Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Once Again, You Cannot Sue Google Just Because Your Ranking Sucks

from the a-reminder dept

This isn't the first time we've discussed similar lawsuits, but it appears that Google has avoided yet another lawsuit from a website owner angry over a bad site ranking within Google's search engine. In the past, the arguments that disgruntled site owners have used included that Google has no right to change a site's ranking unless that site does something illegal and the really extreme suggestion that Google is "an essential facility" and as such cannot move sites around without giving the site owner some recourse. The latest case takes yet another strategy, claiming that Google's website submission page is somehow a binding contract, and dropping a site's rankings is a violation of that contract. For obvious reasons, that seems like a difficult position to defend, something that Google's lawyers appear to have explained to the site owner. Those same lawyers also appear to have pointed out that they might file an anti-SLAPP motion to get the case declared frivolous (and put Google's attorney fees on the guy). Not surprisingly, the site owner decided it was best to just drop the case. Either way, this highlights an old issue. From a business owner's perspective, it's your responsibility not to become too dependent on a single supplier. Basing your entire business on your great Google rank is extremely risky -- and if your only backup strategy is to sue Google for not ranking you higher, it suggests that your business strategy needs a pretty massive rewrite.

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  1. identicon
    Fantastical monkey, 7 Jun 2006 @ 3:47am

    People are stupid and will never learn

    I doubt this is going to be the last law suit we see of this type against google

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    JustMe, 7 Jun 2006 @ 4:46am

    As a Google advertiser I watched my rating go from around 7 to 24. There simply are more people out there willing to pay more per click than I am. The guy that wants to sue Google over placement needs to throw his money at a higher rate per click than at lawyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Aaron, 7 Jun 2006 @ 5:34am


    It would be nice if a great search engine like google could rank site on content and not on the price that they have paid. Google does a great job, I just think that politics can get into the way of a better product.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Minion, 7 Jun 2006 @ 5:47am

    Re: Politics

    If that were the case, then all of the miscellaneous free services that google offers would become fee-based.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Ryan, 7 Jun 2006 @ 5:53am

    other suits

    Our company recently had somebody call and demand that we not rank higher than him for a term because we're tricking customers who were looking for him.

    The sad part is, it's not even a term we optimized for..

    we explained to him how search engines work, but apparantley he's still looking for legal action he can take..

    It's quite amusing actually.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Shawn, 7 Jun 2006 @ 6:03am

    Re: other suits

    The sad reality of it is that people have become so focused on money that they lose sight of why they start losing it. Point in case, if a competitor releases a better product and people switch to it, we are more likely to blame the competitor than look at our own faults and correct them. This is true as far as this 'suit' is concerned, advertising is an essential part of life for an online business, if a ranking drops that means you need to optimize your site better or throw more money in to increase the ranking. Instead of placing resources into those needs this person completely overlooked that and just went on to blame and try to get compensated.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Aaron, 7 Jun 2006 @ 6:27am

    It just come back to people wanting the easy way out. They don't want to have to earn their money. If you don't believe me, look at welfare fraud. Suits have just been the new means of striking it rich.

    And on the politics. I'm not complaining about Google. I'm just saying in an ideal world, which will never happen. Personally I would rather have to search a little harder then have to pay for all of the wonderful stuff that Google offers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    ET, 7 Jun 2006 @ 6:34am


    Generally -as in this case- the people who raise the biggest stink about their page ranking on Google (or any search engine for that matter) are the ones who know little or nothing about how search engine ranking works. Obviously, the guy who decided to try to sue Google was completely clueless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2006 @ 6:42am

    I would rather the most relevant to my key word pages show up close to the top.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2006 @ 6:55am

    time to start learning...

    Instant gratification costs more!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Topher3105, 7 Jun 2006 @ 7:00am

    Is this ridiculous?

    Honestly, I don't think so. While I don't think that suing Google because your rank drops is valid, the fact that Google suddenly causes top ranking sites to drop unexpectedly suggests that perhaps Google's motivations is to get popular websites to PAY UP in order to get preferred ranking status.

    Sorry, I don't believe for an instant that Google is benevolent and does no evil. They are a money making engine, money gives power, and power corrupts. Google wants websites to pay more to get higher ranking, period.

    Perhaps the intention or purpose of the lawsuit is in error, but I think that people should scrutinize Google's business practices and decide if this is some form of blatant extortion. Pay up or we will drop your rank.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    ET, 7 Jun 2006 @ 7:34am

    Re: Is this ridiculous?

    The only paid links on Google's search results are on the left under "Sponsored Links" and in the little blue frame at the top of your results, also clearly marked as "Sponsored Links". These sponsored links get ranked by how much businesses are bidding on keywords... so if you drop down in the rankings on these, bid higher.

    Other than those links, your ranking on Google has nothing to do with how much you pay to Google... it does have to do with how much you pay your Web developper or how much you paid your 3rd party Web Development service to take care of your search engine submission and optimization.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Iamhrh, 7 Jun 2006 @ 8:34am

    Re: Is this ridiculous?

    You miss the point of organic vs. sponsored search.

    The more users Google can get, the more people will want to participate in their PPC program (Adwords)

    To get more users, you have to have the most relevant search results. While refining your algorithms, you are going to see shifts in rankings. Is is that strange to see a site move 10+ spots when there are 10,000,000 pages out there about the same topic? Even a small shift in algorithm could cause that small a shift.

    As for the relevance of the Adwords, google has recently added a crawler that ONLY checks the landing pages for adword ads, to ensure that they are meeting quality standards.

    In no way is what they are doing "Pay up or else"

    Get your facts straight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Gabriel, 7 Jun 2006 @ 9:01am

    How you check your ranking?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Tin Ear, 7 Jun 2006 @ 9:23am

    Re: Clueless

    I would have to agree on this point. Many people who put up a business website have no idea how a search engine works. Many only have a vague idea of how the internet itself works.

    I once designed a site for a client. Disregarding my advice on their domain name, they insisted on "" because they thought that they would 'come first' in the digital embroidery listings. Believe me, we went around and around about this. Me, trying to explain that a search engine in no way resembled a telephone book, and them insisting that I do it their way because they were paying me to do so. I did my best to optimize the site around that 21 letter domain name...

    I don't know what finally happened to their site. I washed my hands of the project as soon as the site was up. The only way they got a 'top ranking' was if you searched for their site by the exact domain name. I still don't think they get it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Mike Kelly, 7 Jun 2006 @ 9:36am

    I'm suing also

    I just googled myself, and I am not on the first page of results, so I'm going to sue them also. If you can get 7 million dollars for pouring hot McDonalds coffee in your own lap while driving, then this ought to be worth at least a couple billion dollars. After all, my self esteem might have been damaged because this FREE service has not dropped all of its business commitments in order to support my over inflated sense of importance. I deserve to be compensated, by gosh. How dare they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Xanthir, 7 Jun 2006 @ 9:51am

    Re: Politics

    Um, plus, Google *does* rank sites purely on content. The only sites that are ranked on price are the "Sponsored Links" you see at the top of the results. They are paid for, and if you pay more you get better treatment.

    The normal search results aren't affected by money at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    joules beef, 7 Jun 2006 @ 10:50am

    re page rank

    before any lawsuit goes through, the peopel suing should have to read a book on optomising their site for page rank. Google is free advertising (unless you use google ads)..
    do you know how much it costs to advert anywhere??? It is freaken expensive.. i thank the ad gods thaqt google doesnt charge me simply for listing my lame site.
    I figure these people werent in business before the internet and somehow thinks this is how life works

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    kk0425, 7 Jun 2006 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: other suits

    famous quote: Businessmen will drop hundreds of dollars to pick up a penny.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2006 @ 1:25pm

    I was under the impression that the only paid links were the ones off to the side and NOt the actual results, isn't this still the case?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    yonder, 7 Jun 2006 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Is this ridiculous?

    it's idiots like this guy that cause people to have misconceived notions about the way that search engines work.

    wanna talk about "pay up or else"? how bout you pay me or i won't stop talking about what a moron you are, how's that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Jun 2006 @ 10:00pm


    This is about SEO, not Adwords.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. identicon
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  24. identicon
    Don Briggs, 23 Oct 2006 @ 7:18pm

    I like that answer

    but I still didn't get any money

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. identicon
    Oldpilot, 30 Oct 2007 @ 10:23am

    not ridiculous at all

    You guys are such innocents! Google does in fact penalize a top-ranking website, dropping it to near the bottom (say 775 out of 780). Meanwhile, two middlemen sell portions of that very same website appear on the first page of rankings (say 3 and 5). This is one of the two outstanding operations in its field. Doing a web search for only tangentially related topics (the names of some of the individuals in the enterprise that has been blacklisted by Google) will return them at the very top. But all the optimized keywords have clearly been blacklisted.

    Google does this sort of thing. Believe it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. identicon
    Top google rankings, 25 Nov 2008 @ 12:58am

    Top google rankings

    Strange enough I can’t get our page ranked high at all, while lots of amateur pages in the same business, having no idea on webdesign get right to the top.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. identicon
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    Holidays in India

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