The search engine king, Google, is currently in the midst of one of the most noteworthy battles over search engine results. Google has always been able to dictate the results of their search engine via their many algorithms, but they also have the final say in who gets exposure in their search engine results page.
Or do they? If you haven't heard about the most recent debacle, you don't want to miss it.
In the past, most legal cases against Google's search results have been quickly dismissed. However, a recent case brought againt Google was not dismissed by a Florida judge. This is monumental in the world of Search Engine Optimization.
Maybe the experts at Google aren't seething in anger, but you've got to admit: they're probably ticked off. For years, Google has been targeting companies using black hat SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics, and Google has typically always won arguments against the companies doing so. But will they this time?
The plaintiff in this case is e-ventures Worldwide LLC, and they have been accused by Google of using "search engine manipulation" (black hat SEO) to gain higher rankings. To discipline e-ventures Worldwide for their "bad behavior," Google de-indexed hundreds of their websites. These websites weren't de-indexed by Google's algorithms or webmaster guidelines, but rather were removed based off of an anonymous tip. In case you ever doubted that Google had the power to do this- well, they can. And they did. This is why we say time and again to avoid such black hat tactics. It never ends well.
After Jeev Trika, CEO of e-ventures Worldwide, caught on to Google's de-indexing of sites, he tried buying brand new domains and testing to see if Google would de-index those too. That was money wasted, as sure enough, Google de-indexed his sites. According to Trika:
"It seemed as though I was personally targeted by Google. I would purchase a brand new domain and post nothing more than ‘bye bye world’ and within minutes, Google would de-index that domain too. So, Google’s argument that it was removing websites because they were violating Google Webmaster guidelines falls flat. It was not about the website content; it was about targeting the website owner. The fact that Google targets people like this is not something that is consistent with their published policies, or what they tell the public."
So is that unfair of Google, or did Trika get what he had coming for trying to game the system?
Food for thought here, as we don't necessarily agree or disagree: If they used black hat SEO tactics on 365 websites in the past (and they did), who's to say they won't do it again? Is it truly a personal attack if the company is a multiple-time offender? Just think about that for a minute. Again, we aren't justifying either side, but we want you to really think this through.
According to Eric Goldman at Forbes, "Google argued that its actions were protected by 47 U.S.C. 230(c)(2), the 1996 federal law that says websites aren’t liable for their content filtering decisions. However, the section [dictates] that the filtering decisions be made 'in good faith,' and the plaintiff argued that Google’s decisions lacked good faith. Citing a quirky 2010 New Jersey opinion, Smith v. TRUSTe, the court says the plaintiff’s bare allegation was good enough to survive a motion to dismiss." There are multiple articles that either agree or disagree with the survival of the motion based off that claim.
According to Dan Blacharski at Entrepreneur, "The outcome of this case may well have a lasting effect on how companies move their marketing initiatives into the digital world."
A brief filed by Alexis Arena, e-ventures' attorney at Flaster Greenberg PC, says that Google has defined a search engine manipulator as: "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."
The concern with this is pretty obvious to any SEO expert. By this definition, ANY SEO tactic (even generally accepted ones) could be accused of manipulation. This means that if Google wins the case, they have the right to suspect any and all SEO optimization. Online marketing could change dramatically with the outcome of this case.
Trika states, "Because of changes to Google’s algorithms, Internet entrepreneurs and Web publishers like myself now go the extra mile to provide websites and articles that are relevant, useful, and written to journalistic standards, and that has made the virtual world a better place." This should be the goal of every publisher and SEO expert.
So the question that lingers is this: Will SEO practices drastically change again in the near future?