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Google: Do as We Say, Not as We Do

Last week, University of California at Berkeley visiting scholar Vivek Wadhwa on TechCrunch wrote, “Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search.”

According to this article titled “Google tweaks search algorithm to favor sites with original content” on the Washington Post it sounds like Google is trying to fix the problem, reporting that:

“Google said Friday it has tweaked the algorithm for its search engine so that Web sites with original content are prioritized above sites that copy from others.”

Web sites with original content are prioritized over sites that scrape their content? Sounds like a win for content creators and users alike!

But we can’t help but wonder about all the content Google scrapes…

  • Tnooz on Google Places and Yelp content: “[A] ton of [Google’s content] is coming from Yelp content that Google is simply getting by crawling it with their search spiders…And even though Google is using a good amount of Yelp content to populate its review areas, they’re shoving the reviews to the bottom of the results, below the reviews from licensed partners… it’s just an especially sexy story since Google tried to buy Yelp last year and were scorned.” (We can’t help but think of Groupon/Google Offers…)
  • And it is happening with TripAdvisor too says CEO Steve Kaufer: “’Google is manipulating its systems and position to promote Google Places over other competing sites.’ Kaufer says links to Google Places appear at the top of organic search results ‘despite being an inferior product to sites that are dedicated to review collection.’”
  • And Google News? Many of Google News users scan headlines without visiting a newspaper’s individual site!  As a group of publishers said, “Google says it brings us traffic, but the problem is that Google earns billions, and we earn nothing.”

Given this track record, it is easy see why a future with Google Travel, where Google steers traffic to its own products over the products of its competitors, threatens a competitive online travel marketplace.

In sum, Google’s at it again, talking out of both sides of its mouth. At this rate, next thing we know, they’ll be announcing that “don’t be evil” was actually Google’s advice for advertisers and users – not a guiding principle for Google itself!