The dark nature of Google's business ... and self-driving cars

The dark nature of Google's business ... and self-driving cars

Summary: The nature of Google's business isn't well understood by mainstream media which often portrays the search giant as a car company...

TOPICS: Google Apps, Google



The Googleplex - Google's HQ from above [$GOOG]. Credit: Tom Foremski

It's remarkable how few journalists understand Google's business and how what it does or doesn't do affects massive volumes of commerce around the globe.

If I were running the New York Times I would keep half-a-dozen journalists focused on Google 24/7 because it's that important.

Instead, we get very little real coverage of Google and what goes on beneath the hood, because the mainstream media doesn't know much about Google at all. It's easier to write about self-driving cars than to delve into the complexities of Google's business.

And Google loves to point people to its self-driving cars, because it's a red herring that has nothing to do with it's business except to keep the prying eyes of media distracted and focused away from its core activities.

Eric Schmidt, chairman and former CEO of Google, is a little like Google's self-driving car -- designed to take attention away from the rest of Google. We never hear anything insightful or revealing about Google from Mr Schmidt because he's not that plugged into the company, his job is to act as a lightning rod and keep others from digging into the business practices of the search giant.

You'll notice that Mr Schmidt's forthcoming book "The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business" is co-authored with Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, to provide some ideas about the future. Even then, I wonder if it will be worth buying when I read an excerpt such as this:

Soon everyone on Earth will be connected. With billions more people set to join the virtual world in the next few years, the boon in digital connectivity will bring to the physical world enormous gains in productivity, health, education, and quality of life.

By 2025, the majority of the world's population will, in one generation, have gone from having virtually no access to unfiltered information to having almost unlimited access to all of the world's information through its largest ungoverned space -- the Internet.

As this space grows larger our understanding of nearly every aspect of life will change, from the minutia of our daily lives to more fundamental questions about identity, relationships and even our own security.

It reads like a high school essay cribbed from old copies of Wired magazine.

For a taste of the complexity of Google's world, and everyone that's trying to make money in that world, take a look at this infographic from SEOBook attempting to explain the many different strategies that Google uses when updating its search algorithm.

Google's goal is to confuse search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and to uncover aggressive SEO techniques through delaying, or obfuscating results from SEO changes being made.

By making it harder to link a change in a web site, with the resulting change in search rank, Google believes it can fight SEO and clean up its search rankings.

Unfortunately, it also means that a lot of legitimate online businesses can lose rank overnight and lose revenues for no fault of theirs but due to clumsy algorithm changes that favor big brands and big business.

The past couple of years of algorithm changes have been very hard on small online businesses, and forums are full of heart breaking stories of decimated revenues and job cuts.

This comes at a time when Washington D.C. is looking to Silicon Valley and "innovation" as helping jumpstart a deeply troubled economy and create millions of new jobs. That's not going to happen and Google is a good example of why that won't happen -- if you understand its business -- which few journalists do.

This infographic is not easy to follow unless you are in the business of search engine marketing. However, it does give outsiders a view of the territory that nearly every online business has to deal with on a constant basis -- trying to keep up with algorithm changes that can sink or swim your business, without warning, and often like an act of god, without rhyme or reason.

(Here's a much larger version.)




Topics: Google Apps, Google

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  • Excellent article

    When you don't pay for a product you are the product and you are very valuable to Google.

    In their rush to "own you" Google will sell you products where

    1) they have stolen IP from other companies; their short-cut to innovation
    2) they have not taken enough care to protect your own Personal Information from theft; malware prone
    3) the products/services you want to review impartially in a results set are in fact paid-for
    4) are in beta until they are dropped to force you to pay
    5) taxes are avoided in the markets they sell those products in
    6) your private data - including Wi-Fi access - is hoovered up for Google's benefit

    If you think that is all okay then you are a sheep ...
    • You need to reaccess your own worth.

      1. Please bring forth a law suit if Google has stolen any IP from any company.
      2. My personal data that Google has collected has never been stolen from me or from Google. It is probably safer with Google than anywhere else.
      3. The results on Google shopper are actually better than then ones from Bing. I want better links and I don't care if they are paid for or not. (stop eating up Microsoft's marketing FUD)
      4. No one ever forces you to pay a dime. If you don't want the service, then don't use it or buy it if eventually it has a price. If you don't like Google's services, don't use them.
      5. Provide data that says Google has violated one single tax related law. They simply follow the law and their books are pretty transparent. They are a publicly traded company my gosh.
      6. No one gives a rip about your stupid wifi password and I really doubt Google is going to access the internet via your wifi hotspot anyway. How retarded.

      You are a self-absorbed sycophant that thinks Google, a multi-billion dollar company, cares about anything you do. Get a grip. If you don't like their services, don't use them. Use some other company like hypocritical Microsoft that will do the same thing but be less transparent about it. At least with Google you can delete or export your own personal information. Just try doing that with Facebook, Microsoft, or Apple.
      • Google paid $2.5 billion in 2004 for stealing IP (contextual advertisment

        ... software engine and whole concept was a theft). So they never had issue with stealing IP.

        Few years later Schidt was sitting on Apple board, and Jobs gave Google early access (2006) to iPhoneOS (iOS) and its APIs to make maps and YouTube applications. And sometime later Google abandoned their "Blackberry clone" concept for Andoid and all of sudden made it multi-touch UI-based. Since Google is not directly profiting from it, Samsung was fined.
        • Steve Jobs

          Schmidt never stole anything, Steve Jobs and Apple shared there ideas with Schmidt and from the lack of lawsuit against, Schmidt suggest he did not sign a sign a confidentiality agreement or any contract that says he should leave the room if Google was working on any similar products.

          When some hands a bunch of ideas its not stealing.
    • Sheep?

      truly sounds like a typical apple fanboi response ...
  • Great Article! Hell yea!!

    Excellent job spreading fear, uncertainty & doubt (FUD)! Absolutely not a fact in site! Really doing the media a favor with this great writing. "Eric Schmidt is not that plugged in with his company." And how did you come to this conclusion? How about instead you look @ Microsoft & Apple and leave the good guys alone?
  • What's your answer?

    If their algorithms were easy to understand or manipulate, then google wouldn't serve much of a purpose.
  • Sounds like someone's website droped out of sight

    in searches and someone's not happy about that.
  • You called Schmidt a figurehead

    So who really is in charge and how does Google hope to make money?
    John L. Ries
    • Page and Brin

      Those guys have always run things at Google on the technology side, Schmidt has always handle the business, legal and marketing side, often following Brin and Page orders and philosophy.
      He devotes all his time nowadays to the marketing and legal sides of the business and his own private ventures. While letting Page and Brin run the day to day business.
  • the other half of the story

    the sales pitch of companies selling SEO is that they can help a small business improve its page rank. Do they do that by helping the company deliver a better online experience to its customers? Do they do it by helping small companies offer a better range of products and services than their competitors? No, they do it by gaming the system. The real losers aren't the companies who suddenly lose out when their SEO tactics are blocked. The real losers are the companies that try are pushed down in the rankings by an SEO customer leapfrogging to an unwarranted position.
    • Correct

      SEO is an industry that shouldn't exist. I've no objections whatever to Google's efforts to prevent gaming of the system.
      John L. Ries
  • You said nothing.

    Please provide data that Google has a dark side about which you have anything to share.

    I think the excerpt from Eric Schmidt's book sounds better than what you wrote in this article. "It reads like a high school essay cribbed from old copies of Wired magazine." You are one to be talking when you basically said absolutely nothing here.
  • Tin Hat Sales Must be Booming

    Considering the doom that google is bringing. Sorry, no, that's just the author's take on what he doesn't understand. It's quite amusing that he states so many journalists don't know what happens at google yet doesn't have the cahonas to admit the same is true of himself.
    If you ignore the empty rhetoric that you seem keen on, what does this article say? Google are evil if you rely solely on their search ranking to sell your products. Of course no one notices how evil google are because we're all looking at self-driving cars - BS!
    Little Old Man
  • SEO should not matter.

    If your attention span is so limited that you look no further than the first few hits then that is a problem you should address. If I am looking for something I page down until I start seeing a lot of Chinese and then pay attention to those hits above that. At least, to those that actually have useful information in them. If there were a subject I would like to see the author and his kind spend some time complaining about it would be the spread of 'shopping services' and other undefinable 'services' that simply post pages of lists that usually don't even link to anything useful anyway. Do something useful ZDNet!
  • Google has Changed

    In Larry Page's and Sergey Brin's paper "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine" which was their paper introducing Google, one of their points of differentiation they said was, "We expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers."

    Of course that was before they were an advertising funded search engine. Now it's quite the opposite, and that's exactly what they've become.

    Over time they've made it harder for small companies to get traffic from them as they've filled the search results with ads above the fold (pushing down the other non-paid listings) and appear to have tweaked their algorithms to favor websites that have signals of a big brand. Considering most searchers don't look past the top few listings on the first page, this has had significant effects on smaller businesses which don't have the budget to compete with big brands.

    Google also penalizes websites for having too many ads above the fold as they say it creates a bad user experience, but many of their own search results are nothing EXCEPT ads above the fold.

    Google also was fined $500 million in 2011 for knowingly running ads for rogue pharmacies that didn't require prescriptions.

    Google is also facing heat from the FTC and European authorities over anti-trust issues and has hired over 10 lobbying firms to help them fight these.

    I think Google makes great products (I use Gmail and their search engine) but they are far from innocent and I think the author of this post does a good job of outlining some of the things Google has done to make it harder for small businesses to compete online these days.