I’m mostly caught up on my feeds. It was relatively quiet the last couple weeks, but I’ve seen 2-3 things I wanted to talk about in the last couple days or so.
First, WebProNews ran this post that claims that Google is selling PageRank 7 links.
My quick take: when you dig into it, it turns out that it’s a Google directory of enterprise companies that can do things like write plug-ins for proprietary data types for the Google Search Appliance, merge geospatial GIS data, and integrate telephony products with Google Apps. This is a program for enterprise companies, and I don’t think anyone has even suggested before now that this directory could be construed as selling links, but just to avoid even the appearance of anything improper, I’ve already submitted a change to ensure that there’s no PageRank benefit from these links. I left a comment on the original post; I wish that WebProNews would show comments on their blog partner program. Right now, someone would read that article, but wouldn’t know that there are any comments (including mine) on the original post.
Next, Elinor Mills wrote about an interesting allegation. I’ll include the whole content of the allegation: [Just to clarify, this is an allegation that Elinor is passing on from a newsletter, not a claim that Elinor is making herself directly.]
In the past, when you launched a website, or Google wasn’t picking up your stuff, you could call the friendly people over there and they’d look at your website to see if you were legit, look at their search results, and adjust their code appropriately. It used to be this all occurred in the same day. Then it was 24 hours. So, imagine our dismay when www.wesrch.com wasn’t even being picked up two weeks after we launched. We had called Google two days into the launch and they apologized, saying their search engines were backlogged with so many sites to monitor. We called after a week and then called again and again, with no better answer. We even tried posting ads with Google and they couldn’t find us. “Clearly, we had tried their patience, as in the end they threatened to BLACKLIST our websites so no one would ever find us again. Now is that power or what? Funny thing is, Yahoo found us faster and more reliably. So, Google is no longer my home page. More importantly, they are showing all the signs of a monopolist trying to forcibly extract revenues for nothing. Whenever this happens, it’s a sign that revenue growth has peaked and they are trying to force it in order to maintain high stock valuations. So watch out if you are an investor
When Elinor asked for a comment about this, several of us read the original complaint, and I have to admit that we were perplexed. Google doesn’t provide phone support for webmasters; as Vanessa Fox recently noted, over 1 million webmasters have signed up for our webmaster console alone, so offering phone support for every site owner in the world wouldn’t really scale that well. They talk about buying ads later in the paragraph; we wondered “maybe they were talking to phone support for AdWords?” But I can’t imagine anyone at Google on the ads side or anywhere else saying our search engines were backlogged with too many sites to monitor. The Google index is designed to scale to billions of webpages, and it does that job pretty well. It’s even harder for me to imagine anyone at Google saying on the phone that they would “BLACKLIST our websites so no one would ever find us again,” because again, we don’t provide webmaster support over the phone, and I believe AdWords phone support would know better than to claim our index was backlogged or to threaten to remove anyone’s site from our index. Maybe a call to AdWords support reached such a fever pitch that a representative declined to run an ad?
At any rate, I’m sorry for any negative interactions that wesrch.com had with Google. The current description of the issue doesn’t give enough concrete details to check out, but if anyone from that domain wanted to clarify or to provide emails or dates/times/names of phone calls (did they call AdWords? Randomly try to hop into the Google phone tree? Talk to a receptionist?), I’d be happy to try to look into it more.
In the absence of more details about their interaction, I tried to dig more into the crawling of wesrch.com. I didn’t see any negative issues (no spam penalties or anything like that) for the domain. I saw attempts to crawl the site as far back as October 2006, but that earliest attempt got an authentication crawl error (that would have been a 401 or a 407 HTTP status code). I believe that this allegation went out Feb. 2nd, and I believe we had at least one page from that site at that point. I did notice that visiting the root page of the domain gives a 302 (temporary) redirect to the HTTPS version of the domain. That’s kinda unusual, but we should still be able to crawl that.
The other thing to look at is current coverage. Here’s what I saw:
|Search Engine||Number of pages|
|over 450+ pages|
|Live||about 176 pages|
(Note that if you just do [site:wesrch.com] on MSN/Live, you might get results estimates as high as 500+ results, but the way to verify results estimates is to go to the final page of results, and MSN/Live stops after 176 results.)
It looks like Google crawls wesrch.com at least as deeply as any other major search engine. I’m still confounded who the folks at wesrch.com could have talked to at Google, but I’ll leave open the offer to dig into it more if they want to provide more details. And I’ll wish them well for their new domain in the future.
Moving on, I got a kick out of this one. In the “can’t win for losing” department, there’s this post. Someone going by the handle “earlpearl” pointed out a thread to Barry Schwartz, in which someone reported that Google Maps had incorrect info for Duke Medical Center. The good news is earlpearl mentions a few hours later that the info has been corrected. Everybody’s happy, right? Nope, someone with the handle INFO (which I think is the same person as earlpearl) posts to the thread and says:
I see that Google Maps corrected this information in one day. I’m still
trying to learn how the bad information I submitted can be corrected.
Looks to me like Google only responds to large institutions!
So Google got criticized for having bad info for a medical center. It sounds like someone at Google took action quickly, but then we got criticized for only responding to large institutions. Personally, I think if you’re going to correct bad information, medical centers are one of the first places I would tackle. There is an ironic twist on this. I think earlpearl/INFO is partially frustrated because they’ve reported outdated info regarding some bartending schools, and that data hasn’t been changed yet. But the twist is that earlpearl’s thread about bartending schools has gotten two personal responses from a Google employee (“Maps Guide Jen”). Jen’s most recent reply struck me as pretty responsive:
Thank you so much for all this detailed information. We’ll look into your
reports further to try and track down where our data might be outdated. I
definitely appreciate your taking the time on this!
My hope is that we’ll check into earlpearl’s report as well and then everyone will be happy.
Those were 2-3 semi-negative posts that I wanted to give a quick take on. Just so that people don’t get down thinking that every post is negative about Google, here’s a really interesting post by Bill Slawski of SEO by the SEA. Bill pulls together mentions of twelve different Googlers who have made nice contributions to Open Source or open standards. I know of several other Googlers who help open-source projects and who aren’t on that list; it’s good to be reminded that Google contributes to the open source movement in a lot of ways.
Update: Clarified the post to note that Elinor didn’t write the allegation I quote up above; she found it from a newsletter and is passing it on to her readers. Thanks for pointing out that my language wasn’t clear, Philipp.