Suing Google Because Your Google Site Ranking Sucks

from the try-again dept

A few years back, you may recall the “SearchKing” case, where Google penalized a search engine optimizer for gaming its system — a fairly common practice in the company’s ongoing attempts to keep search engine spammers out, while making searches more relevant. Well, in this case, the guy wasn’t too happy (and it certainly didn’t reflect well on his optimization technique), and he eventually sued Google. It didn’t take long at all for a judge to dismiss the case, noting that Google’s ranking was their opinion and, thus, protected free speech. However, with so many sites relying so much on Google, and the constant shifts in rankings, you knew it was only a matter of time before such a case popped up again. Google has now been sued by a firm that is upset at its ranking. While the article isn’t entirely clear, it sounds like this was a site that was entirely blacklisted, probably for its own aggressive search engine optimization techniques — and so they’re trying to set up a class action suit on behalf of all sites blacklisted by Google. This seems just as silly (and as likely to succeed) as the original case, but the lawyers this time are trying a slightly different argument. They’re suggesting that Google is an “essential facility” and by penalizing sites with no explanation and no recourse, they’re unfairly hurting businesses. Of course, proving Google as an “essential facility” may take a bit of work — and could open up the floodgates. The real issue is that, even though many companies do, relying on a single source as a way of driving business is always a risky position to be in. It’s a business decision to rely on Google, and not look for other methods of driving traffic. Google is an outside party and can do what they want. While many people do rely on Google, that doesn’t mean they have to do anything for other sites, other than try to keep their index as relevant as possible to keep their users happy.


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Comments on “Suing Google Because Your Google Site Ranking Sucks”

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72 Comments
Mike (profile) says:

Re: Techdirt editors ignore visitors... news at NE

Have the Techdirt editors spent any time reading the 160+ comments about the site redesign? If they have, they are ignoring us. Either pay attention to our feedback, or don’t accept feedback at all. As it is, they are doing nothing but wasting our time.

This is not the spot for this, but since you asked it here…

We have spent the week gathering all the feedback and have been implementing a number of changes. Please be patient. Many of the changes are already in place and more are coming shortly. However, we want to test things to make sure they work properly.

The VAST majority of the feedback has been positive. There are a few changes that enough people wanted that we will be implementing shortly.

nb109 says:

Re: Re: Techdirt editors ignore visitors... news a

Who are YOU to tell them how they should run their site. If you don’t like it you can:

A) Leave.

B) Create your own site that includes whatever ridiculous features that please your bossy, little mind.

Also, why would you complain about your retarded feedback here in the comment section of a story? Does it not seem a bit out of place to you?

Happy User says:

Google Rankins, #1 or #2 or #3 or even #4,567,890

scenario #1: ok, so when the trial is over, this company gets knowladge of why they were blacklisted from google’s usage listing in the first place… and remains off the google’s search list. big whoop.

scenario #2: The company gets onto google’s search ranking and is #1 for a day – until they get shuffled in a relevancey order, in which case the company will remain #1 or #2 or #3 or even #4,567,890 for a particular term.

scenario #3: The company gets on to google again and no one searches for the company other than to badmouth it for it’s low low low attack methods.

scenario #4: The company wins the case and Google has to pay out a class action suit on behalf of all sites blacklisted by from Google. How is any company to claim “lost income” by relevancy of search engines? If that was possible, then wouldn’t anyone listed in Google be able to determine their $$$ growth over the upcoming years – based SOLELY upon being listed (i mean “ranked by”) Google’s search engine… by relevance of end-user’s search term.

scenario #5: This is St.Patty’s day – and I guess this a weekend-post regarding [GREEN] money… or I’m way off on everything, eh?

Ted says:

KinderStart.Com Sues Google

I think you guys are jumping to alot of conclusions here. Try reading the complaint first, then comment away, I read the complaint, and there is more there than meets the eye. These guys do not look like they are out for themselves. Read the complaint then decide. BTW, per the complaint, they never did any optimization. I think it is wise to with-hold judgement to you get more information. The truth will come out, and- yes- there are two sides- KinderStart and Googles and perhaps others;)

CE says:

KinderStart suing Google

KinderStart is suing Google is ridiculous…To rely on Google for people to find your site means that the company does not want to spend any money on marketing. If they market themselves to their target group, then people can find their site. Why not send their link to their customers? That’s another way to generate hits on their site.

nb109 says:

Re: Again

Pimptology Professor, you honestly believe that Google is going to fall in the near future?

I think your rule about fame would more accurately be explained as “The higher you rise, the more people know of you, and so, the more enemies you aquire.”

The reasons that others become your enemy, whether it be jealousy, a belief that you have, in some way, treated them unfairly, or whatever other reason the masses will invent, are irrelevent. There are whiners and complainers that have to throw a big hissy fit whenever they don’t get their way. The more people you become exposed to, the more of those ridiculous people you come in contact with.

You will always have enemies. The more people that know you, the more enemies you have. Unfortunately, it’s a simple universal law.

farlane (user link) says:

Uncle Ben says...

Interesting to see this article this morning as I have been trying to detail how the Google rankings and referrals for one of our sites has been plummetting and to figure out how to discuss this with Google (though there seems to be no recourse when you have been found guilty by the court of Google).

It looks as if Kinderstart.com is a database-driven, link-heavy site. Our Absolute Michigan site is as well.

Google seems to be penalizing such sites heavily. The rationale I have heard is that many of these are merely sites created to snare traffic (and reap Adword revenue – how ironic is that?). What that rationale ignores is sites which are truly seeking to become trusted guides to a subject area, something that Google is very poor at.

Don’t believe me? Search “Michigan links” and ask if there is any logical reason that the “Militia Links” or “Northport, Michigan: Links” site should have a higher ranking than our Ab Mich site for that query. 6 months ago, we were number one. We have added thousands of more links to REAL web sites and yet our ranking falls.

Google wields enormous power and we all know that means they bear enormous responsibility.

ben says:

Re: Uncle Ben says...

Your site provides no content per se, you just link to other sites; if you bothered to learn anything about Google’s ranking, you’d have known that you’re only increasing the rank of sites you link to, and do nothing for your own website.

You want high Google rank? Put up a website with meaningful content, get other people’s websites on similar topic to link to your website, and watch your rank climb.

Directory-style sites are passe, we don’t need them anymore – we have Google!

Bored says:

Re: Uncle Ben says...

“Google wields enormous power and we all know that means they bear enormous responsibility.”

No, actually, they don’t. They’re a private company. They don’t charge for their information. They have a 1st Amendment right to publish their opinion. If you don’t like it, tough. If you rely on their opinion for your business model, also tough. Try advertising.

Tyshaun says:

Re: Re: Uncle Ben says...

“Google wields enormous power and we all know that means they bear enormous responsibility.”

No, actually, they don’t. They’re a private company. They don’t charge for their information. They have a 1st Amendment right to publish their opinion. If you don’t like it, tough. If you rely on their opinion for your business model, also tough. Try advertising.

You may be right, I’m not an attorney, however, this resonates to me on the same level as people suing Microsoft or the old Bell Telephone (before the breakup). Even if you are a private company, if your business becomes so ubiquitous or indispensible that people can’t do without it, then the the case for anti-trust may be used. There are lots of search engines but one could argue that the popularity and universal acceptance of the google site may have made it the Microsoft of searching. Just a thought.

Avery says:

Re: Uncle Ben says...

Don’t believe me? Search “Michigan links” and ask if there is any logical reason that the “Militia Links” or “Northport, Michigan: Links” site should have a higher ranking than our Ab Mich site for that query. 6 months ago, we were number one. We have added thousands of more links to REAL web sites and yet our ranking falls.

One of the key criteria Google uses to rank sites is the sites popularity. There are 1,430 sites in the Google index that link to constitution.org but only 129 sites that link to absolutemichigan.com.

Deverill says:

Evil corporations!

If I pay for a newspaper classified ad they can put it in any order they want and I’m paying for it. How much more right does a free service have to order listings as they wish?

Besides that, Google only promises to do things the way they want to – there is no contract with the listed site’s owners to be fair and equitable.

Sounds like this site was reaping benefits from Google’s generosity and when it changed they got upset.

farlane (user link) says:

Re: RE: Uncle Ben

Hey Paul, try digging a little deeper. Take for example Bill Could Have Grave Implications for Michigan’s State Forests. Links to the story and the bill content and provides a summary of the news. You can also click (for example) “Sports & recreation > Parks” from related categories to find a links to parks that might be impacted by this story. And Oh look, there’s more articles about parks.

The resources have been reviewed by HUMAN eyes and are all in Michigan – and all authentic sites. Try a google search for “Michigan parks” and see what you get.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that’s a useful service.

Anwar says:

Re: Re: RE: Uncle Ben

But still google does that it has links to parks that could he impacted by that particular story.

Why should someone include you in their database of records if they dont want you in it?

to put that another way

Do you expect a woman who doesnt want to have sex to be forced to have sex?

Gopogle like women, have rights, unfortunately

farlane (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: RE: Uncle Ben

I completely agree that google has links to parks in Michigan and when I’m looking for a specific park, that’s where I go. Like the vast majority of folks on this site, I am versed in google-fu. Everyone in the world is not, however.

My point is that when somebody is looking for “Michigan parks”, they are more than likely unsure of anything more than they are looking for a park in Michigan. For that search and state of mind, a site like ours works better than the site for a specific Michigan park.

Our team knows the state of Michigan and spends hours every day weeding through the mass of news and information to distill essential items as we see them. We forge connections between stories and REAL businesses, organizations and individuals. To be artificially penalized for doing this is (in my opinion) wrong.

While you are correct that there is no grounds to force google to include a site in its database, the fact remains that Google wields a vast and largely unchecked power to control what gets seen and what doesn’t. I suppose if you agree with their decisions, then it desn’t matter who they’re censoring.

Dan (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Uncle Ben Says...

We get that your michigan website has links to all kinds of various other web pages regarding Michigan. But here’s the thing, if you type in “Michigan Parks” into google, what you get is a list of links. It’s skipping a step. Why go to your website through google to find more links when we’ve already got 10 million in front of us?

What I’m really trying to grasp here is how this company intends to prove that google owes it because it’s been blacklisted. Let’s say, for instance, I have a lot of friends–and I do. I go to a resturant and eat, I then judge that the food is horrible or maybe someone who worked there was a prick or something, right? So I tell my friends, about my experience or maybe they ask me if I’ve been to the resturant, in which case I would then tell them not to go, or simply just say “I wouldn’t reccomend it.” Can the resturant then sue me because I’ve somehow damaged their business by not reccomending it to a friend?

What I’m really saying is, how can they blame google for their lack of business? There are plenty of other ways out there to advertise. They don’t pay google to advertise their website, google is not the only way to access their website. So how can google owe them anything?

Now, if the internet as a whole just up and decided to not let anyone access that website (which I’m pretty sure is just about impossible). Then maybe they would have a case (just not one against google, though).

farlane (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Uncle Ben Says...

I get it that you get it, Dan & others. Sorry for digressing and for offending you with my sad little tale. The point isn’t “Wah – google’s not linking to me”. I’ll deal with that with Google (without lawyers cause I don’t like to get beat down by billion dollar legal teams).

The point is that GOOGLE IS UBIQUITOUS. It is a verb. Paying attention to what Google is doing is a good idea since they are building the OS of the future — today.

Dan (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Uncle Ben Says...

I don’t mean to say that the mighigan website isn’t worth going to or anything. If I’m ever thinking about going to Michigan, hell, I’ll go check it out. I guess I just really don’t understand how it is somehow Google’s responsibility to make sure every website on the internet gets fair coverage from the internet’s users.

Andrew Strasser (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 RE: Uncle Ben

“While you are correct that there is no grounds to force google to include a site in its database, the fact remains that Google wields a vast and largely unchecked power to control what gets seen and what doesn’t. I suppose if you agree with their decisions, then it desn’t matter who they’re censoring.”

I’ve found Google doesn’t censor things as badly as some other entities out there that shouldn’t even censor a thing. Just take a Google-fu toward my direction once. You’ll see Google had me a copy of those pages as soon as I needed them even when they disappeard. I don’t want a link farm Google finds what is being looked for if you word yourself correctly. That’s what i like about the service and you’re an idiot if you think that they have total control, because if so then those two ents that started as cents would have most likely been able to do something about what was being seen by not just me everyone around me at times.

Bad Company to be messing with right now. They have a lot of power as they are working with our Govt., our Govt. forgot that a few times and needed to be retold that’s the only real problem. Google works as it’s supposed to it finds links not links to links to links. Check neurology you’ll love that section you idiot link farm owners.

webmetricsguru (user link) says:

Suing Google Because Your Google Site Ranking Suck

What else is new, everyone wants to sue Google these days. According to an article in Siliconvalley.com

Google Inc.’s mysterious methods for ranking Web sites came under attack Friday in a lawsuit accusing the online search engine leader of ruining scores of Internet businesses that have been wrongfully banished from its index.

I can count on my two hands the number of Google updates that have occured in the last two years and everytime any search engine does an update some results change.

The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose by KinderStart.com, seeks to be certified as a class action representing the owners of all Web sites blacklisted by Google’s Internet-leading search engine since January 2001.

KinderStart, a Norwalk-based Web site devoted to information about children, says it was dropped from Google’s index a year ago without warning.

“The world is becoming increasingly ‘Googlized,'” said Gregory Yu, a lawyer for KinderStart. “For most people, that has been a good thing, but not for everyone.”

A Google spokesman said the company hadn’t seen the suit and had no immediate comment.

Some of this is true – it’s hardly new and most of us have accepted it and moved on.

KinderStart’s lawsuit alleges Google’s policing efforts have penalized Web sites that have done nothing wrong. To make matters worse, the suit alleges the banished sites can’t determine how they can restore their standings because the company doesn’t explain its actions.

This is also true – lots of time sites drop out and it’s not clear why that happened or even when it happened. I believe there are plans in the works to notify webmasters when Google discovers a problem in their sites that might end up excluding the site from Google’s index – but to my knowledge – it’s not a live program yet.

KinderStart said its traffic plunged by 70 percent after Google dropped it. At its peak, KinderStart’s visitors viewed more than 10 million Web pages per month, according to the suit.

I can believe that – many sites traffic have become inflated with traffic from Google – if Google’s traffic were, somehow to go away, and nothing were there to replace it with – the economic effect could cripple the world economy in the short term.

hazelbyte says:

pfffft

It seems a shame to me that people think like this:

> I want what I want now!

Both with regard to the forum and with regard to the case.

Both topics are about folks which solve their problems by demanding louder. Even children learn that this is not appropriate or constructive. In an adult world it means the US leads the world

restricting our freedoms in order to comply with people who

cannot negotiate responsibly. Sometimes you have right of way, sometimes you dont. You are responsible for honoring that in order to have a free society.

A free society is one where you understand that other people need to have right of way, this is the means that you sometimes have right of way. You are responsible for negotiating in ways which

do not reduce the freedoms of others.

Both threads are tantrums. Learn to value your freedom, and that of others, operate your businesses and communications in ways which see things from the perspective of other people, avoid suing people to reduce those freedoms for all of us.

Mekales says:

Re: pfffft

BRAVO!! BRAVO!!

I’m standing and cheering your comment! So many in this “land of the free” believe that the world “owes” them and have no concern of the “cost” to others. That is the trend in our government, right down to the way people behave in the aisles of the supermarket. It’s deplorable the “ME, ME, ME” society that we Americans have become. Many other countries are laughing, ‘Those FREE Americans don’t understand what the term or theory of FREEDOM really means.’

Thank you for stating the simple truth.

Mekales

Anonymous Coward says:

I wish a lawsuit

I wish a lawsuit would be filed to keep the annoying pages off of their engines that are nothing more than keyword scares to do nothing more than show you a page with even more ads and adword links. Google doesn’t care because they are selling ads to companies who might not show up near the top.

Think about it. Rankings change regularly because sites that are at the top of a search give those site owners a taste of what high traffic can do. What happens when the site then drops off? The site owner gets desparate and possibly gives Google money (via adwords) so they will show up again on the first page of a search.

They MUST protect their algorithm because if people found out that it’s quite simplistic and mainly used to drive businesses to their ad programs, even more lawsuits would ensue.

Dean Hougen says:

Re: It is greed, plain and simple.

Our tort laws certainly need to be revamped but if you believe the only problem with them is that the have-not’s [sic] sue the haves to get rich, then you’ve been bamboozled by the haves. Often the problem is that the haves are suing the have-nots.

“But,” you ask, “why would the haves sue the have-nots? The have-nots don’t have enough money to be worth suing!”

I’m glad you asked. The have-nots don’t have much money but they do have voices and often the haves want to silence them. For example, I’ve seen many cases where have-nots have given open, honest, factual accounts of bad experiences they have had with companies, only to have the companies come after them with lawsuits to shut them up and to shut up anyone else who might be tempted to give an honest account of their bad experiences with the company. The result is often just what the poorly behaving haves want–lots of have-nots who censor themselves and spread the word to each other that they should all censor themselves, lest they be sued by the haves.

So, argue for tort reform all you want but do so with the knowledge that the strong sometimes prey on the weak and our system is set up by the strong to make that possible.

Matt Sherwood says:

This analayis or lack thereof

This thread was one of the least perceptive and revealing I have EVER read on TechDirt.

I attribute this to the educational background of the typical TECHDIRT contributor.

All “tech”, no poli sci, no sociology, very llttle economcs other than Econ 101 knee-jerk “free-market” jingoism.

I charge these contribors with stepping back, taking some time, and really thinking HARD about Google’s role in Modern Society and its massive success; and given that role, and that massive success, its attendant substantial SOCIETAL OBLIGATIONS…

Matt Sherwood says:

Except Tyshaun

Except for Tyshaun Mar 18th, 2006 7:53 p.m.

She or he gets the KEY point.

As well, she or he writes much more fluently, tactfully, and gracefully than the the other contribtors.

These two things go hand-in-hand.

I highly supsect that Tyshaun took a LARGE does of humanities while in college; boy do I wish I could say the same about the rest of you.

Matt but definitely not Matt Sherwood says:

Re: Except Tyshaun

Thank you for showing me how un-educated I am. I would have gone the rest of my life without knowing the proper way to spell “dose” or that you can substitute a period with a semi-colon to end a sentence. Maybe if you would have had the wisdom to use spell checker, then your post might have had greater credibility?

WB (user link) says:

Has anyone actually viewed this site, lately..?

To expound a little on CE’s comment, above … their site doesn’t appear to be very search-engine crawler friendly; perhaps the KinderStart folks are upset because they built a sloppy site, and want miracles in return..?

Or could it be the link farm they have listings for sale on, built into their front page..?

Just my take..

Yoop says:

What Bored said:

Post: “Google wields enormous power and we all know that means they bear enormous responsibility.”

Bored: No, actually, they don’t.

Ummm…so having enormous power means not bearing responsiblilty? Well what a beautiful world we’d live in if everyone thought that. Come on. They’re a private corp. so they the have no responibility…beautiful.

Sterling (user link) says:

Google lawsuit

Yet another reason why frivilous lawsuits clog the courts. Instead of trying to make their business serve people in a better way – THUS attracting more business – they decide to spend their advertising and marketing dollars to lay blame someone else for their poor business model.

Aggressive, pushy – spamming – slamming – pop up windows, can’t close them without hitting “control escape” and the like deserve to suffer and should lose business UNTIL they get it right and play the game of good businesses that offer great products and services at a great price – no matter the price! It is up to them to drive up the “perceived” value as ALL pricing is a perception. If they don’t change – they deserve to lose business for they are responsible – not Google or anyone else!

yhetheth says:

OMG

Google rules. andheartssemicolon SAM THE MAN WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

IM NOT HIGH : )

Bill Wilson says:

Frankly, it would be no surprise

if this whole thing were just a rouse to get them to lay the case to rest with a ‘settlement’. You know.. Sue for a bajillion dollars (Yes, a bajillion dollars IS a real amount.. in my head), and “let them’ settle for like 2 million, rather than fight the case for 5 million in the courts.

Gizmo says:

Kinderstart.com BLOWS

Ok, heres something that just came to my attention, Kinderstart.com has a Google search engine on their site… If they were really pissed off at Google, would they or would they not take this portion of the site out? It also looks like this was made a hippy group of people who think “Saving the world, is righteous”… I think kinderstart.com is only out for money, again for the reason above makes no sense to have both a sue action + a google search engine on your site = $$$.

Matt Sherwood says:

I am matt, hear me roar

And in addition, I like big sweaty men.




This thread was one of the least perceptive and revealing I have EVER read on TechDirt.

I attribute this to the educational background of the typical TECHDIRT contributor.

All “tech”, no poli sci, no sociology, very llttle economcs other than Econ 101 knee-jerk “free-market” jingoism.

I charge these contribors with stepping back, taking some time, and really thinking HARD about Google’s role in Modern Society and its massive success; and given that role, and that massive success, its attendant substantial SOCIETAL OBLIGATIONS…


Joel says:

This article really ranked up there!

Did anybody notice that the Google Ranking for this article was 0/10? Guess they didn’t think too highly of someone trashing their ranking system… “Oh yeah, you think our ranking system sucks. Well, we’ll just rank your little article a 0 out of 10! How do you like them apples?”

Julie (user link) says:

How about DMOZ

I’d like to see someone sue DMOZ. I think it is a big scam. Try getting listed in any category where your competition is choosing whether to list you or not – knowing that your rank in Google will be affected by it. If Google really cares about the relevancy of their results, they should do something about the way DMOZ operates to make it more useful.

Rhys (user link) says:

Re: How about DMOZ

I agree with Julie.

It transpires that the editor for where I am endeavouring to submit is friends with the main competition – the incestuous links between their websites gives it away just a bit.

20,000 copied webpages on the comptetitions website provides a bit more salt for the wound.

Reported the abuse, however it now appears that the meta editor know the editor….

Grrrrr

Maybe a small group of people ought to provide an alternative and actually strive for the best directory on the web

Steve says:

How many things will Google penalize your site for that they do on their own site? Sites that promote affiliate programs are penalized, yet Google runs one of the largest affiliate programs in the industry on their site. How many top ten results on Google are nothing but Ad-Words sites trying to collect a buck directing you to another site through the same listings you just saw on Google. Wake up people, Google now SUCKS – big time. If you think otherwise you’re a simplistic ass.

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