FTC: Google Free To Promote YouTube (etc) in Search Results

…the [FTC] decided on a 5-0 vote that Google’s prominent promotion of its own products and services in search results is not biased towards competitors. [Source: Adage]

The ultimate takeaway from this investigation is that Google can keep buying near-monopoly information services and rank its own properties well in search results. YouTube was already dominating when Google bought it, and it would have been mighty difficult to ever lose than dominance (via some catastrophic error), or for a competitor to ever best their first mover advantage. Sure, if you had a few billion spare you could run a comparable service that was ad-free… for a while.

A better way to describe Google’s future monopoly would be that they have five options when an website starts to dominate search results for a particular niche:

1) Buy it
2) Buy a competitor
3) Ban it
4) Copy it
5) Give in

Additionally:

Google also agreed to no longer scrape content from other properties for inclusion in its own search results. Google was alleged to have grabbed content from other sites such as restaurant reviews site Yelp, leading consumers to believe the scraped content was Google’s, said FTC

So, back to their five choices… It is unlikely that Google can make a case for banning Yelp. Buying Yelp might be tricky, given that it was specifically part of this investigation. Copying is unlikely, because Google hasn’t exactly excelled at social – but they might try to incorporate reviews into Google+.

That leaves buying a competitor – and they already have, Zagat just over a year ago.

Inside Google’s Data Centers

Google has so many servers that they are counted in hundreds of thousands. And to house them they own and operate massive data centers around the world.

Google’s data centers are operating from:

  • Council Bluffs, Iowa
  • Douglas County, Ga.
  • Berkeley County, S.C.
  • Mayes County, Okla.
  • Lenoir, N.C.
  • The Dalles, Ore.
  • Hamina, Finland
  • St. Ghislain, Belgium
  • Quilicura, Chile (coming)
  • Hong Kong (coming)
  • Singapore (coming)
  • Taiwan (coming)

The centers are so large that staff are supplied with bicycles. They are also very secure, sometimes guarded by StormTroopers. For more pics see the Daily Mail.


Webmaster Guidelines Pages Monitor

Like to take a guess how many Webmaster Guidelines pages Google has? More than 50!

And guess what Google’s method for informing people when they get updated is? They don’t. Despite it being critical for online success to be aware of Google’s myriad of guidelines, they update them frequently and don’t tell anyone. The onus on you is to repeatedly check.

Hobo Web have made a nice page that keeps track of when the Top 50 Guidelines pages were last changed.

AdSense and Free Downloads

Google relies on automation for keeping out spammers and improving the user experience. For the most part it works very well, and Google will leave you alone.

The problem is when the automated process gets it wrong.This happens a lot, to both AdWords and AdSense customers.

Google treats this as collateral damage – it’s better value to ignore customer complaints than have a human look into them. Unless of course there’s some bad publicity to fix, as in this example.

Author and Iraq war veteran Cody Jackson has a website with AdSense ads on it. He decided to link to the various places where his book could be downloaded for free. That’s right, a book he had written, and made available for free.

The AdSense system decided that he was linking to copyrighted material (in other words, pirated). His account was closed, and his two emails to Google were met by automated responses. But publicity of his plight meant his account was restored. This does of course highlight that thousands of other innocent customers miss out for good. At least with AdSense there are other alternatives. Unlike AdWords, which in some countries has 90% market share.

Google employees better watch out – one day an automated process will decide that Google Inc no longer needs humans to work for it.

Google News Now Reads Meta Tags

Search engines stopped looking at meta keyword tags many years ago, because they were abused by spammers – combined with better software for determining the topic on the page. But now Google has found a reason for reintroducing their use, by following this logic:

  • All sites that appear in Google News have been manually reviewed for quality – and even if spammers gain entry, they don’t last long
  • When semantic content is wrongly determined by Google’s software, it can look bad on the news page – so genuine & accurate meta keywords will have value

However, there are some sites that appear in Google News that are heavily SEO optimized. They rewrite stories continuously and have elaborate internal linking systems. These sites might take the meta tag reintroduction too far…

Full story at SitePro News.

Ad Planner: Bait and Switch

I almost used Ad Planner. I signed up, because a free ad management service was irresistible. But my current systems were sufficient for my low levels of income, and I didn’t proceed. Millions, however, would now be using and relying on Ad Planner.

Now it will fail to work unless it is only used to run Adsense ads:

Starting September 5th, 2012, the new version of Ad Planner will be dedicated to supporting research on placements on the Google Display Network, which comprises more than 2 million sites from across the web.

What does this change mean for you?

  • You can no longer research domains or ad placements that are not part of the Google Display Network
  • Publisher Center, the feature that allows publishers to claim their own sites, list relevant ad placement availability & pricing, will be deprecated

This is a classic bait and switch, and perhaps borders on illegal, given their monopoly status. Google can no longer be trusted. And this isn’t the first time – last year many sites had to start paying to use Google Maps on their site. What’s next?:

  • Only use Google Search if you are a registered Google user?
  • Google Analytics only available to Adsense publishers?
  • Embedded YouTube videos cost 10 cents each to display?

Imagine if Microsoft told customers that you need to pay $5 to receive future security updates?

Imagine if Toyota stopped making cars and doubled the price of spare parts?

 

More Google Services Get The Axe

Google Video no longer accepts uploads, and will soon disappear into YouTube. Makes sense, should’ve happened years ago.

iGoogle will be shut down in 2013. Makes less sense. Just because a product is making billions of dollars, doesn’t mean you should shut it down. Millions of daily users will change their start page.

The others to go are:

  • Google Mini (enterprise search app)
  • Google Talk Chatback (replaced by Meebo)
  • Symbian Search App

Adwords Bans 800,000 Accounts in 2011

It’s an extraordinary number of accounts to ban, so either every second marketer on the planet is trying to promote something fraudulent, or bad sorts have been automating the creation of new accounts. According to Google, it is the latter: there are relatively few malicious players.

To ban 800,000 accounts, Google obviously needs automated systems:

One method we use to test the success of our efforts is to ask human raters to tell us how we’re doing. These human raters review a set of sites that are advertised on Google. We use a large set of sites in order to get an accurate statistical reading of our efforts. We also weight the sites in our statistical sample based on the number of times a particular site was displayed so that if a particular site is shown more often, it’s more likely to be in our sample set. By using human raters, we can calibrate our automated systems and ensure that we’re improving our efforts over time.

I wonder if Google has estimates on how many automated bans were made in error? Their previous post also goes into great detail at how they find the bad guys, but so far there is no mention of how they fix their mistakes. Wrongfully banned Adwords users will point out the speaking to a real person to get the suspension reviewed can be very difficult.

It has been suggested that the mistakes are simply collateral damage and bad luck to those who lose their accounts. Unfortunately those most likely to be affected are those who rely on Adwords for their business. And Google has a monopoly in many countries.

Google Drive Officially Launched – Cheap Too!

Google Drive is now official and real, see the press release.

Surprisingly good is the low upgrade prices for those who want to use more than the free 5GB:

  • 25GB for $2.49/month
  • 100GB for $4.99/month
  • 1TB for $49.99/month

Google Drive is therefore cheaper than Amazon S3 (prices here), although Amazon is targeted at enterprise customers, who are much more likely to use up their full allowance.

And substantially cheaper than DropBox.