Note: This is possibly my most controversial, yet gutsy, post as of yet:
Google. The very name evokes the word search, and has been used as a substitute in sentences, such as “I Googled this” and “I Googled that.” Nothing can take that away from them – they earned their success for the most part. However, when conducting mergers and acquisitions of larger companies, it’s very easy to get so large that it’s no longer one unit, rather it’s a jumble of companies and partners mixed together. Also, when the number of partners increase, so do the number of opinions, which in turn mean longer time for decision-making. Also, “don’t be evil” ceases to exist when a company becomes more money-centric rather than simply a service that happens to also make money. That said, please don’t try to philosophize with me that “to be” is different than “to do;” I can tire the best of them with my philosophical rantings.
In any case, this I believe has happened with Google. I’ve been a huge fan of Google when it came to search, was one of their first GMail users way back when in 2005 (when you needed an invite and one could only email up to 6 people – total), widely embraced Google Docs/Wave integration/Drive, loved Google Maps and it’s API to connect to, and was seriously debating on whether or not to obtain a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone, which is widely accepted as Google Android’s flagship device.
That debating ended when a) I noticed flaws on the phone, and b) Google’s policy changes in the name of money. Look, I understand that a company needs to make money to survive, but there needs to be a line. I believe that Google has had it’s biggest success when it offered tons of free products in the name of the expansion of knowledge and innovation. It “just so happened to make money” by:
1. Adwords Ads,
2. Adwords certification exams ($50 a test, each of which changes every 2 weeks),
3. Google Apps for Business for anything over 10 users (minimum $5/user/month), and
4. Royalties based on the Android operating system which strongly promotes Google’s brand.
“Just so happening to make money” while running a service to improve the internet world was what caused me to be enthralled by what Google stood for, and to use their products over any other.
Google Changes that Honestly Pissed Me Off
However, I noticed a few changes over the last little while that, in all honesty, has pissed off even a dedicated Google user like me. These are:
1. Google Apps for Business (and Business Emails) No Longer Being Free
Google possibly noticed that their Apps for Business model was possibly exploited by up-and-coming small businesses, especially some SEO companies registering hundreds of domain names along with free Google Apps Business accounts since one formerly could get up to 10 email accounts, and at one time up to 50. Google made a controversial decision to close down the free accounts and only leave the paid services up. This is a problem because this translates into a minimum of $5/user/month! While I maintain that Google has perhaps the best email servers in the world, this is a big problem for small businesses wanting to start out with the Google experience and simply cannot afford it. Also, this was made off-the-cuff by Google with only 2 days notice. On Thursday, December 8, 2012 the notice went up only on Google’s private blog, and the change was made on Saturday, December 10, 2012. For many, this took us completely by surprise. This annoyed me greatly as I had promised a couple of clients to move them over to Google Apps for Business that weekend. On a side note, Google’s new greedy angle had eased my decision into choosing purchasing the Apple iPhone 5 over a Google Android phone (which basically copied Apple’s patented iPhone idea).
2. Google Killed Search with Panda and Other Link-Killing Algorithms
Google in many ways killed search, in my honest opinion, for many companies with its Panda algorithm update last April, 2012. Their objective was simply to de-rank websites with spammy backlinks. While this makes sense for sites that illegitimately are getting onto Page 1, it doesn’t for many innocent businesses hiring white-hat SEO companies, that in some cases now need to restructure their entire on-line business model thanks to Panda. Google’s answer to businesses that have been wronged was for webmasters to submit spreadsheets of removed links through Google Webmaster Tools, and also to provide feedback using a form they created in Google Docs. In effect they multiplied their workload exponentially by now needing to fire-fight hundreds of millions of websites!
While I understand their objective, they should have tested it further and considered the repercussions. I don’t feel that they did that, and it makes Google look amateurish. So much so that it makes one wonder if right now Google even knows what it’s doing, let alone the rest of us!
To add insult to injury, Google’s now furthered their link-killing campaign by penalizing advertorials. At the same time Google will give credit to itself, lending to the idea that there may be a double standard invoked by Google.
These are big strikes against Google when:
1. Facebook is boasting that their search engine is better than Google’s because while Google relies on artificial intelligence, Facebook can leverage real human intelligence to give users what they want, and
2. Yahoo is being successfully run (so far) by Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s original employees and the brains behind many of Google’s most innovative features, including GMail.
This is also a big problem for SEO companies when almost every linking strategy that’s thought of is being put down by Google. How are SEO companies to know what works/doesn’t work for Google/Panda when it seems like Google even doesn’t?
3. Google Places or Plus Business Pages – Which is It?
From the beginning I said that Google Places (formerly Local Business Listings) was operated with a Wild West mentality. Fast-forward 3 years later, I still maintain that stance. While Google has made a valiant effort to integrate all of their products into one unit, they have failed to do the same with Google Places, which is a shame as it ties in with Google Maps.
For example, some glaring problems with Google Places are:
1. Lack of multiple accounts.
One is unable to share a Google Places listing with multiple accounts. If an account is made with one email address, it cannot be moved. You need to re-create the listing, but that also means that reviews will need to be re-created from scratch.
2. Post-card Verification Only
The only type of verification today is through a post-card mailed in within 2-3 weeks of registering a “place.” This is surprising considering how everything around us is going paperless and all one needs is for a negligent mailman to drop the card somewhere in the street.
3. No way to claim an already-claimed listing
If one wants a listing showing ones own business changed or taken off but the listing is owned by a different email address, good luck in changing that.
4. No Phone Support
Google does not provide phone support for Places. This is a problem as Places is tied into everything including Adwords. However, Google will provide support for Adwords but not Places or any other service. Again, it’s all about money as Adwords is the primary money-maker for Google.
Meanwhile, Google Plus, a completely different script, has Business pages that also integrates with Google Maps. Google Plus pages is much more robust and allows for multi-account administration, no verification and more, so it’s easy to see that this is the direction that Google seems to be taking. However, the transition between these two still-very-different interfaces is a pain.
So what’s next for Google? Are they phasing out more products, or looking to restructure? All I can say is, if Google continues to annoy more people with their policies, people will gradually opt out of Google until there’s not much left.
People say that accusing people or places of being evil is the direct result of ignorance. With Google, I will admit that I like many other SEO’s are ignorant/unaware of what thinking is going on in Google’s GooglePlex. Somehow I believe that even Google doesn’t know what it’s thinking! It’s grown so large and confusing that finding it’s own brain would involve a treasure hunt.