Thursday, June 23, 2016

Google is Not Trying to Kill SEO

Writing for Entrepreneur this week, Dan Blacharski, "a thought leader, advisor, industry observer," asks "Is Google Trying to Kill SEO?"

Blacharski is referring to a lawsuit, filed in May by e-Ventures Worldwide, that accused the search engine of de-indexing e-Ventures websites for subjective reasons--and not according to Google's own algorithmic principles.

As Blacharski writes: "Google summarily de-indexed hundreds of the plaintiff’s websites without review or redress. The de-indexing was not based on algorithmic rules or webmaster guidelines, but rather, subjectively applied based on an anonymous tip from an unnamed third party."

According to Google, e-Ventures was engaging in "bad behavior" by attempting "search engine manipulation" tactics. Google called the offending websites--all 213--"pure spam."

The CEO of e-Ventures, Jeev Trika, believes that he was "personally targeted by Google," a claim that strikes at Google's first amendment rights, which have been affirmed in US courts countless times before. Under first amendment protections, the search engine can essentially do whatever it pleases, ranking and penalizing sites without reason. It can--in reality, though, no company has ever proven that Google has ranks or penalized sites without reason.

In the lawsuit, e-Ventures claims that Google penalizes sites that use SEO in favor of AdWords. In the brief, Trika's lawyer, Alexis Arena, alleges "the SEO services [e-Ventures] provides and advertises on its website reduce Google's revenues because if companies are successful in achieving website prominence on Google's unpaid search listing, then there is less of a desire for them to purchase Google's AdWords advertising services."

The brief also equates "search engine manipulation" (Google's term) with SEO: “Under Google’s definition, any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher, in any manner, could be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress.”

Is Google arbitrarily penalizing sites for using SEO? [Image Source: Search Engine Land]
Both of these claims are nonsense--and contrary to Google's best interests. Despite recent changes to the SERP, Google knows no browser wants a results page full of AdWords. To satisfy users, the search engine must provide organic listings. In fact, comprehensive research cited by Econsultancy in 2011, revealed that most browsers prefer organic listings:

"Paid search only accounts for 6% of total clicks from search engines versus natural search at 94% of clicks, according to research from GroupM UK carried out with Nielsen."

Why would Google attempt to alienate 94% of its clicks?

The second claim, equating Google's phrase "search engine manipulation" with SEO, makes little sense. Yet the brief claims: “Under Google’s definition, any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher, in any manner, could be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress.”

This is technically true--yet as we noted above, no company has proven that Google penalizes without reason. In fact, Google offers its own Search Engine Optimization Guide. We believe Google and organic SEO are dynamic partners.

Google endorses ethical SEO: "Deciding to hire an SEO is a big decision that can potentially improve your site and save time, but you can also risk damage to your site and reputation. Make sure to research the potential advantages as well as the damage that an irresponsible SEO can do to your site."

The operative word here is "ethical": SEO must be practiced with integrity.

Perhaps there is merit to e-Ventures claims, yet Blacharski's article gives us absolutely no information about e-Venture's SEO practices.

If Google fears SEO, why is the SEO community thriving online? Why haven't other SEO firms been penalized? Why haven't other successful businesses who use SEO--basically all successful online businesses--been penalized?

One can only believe that e-Ventures engaged in some sort of Black Hat SEO--and Google pounced accordingly. After all,

Contrary to Blacharski's false claim that Google is trying to kill SEO, the true concern here may very well be Google's first amendment rights. In May, Eric Goldman, a legal tech writer, wrote about the lawsuit for Forbes:

"If Google can’t freely decide to downgrade or de-index what it considers to be “pure spam,” then Google faces liability pretty much any time it automatically or manually rejiggers its index (which always creates some winners and some potentially-litigious losers). It seems hard to believe that this case will be the one to break Google, especially given all of the prior attempts from more sympathetic plaintiffs, but that’s what makes this court’s initial ruling so disquieting."

Read: "Google Must Answer Lawsuit for Manually Removing Websites From Its Search Index"

Disquieting, indeed, for firms that practice SEO with integrity.

If any loser can sue Google, what happens to the integrity of the SERP--the foundation of Google and SEO?

By misunderstanding Google's proven integrity, the "thought leader" Blacharski misses the point. Google is not trying to kill SEO. Google is trying to kill spammy SEO. And by doing so, Google is trying to satisfy users.