so they can prove they were right in their critiques. I think those people are a bit loopy, myself, but I do agree that the new index is bad for business, both for Google and for the webmasters and marketers who depend on Google for their livelihoods.

Who knows how this will all shake out, but Google should be cognizant of the fact that search marketers are beginning to wield tangible power over the industry, and if they're miffed enough, they could always start a Google boycott with staying power and encourage Web searchers and clients to start using other search engines that are just as good.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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