By:Mark Angeletti, Published:2005-06-07

Has Google Taken Away Your Right to Vote?

In September of 1998 a Stanford University research project started a paradigm shift in the search engine industry. By examining the relationships between pages via means of links the then would-be-Google would weigh the significance of each page and generate its search results based heavily off this score.

Since Google’s results were significantly better than any other competing search engine of the time and the size of its database was quickly out-growing even the largest database at the time (AltaVista), Google quickly became the search engine of choice.

Many search engines realized they were fighting a losing battle and decided if they couldn’t beat ‘em they would join ‘em and simply allowed Google to supply the results of their searches. Even the once dominant Yahoo! decided to forgo its hand-picked results and go with Google. It was no surprise that Google would dominate the search engine landscape for the years that followed.

Well all that’s over…

Fast forward to today. Yahoo! has cast off Google and reclaimed its results. In addition, Yahoo! acquired AltaVista, AllTheWeb, Inktomi, and Overture.

Not only has Yahoo! re-entered the search engine race, Microsoft has placed its own dog in the race. Microsoft’s search service, MSN, has been around since 1998, but never supplied its own results. In 2003 Microsoft made the decision to build its own search engine and launched it in early 2005.

Today it would be difficult to say which one of the three big dogs: Google, Yahoo!, or MSN is supplying the best results for your search. The reason is because the once distinguishable line between the technologies used for ranking the results of a search has now become blurred.

The once revolutionary idea of giving added value to a page for others linking to it is, well, no longer revolutionary, but standard. Not only do Yahoo! and MSN factor into their algorithm backward-links like Google, but so do many of the other smaller search engines. So the idea of sites trading links or selling advertising on their sites is not lost on me.

Now Google, the first search engine to factor link structures into their algorithm, is readjusting the value of some of the links and this is making life difficult for some websites.

Google Wants Things to Happen Naturally

Google has taken a hard-line stance against non-natural links. A non-natural link is a link that is obtained through payment, reciprocation, or any other means in which you make a concerted effort to obtain. They would like to see a link occur without any action taken by the recipient of the link.

In an effort to stifle non-natural links Google has implemented a handful of different tactics. These include devaluing links that share duplicate class c block IP addresses, devaluing links that may be acquired too quickly and devaluing links that are off topic.

Obviously Google, like any other search engine, wants to do what it can to ensure that its results are the best that they can be. This is understandable, but are non-natural links really impacting their results negatively?

A while back I received an email from a company that sells area-rugs wanting to advertise on my site. I turned them down simply because I didn’t think my viewers would have interest in their site. But what would have happened if I had placed their ad on my site and linked to them? How would this have impacted Google’s search engine results? Would a text-link ad that said, “Natural Area Rugs” and pointed to a company that sells natural area rugs really have been so detrimental to their results? Would it make their results any less relevant? If so how?

Just Do What Comes Natural

The most natural of all responses is that of survival. All things want to survive.

If a company cannot take steps themselves to acquire links to their site then how are they supposed to get them, through chance or dumb luck? Would Google rather see its results derived from a bunch of websites that got there by chance?

Would search engine results made up of companies that cared enough about their company to invest in marketing campaigns both web based and non-web based be so bad?

Some will no doubt say, “Just create good content and people will link to your website naturally, case solved.” While this statement may be true for websites that are informational by nature, such as blogs or article sites, this isn’t so simple for a company selling a niche product like POS software or area-rugs. Not many companies care to link to a site selling POS software or area-rugs. These types of business-to-business websites must take matters into their own hands to obtain links or their website will never be found – they won’t survive.

So now we’re starting to see the pickle in which Google is placing certain websites. It’s highly unlikely that business-to-business websites are going to have other websites link to them, something of significant importance when it comes to ranking well in the search engines. And yet Google really doesn’t want them to take matters into their own hands and pay for links or trade for them; fearing that this somehow hurts their results.

So what’s left for these websites? I reckon Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns such as Google’s AdSense or AdWords or perhaps Yahoo! Search Marketing (previously Overture). Business-to-Business websites are handicapped when it comes to trying to rank well via natural results and as a result they are relegated to PPC campaigns.
Anyone else get a bad taste in their mouth over this?

I shouldn’t pay other established websites to link to my website in order to improve my position in the search engine results, yet if I pay the search engine enough money they’ll place me on the first page of their results. How convenient for them.

Let us also not forget that it’s our vote! Google once explained, “PageRank interprets a link from Page A to Page B as a vote for Page B by Page A. PageRank then assesses a page’s importance by the number of votes it receives.” But now it would seem that only some votes count – or at least some votes count more than others.

Look, I understand that it’s Google’s algorithm to do with as they please, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a strong-arm tactic to force business-to-business websites to invest in PPC campaigns. Or is it simply a side-effect of Google trying to stifle overzealous link campaigns? And for that matter, is there such a thing as overzealous link campaigns – assuming that they don’t hurt search engine results?

What do you think?

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