Google's 'death penalty' strikes another company

The penalty for manipulating search results has been levied on Ricoh's German site, but the policy has come under criticism from some users

A decision by Google to blacklist BMW's German Web site for allegedly boosting its Internet search ranking in breach of Google guidelines has divided experts and Web users, as another big-name company comes in for the same treatment.

Office equipment giant Ricoh has also now found itself on the end of Google's search sanctions in Germany but some critics of Google's "death penalty" say companies are being punished unfairly for having the savvy to make Google's system work for them. Others joining the debate however have praised Google for keeping large multinational companies in check.

A spokesman for Ricoh Europe admitted there have been some issues with Ricoh Germany which are currently being dealt with.

The spokesman said: "Other Ricoh Web sites in the European region comply with the regulations as stipulated by Google. Meanwhile, Ricoh Germany has looked into the Google standard and has every intention of complying shortly."

By Google's own rules that means the sanctions should be lifted. However, not everybody is in favour of such measures being imposed in the first place.

While reader Rajeev Dhiman from Toronto, Canada, expressed his support for the search giant's actions, others aren't convinced.

Dhiman wrote: "This is why Google is the best in the market. This act further strengthens peoples' trust in Google."

However, another reader who offers search engine optimisation services, seen by some as a controversial industry, said this problem is largely of Google's own making.

He said: "No matter how smart Google's robotic minions are at scouring the Web for new content, they often fail when it comes to accurately indexing those results to best reflect what users really want. Sadly, as a consequence, webmasters nowadays design primarily for Google; actual humans are an afterthought.

"As such, you cannot blame BMW for targeting Google's spiders and humans separately."

Another reader, John Ray, from York in the UK, suggested some double standards might be at play where Google's treatment of the public and private sector are concerned: "According to Google, 'We cannot tolerate Web sites trying to manipulate search results'.

"Does that apply to China?" he asked, referring to the search giant's recent decision to filter results in the country, in accordance with the wishes of the Chinese government.

A number of other readers raised the same issue.