Here’s a quote from the article that speaks volumes to me (with my emphasis).
“Here’s where the parallel to free trade breaks down. There are no perfect paradigms looking at free trade and import/export laws that exactly define or address this challenge.”
And now my thoughts regarding the rest of the article:
1) I believe that the article is most definitely written by an employee of a competing search engine challenging the Google model.
Google is the gold standard of online search, which means they are and have been doing something right. If users didn’t find results to be consistent and relevant, then Google would not be as dominant as it is. This may come off as common sense statement, but I think a lot of users just take it for granted that Google exists and is as powerful as it is.
2) It’s true that the Internet marketplace is incredibly saturated. And unlike the real world, where people choose a store based on location, personalized customer service, and visual appeal, the Internet doesn’t work that way. Google will tell you which sites are the most relevant based on what your keywords say you’re looking for. The overlap between Internet and real-world shopping is word-of-mouth. Where the Internet trumps real life is that word-of-mouth travels at lightspeed over the Net. Think about how many times customer service horror stories have made their rounds on the Web. The Internet is both the best tool for PR and its worst enemy.
3) Google is not the be-all and end-all of online commerce. Certain specialty “watchdog” sites that compare products, prices and merchants (the latter two of which Google has a market share) via user reviews are really where experienced buyers will look to first. Seasoned Internet shoppers know how to find the best prices for goods, the best sites for individual product reviews, and ratings for online stores. I feel that the author of the article underestimates the ingenuity of the Internet populace.
4) Wikipedia probably has the best model of collaborative effort on the Web. But how would you apply this paradigm to the search industry? First and foremost, you would need community moderation- the staple of Wikipedia. You would need people willing to spend their time in order to improve results, eliminate biases, and ultimately convey the “truth” behind the SEO smoke and SEM mirrors. I am certain that Google believes that those they employ can do a better job than the combined efforts of the Internet community. And who can blame them? Look how far their trust has brought the company.
5) Google pretty much singlehandedly drives the SEO/SEM industry. The ever-changing and evolving secret algorithm keeps these marketing and optimization companies in business while also helping to prevent abuse.
I interned for a successful search marketing agency, and I can tell you that results can be delivered for new companies without using black-hat tactics. It takes hard work and real insight (which is why so many companies outsource).
And here’s one of the most important lessons I learned while working there: You have to believe in your clients. If you don’t, then your chances of improving pagerank will certainly diminish. On the other hand, if your clients believe in their goods and/or service and your SEO/SEM company informs them of changes they should make to improve both content and User Experience, then you’re already many steps ahead of the competition.
6) Google does not police the Internet. Google polices its own service. The article’s main analogy is flawed in that it doesn’t consider other continents. I suppose comparing Google to a country is more apt. The country imposes its own laws on its citizens the same way Google moderates search results. And there are smaller continents with their own sets of rules for those who don’t wish to become citizens of Google. Google is not a monopoly. Of course, it would be ignorant to state that Google is not a huge factor in online business success, but there is definitely room for improvement. Do you think Microsoft would sink upward of $100 million into Bing had they not done their market research? If Google doesn’t give the people the kind of search engine they want, then there is definitely room for another company to develop one. Bing offers a somewhat fresh search model based on their own laws. But only time will tell how big and powerful Bing country becomes.
7) Google is not a malicious dictatorship. I firmly believe that both profit and user experience are equal drivers of development and innovation for their products. It’s true that Google will pull site listings that are, for lack of a better word, ‘fishy.’ SEO/SEM veterans have warned me about how to avoid angering Google moderators, but have also told me about how Google can be merciful. There exists an appeals system and Google will consider reviewing your infraction. You just have to make a case that you’re above using sneaky methods and that you really deserve a spot on Google.
That last part is so important that I’ll repeat it: You have to make a case that you deserve a spot on Google. The search spiders and Ad buying will only take you so far. User behavior will let Google know which sites people like the most and how accurate meta descriptions and keywords really are.
At the end of the day, it’s the users who have the most power, and not a single search engine.