How Using Google is Dangerous for Internet Marketers

by Paul Wilson

 

We are all familiar with the behemoth Internet company Google and most likely use many of its other products that take us beyond just searching. For the most part Google’s products are high quality and rather useful—even if they have a short shelf life.

As an internet marketer though you may want to be weary in using Google for all your web marketing needs. This is particularly true when it comes to search marketing. Many of my SEO peers might feel this is a bit tin hat, but throughout my years of doing search marketing I have actually dealt with this issue on several occasions.

My first encounter of Google being abusive was back in 2008. At the time, I had just begun utilizing SEO to do lead generation. A friend had introduced me to this facet of affiliate marketing and had actually given me one of his websites to get me started (I know, great friend). He and I had built up the site to about $1,000 a week. It was a fun time to see the SEO I had been doing for years for other companies actually paying off.

My revenues had steadily increased over a span of three weeks when one unfortunate Monday my site was penalized and kicked out of Google’s index. I fully disclose here that I was buying links, which is a direct violation of Google’s terms. Yet, it wasn’t for this reasons that my site was burned. In truth, it was burned by association. Let me explain.

On this “Black Monday” not only was my website completely burned and de-indexed, but so was 10 other websites that the friend who gave me the site had owned. The problem was that we had not yet moved my site off of his Google Webmaster account where his other 10 websites resided.

He had been trying out a Russian link network that was really dirty. The bad links had pushed up one his websites to a #1 position on an extremely competitive keyword. Yet, neither of us had used the Russian network on any of the other websites. In fact, we were doing several diverse backlink strategies for most of the sites.

The backlink schema for each site was unique. Yet all 11 websites went down in flames with the exact same manual penalty. We didn’t connect these sites, in any fashion, to each other. We had them in different industries, different C-class IPs, and the whois information was privatized. The only common denominator was that they were all in the same Google Webmaster account.

A few months after this incident I had the opportunity to put Matt Cutts—the head of the web Spam team at Google—on the spot at Pubcon 2009. He was on a search engine panel and they opened up the floor for questions. I point blank asked Matt if they looked at Google Webmaster accounts when they find a website violating their terms of service. He completely skirted around the question, and it was obvious he was not comfortable with what I was asking.

I approached Matt afterwards and again directly asked him the same question. Once again, he maneuvered around the topic and wouldn’t directly answer what I was asking. However, he did state that Google had publicly vowed never to use Google Analytics in their efforts to fight against search violations (yet, he never did state whether they would have the same respect to Google Webmaster). I have actually searched for this statement, and not that I doubt Matt, but I haven’t come across it (if anyone knows the quote please let me know).

Interestingly enough, Google Analytics now requests you to connect your Google Webmaster account in order to utilize their Search Engine Optimization metric. I seriously doubt this was intentionally done so that the spam team could create a work around on an obscure promise to not access Analytics. No matter their reasoning for linking Google Webmaster to Google Analytics, if they are accessing people’s Webmaster account unauthorized, they now have carte blanche access to their Analytics. It really is just semantics since Google is known for not keeping to what they say they will do.

The next example of Google’s ominous power happened just last week. The landlord of our office space sells camping stoves, and for the past few weeks we have been helping him with Google Local. The other day we advised him to add keywords to his Google Places profile title  which were relevant to his business. Similar to universal SEO, keywords are a major driver in local search.

We have added keywords to Google Places on other occasions without any issues. However, in all our past efforts we never linked our Google Places to our Google Adwords account. Our landlord did, and the next day he came in and told us that both his Google Places and Google Adwords account had been suspended.

He called the Google Adwords department to understand what had happened. The Google Adwords representative told him that he didn’t quite understand why his account was suspended since he hadn’t violated any of the Adword rules. The representative got someone from Google Places on the line who informed him that it was a direct violation to have keywords in your profile title. Therefore, they suspended his entire Google account.

We were surprised to see such drastic action happen on two distant related Google products. In fact, it was rather insightful to see how adverse Google employees are to optimization. To overcome the account suspension we removed the keywords and notified both departments. Once the account was reinstated we unlinked the two products from each other, put the keywords back in the profile title, and haven’t had any issues since.

Google is penetrating all aspects of the Internet and technology at large. To think that they are not wielding this influence is naive at best. It doesn’t matter if you are white or black hat in your marketing efforts, a savvy web marketer should take precautions to not put all of his or her faith into one company. This is particularly important if that same one company controls the destiny and fate of all your search engine marketing efforts!

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