Google search people decided some time ago that retailing online is a bad thing and made it more difficult for sites with many product sales pages to get seen. Affiliate marketing is undesirable in their eyes and pages with affiliate links can get marked down. Prominent positioning of ads above the fold is also in their opinion objectionable.
The fact that all of this is profoundly inconsistent with their own Adwords, Adsense and Affiliate Network businesses has apparently escaped their notice. Or has it? Actually it doesn’t need to worry them because they only apply the rules to other people, not to themselves.
If you don’t believe that, just look at the search results page for any popular search term. As an example SEO Book carried an interesting post a few weeks back on Google’s aggressive positioning in the Make Money Online niche. Oh, and I’m also waiting to see them apply the same rules to Amazon as to other online retailers. It is sad also to see that to some extent Bing appears to be following down the same road. See this post on Search Engine Land.
As I’ve said several times I do not wish to be anti-Google. I prefer to be a constructively critical friend, but this positioning becomes increasingly difficult to maintain as their business ethics deteriorate. There are two fundamental flaws in their thinking that I want to deal with in this post.
- It is true that some people (and yes, maybe a lot) dilute the content of the web with sloppy sites that carry little of value, are padded with badly written almost incomprehensible “articles” and promoted using ‘black-hat’ techniques. It is not, however, morally valid to respond to this situation by “taking a sledge-hammer to crack a nut”, demonising and destroying honest, hard-working online retailers in the process … which brings me to my second point.
- Google’s position regarding what they see as “thin” sites runs absolutely counter to all historic retailing logic. Small-town high street stores, by present-day Google logic, do not “add value” to what they are selling and should all be closed down. All they do is display goods for people to come in and buy. In fact in many cases they don’t even do that; products are simply on a shelf or in a cupboard waiting to be asked for. No value added! Shut them down!
What absolute nonsense! A small retail store adds value by bringing together a selection of products into a location where people can buy them. Having them two hundred miles away is not much use. Location IS value.
And what does an online retailer do but bring products together on a site where people can browse, and buy if they wish. Where is the difference? Where is the need to add anything beside providing the locational convenience of having a selection of items together on the site for people to look at? Blocking basic retail sites from view is akin to building a brick wall along the high street to prevent passers by from seeing the storefronts.
What more need I say? Search engine ethics need a radical overhaul.