Google: Can You Really Trust Them Or Not?

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Surely you have seen the news by now that Google allows certain employees to manually adjust index rankings under special circumstances. Needless to say, the implications are rather widespread.

According to what I’ve read, employees sometimes have to make a judgment call about whether to lower a site’s ranking for a particular keyword or set of keywords.  The main scenario where this is deemed “okay” by Google is when companies vertically integrate to a content-heavy model, using existing “SEO Juice” to enjoy visibility that is not yet deserved. That certainly seems like a good thing, does it not? Particularly since big brands can leverage existing budgets, SEO benefits, etc. much more easily than the smaller outfits or self-employed. In a sense, it can serve to provide a little bit of level to the playing field, whether inconsequential or not.

The issue that this raises is much more concerning, though. If employees can manually adjust rankings based on that situation, what else might be going on “behind the curtain?”

Let’s look at a few spins on this scenario where this is particularly concerning:

  1. The employee has a significant portion of his/her nestegg invested in the company in question
  2. The employee has relatives or friends employed by or invested heavily in the company
  3. The company in question is one of the top advertisers on Google AdWords (i.e. they contribute a rather noticeable amount of revenue to the company’s coffers)

Obviously, you have to presume that Google takes every precaution possible to employ honest, trustworthy individuals.  But even the most stringent interviewing, background checks, and even IQ/Compatibility testing can be fooled or just plain incorrect. In other words, in a company of this magnitude, you can’t hit the bullseye every single time you make a hire.

When you insert human judgment into the equation, everything changes. This mystical and ever-changing Google “Formula” is no longer strictly driven by rules and standards. The whole model comes under question. And, much to Google’s chagrin, they may no longer be able to keep their”secret sauce” so close to the vest, lest the company open itself up to an onslaught of potential legal challenges.

As perplexed as I am about the news, I’m also intrigued to see where this takes us. Will the “new Microsoft” finally take its first big legal smack to the face? Will this blow over without much ado? I don’t know about you, but I want to be sure that they are actually doing everything they say they are. One lie suggests there may be more, so best of luck to the Google PR department on getting some rest over the coming days and weeks.

What do you think? Am I overthinking this, or do you also have issues now with their credibility? Can you afford to bail on AdWords completely, or is it too important to your ongoing operations to bail?