Does Google Need An Independent Review Board To Look Over Rankings?

from the one-idea dept

As yet another lawsuit gets underway about a site that's unhappy with its Google ranking, Jack Schofield at the Guardian has a suggestion for the company: have an independent "ombudsman" review complaints to make sure that Google is treating sites fairly (BugMeNot pointlessly required to view the link). The suggestion was made to a VP at Google who promptly ignored it (or, rather, looked thoughtful and said "Um.") While these lawsuits seem silly, this suggestion could have some value. One of the big complaints about Google is that it acts like a big faceless monolith when it comes to some of the decisions made. People get upset not just because their rankings decline, but that there's (1) no explanation for why and (2) no way to appeal. Having a process for appeals -- even if it doesn't change many rankings, could help many sites feel more comfortable with their ranking.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Ali Khalid, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 2:59am

    Quiet Right

    Considering how important google has become over the last few years, it should look in to ways to set up some kind of method where people could appeal or should atleast let an adminstrator of a site know why its ranking declined

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

  2. identicon
    big dill, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 3:02am

    Yeah but, with the numerous amounts of sites and submissions, I hardly think that is a good idea. What I do think they should do (and truly believe it is being done ) is that they review high traffic keywords or content and rank those appropriately. These can easily be flagged and analyzed by reviewers to test validity and if a certain company is more noticable or actually pertains to the subject. (after numerous sites and personal testing I am sure they already to do this). But to have an appeal system for every Joe Bob guy who believes his shi+ doesn't stink (which every dude out there who built and optimized his / her site believes so) would simply raise more appeals and arguments that would probably create more lawsuits in the long run (should a particular person feel like they did not get enough attention).

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

  3. identicon
    Roy, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 3:25am


    Google is not a monopoly, and it is not a public utility. It is a search engine that has a unique (and confidential) method of ranking its results. And since they've made big progress in keeping sites from gaming their system, the poor losers want legal assistance to continue gaming. Boo hoo. As has been pointed out about the KinderStart lawsuit, the real WTF is that a company would base their entire business model on the way one resource represents them (at no cost to them, yet). Google really needs to shut down for a couple of days to bring the message home.

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

  4. identicon
    August West, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 3:34am

    Google is FREE!!! These people initiating these lawsuits should be saddled with the entire cost to all parties involved when the cases get dismissed. I'm sure there is no legal way to charge the greedhead lawyers who take the cases for the plaintiff, unfortunately. But if the plaintiffs have to pay Googles legal cost, maybe they will be less likely to sue. No wait. I have a beeter idea. I just googled myself. I'm not even listed. I think I'll sue also. Yeah, thats the American way.

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

  5. identicon
    Jon, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 4:18am

    RE: Quite Right

    Hey Ali,

    You need to hire someone to verify that you are maintaining your yard to your neighbors satisfaction. After all they do have to look at it.

    Also, we should hire agents to ensure we are dressing properly and that we have no BO.

    As the last 3 post have pointed out - it is not Google’s job to change their product to make certain websites happy - it is their job to maintain their product ... a commodity - not a necessity, as they wish. If they screw it up it will cost them in the long run.

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

  6. identicon
    Matt, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 4:52am

    I agree...

    I do agree. Google is free. They are a private company, so this being said, they have the right to do or rate whomever they want to HOW they want to. Who cares if your site doesnt get rated good. It is your own fault, and not Google's. It is just like if I opened my own search engine and rated the same site low. All these lawsuits are BS. I wish they would stop it.

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

  7. identicon
    Brad Eleven, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 5:00am

    Shades of the Nineties!!

    Wow, we're almost full circle again.

    Anyone remember "doorway pages"? You'd see them every so often in search result summaries: unreadable gibberish whose only purpose was to present some combination and frequency of keywords, in order to get a high search ranking. Doorway pages' "killer feature" was the Javascript that redirected you to the target.

    Yahoo! got tired of fighting this method of artificially getting one's customers' pages to rank highly, so it began selling information about how it ranked pages. It even changed its strategies just to be able to have new information to sell. At the height of the craze, there were *quarterly* revisions.

    Then Google showed up, right when I was in the midst of grokking the whole thing in order to knock off some very, very expensive software which generated thousands of these pages--and "deployed" them using dedicated "cloaking servers" to prevent blacklisting.

    Yes. The major search engines actually spent time and money to detect "too-frequent" updates/deployments.

    Google's arrival blew the whole thing right out the water, in my opinioin. My main proof of this is how quickly and sharply they were demonized for having developed a more fair (and less tamperable) ranking scheme.

    So now people seem to be getting upset because *they* can't influence *their*own* rankings as well as *they*think* someone else is influencing *theirs*. I guess the game looked easier than it has turned out to be.

    The whole thing gives me hope for modern politics, which is all about marketing, anyway. I guess you really can fool some of the people all of the time.

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

  8. identicon
    Jason, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 6:17am

    When a company gets as big as google, I believe that it's search results do make a huge impact on how many visitors you're site gets. I don't think they should be sued but I agree there should be some sort of appeal process in place and I think google should be good enough to do this themselves. As a user of their products you are their costumer and their money maker and since google owes you for their survival you should be entitled to some sort of explanation.

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

  9. identicon
    Steve Bryant, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 6:29am

    tough call

    Google has much to gain and lose by hiring an ombudsman. By hiring an ombudsman (and, let's face it, a pretty big support staff too), they would provide better customer service and more transparency to a public that is only becoming more cautious about Google's services. But hiring an ombudsman carries risks. An ombudsman's main job is to listen to readers and criticize its boss. No CEO with an eye on his/her company stock price would welcome that. And, there's always the possibility that by admitting errors, Google makes itself vulnerable to legal action.

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

  10. identicon
    Michael, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 6:31am


    I think the big issue here is that people can't understand that Google page rank is a matter of opinion. While a website featuring the complete history of the floppy disk may not intrest me in the slightest, it may be of great interest to a floppy disk collector (yes, I realize how unlikely that is). I would give the page a low ranking due to relevance, but the collector would give it a high ranking for the same reason. Bringing in a group of people seperate from Google to evaluate will no doubt result in more of the same. Google has no bias against websites (unless of course it's Yahoo! :-)) and their opinion is just as neutral as any other third party. The real solution is to have some kind of feedback system that informs website owners what steps can be made to increase page rank. This of course is just my opinion. ;-)

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

  11. identicon
    Ryan, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 6:56am

    You can't have a person or an appeal process

    once you start hand ranking 1 result, you have to hand rank them all.

    There's no minimal amount. It's all or nothing.

    if one person complains and gets a better rank, everyone will.

    if one of these website owners were to follow the matt cutts blog, or the webmaster guidelines put out by google, they wouldn't see any problems at all.

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

  12. identicon
    Drama2Sell, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 7:20am

    Search 2.0

    One of my favorite engines used to be Magellan (anyone remember them?) They would post these little review capsules of sites.

    Of course, now with a billion or so sites--you can't expect hand reviews, however, why can't we as users rank them?

    I, like many others, have the google toolbar--why can't I search on my phrase, and then when I find the site/information I was looking for--rank it on the toolbar so it sends it back to google?

    If the millions of users did this--gateway sites, and cluster keyword sites would eventually drop, and the cream would rise.

    I know that "Web 2.0" is being overhyped, but having users rank/manage your content certainly works for Amazon, Craigslist, etc--why not for a search engine?

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

  13. identicon
    Beck, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 7:31am

    Re: Search 2.0

    Actually Drama2Sell, you'd end up with thousands of Indonesian children hired by spamorama sites to conduct searches and enter high user rankings into Google.

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

  14. identicon
    Oberonix, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 8:07am


    The problem is that google is offering a voluntary service that people can choose to use or not. If their pageranking bothers anyone then they should go elsewhere, just because they are used by everyone doesn't mean that everyone gets to dictate how they run their business. The only reason this is even an issue is because google is so heavily used, but they are still allowed to do whatever they want with their own product.

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

  15. identicon
    understood, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 8:09am

    having google respond to lusers like that is like me responding to total strangers on why i didnt invite them to dinner last nite. google owes them nothing. where do people get off thinking organisations owe them something just because those organisations make money? all you socialists and wealth distribution advocates out there, if you're ticked off at the guy suing google, take a look in the mirror.

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

  16. identicon
    Matt, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 8:27am

    Obviously, the government needs to come up with a committee to approve a google rankings.

    It's important to note that websites are not Google's customers (except through ad purchases). Searchers are.

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

  17. identicon
    Topher3105, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 8:54am


    While I do agree that Google needs to be accountable for how it ranks websites, and provide an outlet to handle appeals and complaints, (better then they apparently do now), I don't think that any government has a right to establish a law which states how Google should rank or run their company.

    Google provides a service and if people don't like that service, they can complain to Google. If Google chooses not to respond or resolve the complaint, then that opens up the doors for litigation by the offending/offended parties. This is how capitalism works, you have the right to run the company largely in your own way, but if you piss off your customers, then prepare to accept responsibility for it. The legal system gives everyone a fair chance to resolve their issues in court, regardless if its Joe Blow web Schmo or Google.

    While there are universal laws about how a company is supposed to be set up and maintained and protects both entrepreneur and customers rights, the moment the government steps in and says this is how your supposed to run your company specifically, then that is the day communism takes over the world.

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

  18. identicon
    ???, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 9:04am

    The Rating is the point

    You wouldn't want someone to search Pen and find a website that sells pens that only work some of the time. You would want to have it display the Best results first, or your website's first impression would be Extremly bad.

    So I don't see how you can nag at someone because they think your website isn't the best in the world.

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

  19. identicon
    Echostorm, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 9:07am

    Google is a private company giving their professional and unpaid opinion about how sites rank. If you don't like your ranking tough shit. Either pay for a sponsored listing or get yourself more traffic.

    It would be nice if Google could counter sue these mindless nutsacks for these frivolous lawsuits.

    PS. There are other search engines out there.

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

  20. identicon
    jsnbase, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 9:56am


    The post isn't saying that Google NEEDS to do anything. It's saying that it would probably be a good PR move for them to introduce an ombbudsman, which may well be true.

    The post above by Ryan describing a slippery slope whereby instituting any sort of review of individual complaints completely destroys Google's current system is ridiculous. That just isn't how it works. Just because people CAN do something doesn't mean they WILL.

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

  21. identicon
    anonymous coward, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 10:04am

    if my algorithm says that your company's website isn't popular, tough shit. it's the equivalent of suing a restaurant reviewer for a bad review...

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

  22. identicon
    Posterlogo, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 10:26am



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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 10:26am

    Another form of self-interested rankings manipulation.

    The beauty of Google is it's granite-hard OBJECTivity.
    Google shouldn't tarnish that beauty to satisfy manipulative whiners who would prefer that rankings be SUBJECT to their own self-interest.

    These people calling for an ombudsman are upset that they can't effectively fake popularity to Google's algorithms. They need to focus more on the appeal of their own sites than on overriding Google's method of measuring that appeal.

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 10:44am

    Remember, Google is today's Microsoft. They have the same market power that Microsoft had in the 90's when it was sued by competitors and the DOJ. One day, Google will also be sued in a simlar manner - unless they learn form Microsoft's mistakes. If they have learned anything from that episode, they will figure out a way to address the reasonable and *unreasonable* grievances that people may have against them. Remember that when it comes to competitors or the DOJ, reasonableness is not a big factor.

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

  25. identicon
    Tarky7, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 10:48am

    Google 'Page Rank' reflect Larry Page's original algorithm and updated Google algorithms. It has nothing to do with peoples opinion per say, and everything to do with all the factors that make up popularity as it relates to keywords, links and relevancy.

    It boils down to a vector based text based system than uses many layers including forensics to determine when, what why how and who. Just look at the rise and fall and history of the company SEO Inc. and how they fell hard when Google decided to shift it's algorithm to defeat SEO Inc.'s linking scheme. Much can be learned from that event.

    Google has been very on point with it's mechanism to determine fair play and give a shot at the rising underdog who plays by the rules of Google. It is just another example of people will large amounts of cash looking for a shortcut. The web has many sites which have faller prey to the fallacy that there are shortcuts for being found by Google. I for one believe that Google is correct. Play by the rules or get lost forever.

    There is a great tutorial that outlines these rules by a website named seo-guy. It is a point by point reference to how to get found by Google's spiders and bots. Check it out. There is much anecdotal evidence as to how Google find and ranks sites. Much of this information has been put together from many hard lessons over time. (Can you say Link Farm ?)

    Ignoring the rules of Google and thinking that there is an easier softer faster way to get found by Google is done at great peril. Anyone telling you that money can buy you fast 'page rank' is either lying or has no clue.

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

  26. identicon
    Monarch, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 11:56am

    I want to be the Ombudsman. I'd make sure that every internet based store website was tagged as an internet store website, and give the general public the ability to do a search with or without internet stores included!!!


    Because when I'm trying to research a product, I don't like the fact that 90% of the search results are stores trying to sell the product and not an objective site with a review or information on how to use the product.

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

  27. identicon
    Googler, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 12:42pm

    I know I'm just repeating the obvious but Google does not, in any way, need to review its rankings to make sure everyone is fairly treated. For one, this would be impossible because if you were to raise the rank of one site you would then be treating the other sites that it surpassed unfairly thus, to keep things fair, you'd then have to raise their sites... I think anyone who complains about their rankings should be moved to the back of the line...

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

  28. identicon
    Sellotaped to Insanity, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 1:41pm


    Another case of people who blatantly do not understand how google ranking works even though there's enough docuementation on their site in both technical and simplistic terms to help users understand how the ranking works. I think we all know how this song goes - RTFM

    I think this smacks of 'it's not fair' .... boo hoo (as Roy said earlier)

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

  29. identicon
    Jason, Jul 7th, 2006 @ 7:44pm

    You have to understand that using google is free but google also gets to use you for free. Every time you do a search you look at ads delivered by google and because of you google gets paid. Would google be happy to supply you with results if there were no money involved, I doubt it. If the majority of web designer in some form or fashion didn't use google, then they would not be aware of their pagerank. I'm guessing when you use a page rank checker you are still querying google? My search engine of choice is google and I use them 20 or thirty times a day and I use no other. I use them because I believe my search results are superior to other search engines, and I have used them for some time now. I also believe that googles page ranking is fair. There will always be people that think they are being unfairly treated and I think that by giving them some sort of answer there will be closure on the issue. This is just my opinion.

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

  30. identicon
    Angsuman Chakraborty, Jul 8th, 2006 @ 9:07am

    Independent recview board!

    Google is doing a fair job so far. And have you considered the size of review board to be able to realistically handle all the complaints, ie. not in 10-15 years? Obviously you should be able to submit individual pages to the review board as Google PR is page based. Imagine what will happen when 5 billion page spammer decides to submit all of his pages for review.

    The idea is simply not feasible.

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

  31. identicon
    Jeff Block, Jul 10th, 2006 @ 12:08pm

    Do I smell socialism?

    Let me get this straight...

    Google invents something that everyone wants, but that noone absolutely has to have.

    Now people are gaming the system (as people always do), and other people are complaining that they are being unfairly treated.

    So, instead of the onus being on the complainers to be smarter than the gamers or put more time in or invent something of their own or improve what Google has or ANYTHING productive, the suggestion is...

    Have Google spend a bunch of time, money and energy on placating the whiners, so that they don't have to do anything themselves. Marx would be so proud.

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

  32. identicon
    Jeff Block, Jul 10th, 2006 @ 12:17pm

    Re: Search 2.0

    Drama2Sell, I think you have the right idea! But let me suggest that we go a step further. In addition to leveraging the kind of "active feedback" you're suggesting (in that we could rate sites -- which would provide very valuable information), we also implement a strategy that observes "passive feedback". For instance, if you're a highly credible person (as defined by Google's observing your interaction with their content), then shouldn't they interpret your selection of one result over another to be meaningful? We think so (at Capable Networks, my company). We have created just such a process. We call it "intelligent scoring", and have created (and patented) an engine that lives behind our community platform to just that kind of observation and interpretation. I mention it, because I think it directly addresses the problem that Google (and many other sites, like Wikipedia) is having. Check out an example at, which is the official home for the Slingbox. What do you think?

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

  33. identicon
    Peter Owen, Nov 14th, 2007 @ 8:44am

    Google Page Rank Lottery!

    I used to believe that Google was the No1 search engine, with its Page Ranking providing users like myself with a useful indication of just how important a particular website really was! Having seen my own much improved website directory fall from Page Rank 5 to Page Rank 2 in recent weeks has shattered my faith in Google.

    Fortunately I continue to score well within its search placements for various terms associated with British Vacations, which tends to demonstrate that there is no direct correlation between Google search results and Google Page Rank!

    When it comes to locating on-page information the likes of Yahoo are far better to use for searches.

    I fear Google is now penalizing websites that derive a revenue from advertising on their websites, which if you think about it is where Google likely receives most of its own revenue from!

    For my own part I no longer concern myself too much with Google searches and Page Rank results – why spend half of your life trying to court Google, especially when they change the rules so often?

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

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