Is Google the Simon Cowell of Search Engines?

DOM Team | | ,

There’s only one thing worse than you thinking your kid is super special, and that’s somebody else vicariously thinking the same and you liking it on facebook.

As much as Simon Cowell must be stopped in his pursuit of destroying music, his ability to destroy a parent/child axis of delusion without flinching is worthy of a knighthood.

Or, maybe that’s the botox.

Only one other group fails the critical faculty test as regularly as parents (sports fans don’t count as they know their team is crap but love them anyway) and that’s an entrepreneur.

One only has to watch Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank to appreciate that.

There’s nothing like the Simon Cowell of search engines – Google – to raise the hackles of the online entrepreneur when they feel they’ve been wronged.

Take the case of ShopCity – a local shopping/business portal that serves thousands of locations across the US.

They’re in the process of “publicly challenging the fairness of the search giant.” I’ve no idea whether this means they’d like to take Google to court or are drumming up a bit of publicity for their recently banished sites.

ShopCity, the parent company of local sites such as ShopPaloAlto.com, ShopMountainView.com and ShopPleasanton.com, says Google provides it an unfairly low ranking, especially since those sites have the backing of groups such as the city of Menlo Park, the Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce and the Palo Alto Weekly newspaper. A search for “Palo Alto restaurants” on Google this week didn’t reveal a ShopPaloAlto.com result until the seventh page of results, while the site ranks at the top for identical searches on Yahoo or Microsoft’s Bing.

[…] ShopCity also says Google is taking its content and displaying it in Google Places, which like ShopCity displays business information such as location, operating hours and customer reviews. The practice is called “scraping,” and companies like Yelp and TripAdvisor.com also have complained about the practice.

Google spits back:

Google says its low ranking of ShopCity sites is fair because the vast majority of its more than 8,100 local sites across the U.S. and Canada do not feature original content. ShopCity acknowledges that all but 44 of its sites do not yet have original content, and the company says it has asked the search giant not to crawl and rank those sites. But Google says it must consider the collective authority of the company’s Internet properties, just as someone wouldn’t judge a supermarket tabloid as superior to a national daily newspaper based on the accuracy of one story.

“We’re committed to returning high-quality sites to our users,” said Gabriel Stricker, a Google spokesman. “In the case of ShopCity, this is a network of thousands of sites that appear lower in Google’s rankings because nearly 100 percent of the sites violate our quality guidelines. For years, these sites have contained little original content, substantial duplicate content, along with cookie-cutter templates. Our users frequently complain to us about these kinds of sites.”

I have quite a bit of sympathy with site owners who have followed Google guidelines over the years only for them to shift the goal posts when they make an update. But, if you’re running an online business that piggybacks on Google rankings then you’re in for a whole heap of pain should those rankings ever evaporate.

Personally, I’d be asking if all those keyword domains that are now a reduced ranking factor with cross-linking from the cookie cutter areas of the template and no original content were/are factors.

Then, I’d ask you one SEO question: Have you ever seen Simon Cowell change his mind?

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