Google Violators and The New York Times: No One Cares
It’s happened again, the New York Times (no link as I refuse to support this sort of grade-school tattling) has blown the lid off another big, monstrous paid link scandal. This time, it was the Mother’s Day Flowers cabal. Yes, those virginal flower companies have been naughty, stacking up paid links to stack up SERP position for one of their biggest runs of the season. So, as long as they’ve been called out, here’s the line up per the NYT: Teleflora, FTD, 1800Flowers.com, and ProFlowers.
But here’s the news flash: no one cares. Not Joe, not Jane, and definitely not anyone interested in flowers for their loved ones. Sorry. Them’s the facts. When you piece together Aaron Wall’s latest rendition on SEO Book, The Google Brand Bias, in conjunction with how JCP and Overstock have “recovered” from their “slap”.
The New York Times is Not Your Mother
First, I’m going to come out an say it. Stop “tattling” to the NYT. Seriously. It’s school-yard crap that needs to stop. The only thing that accomplishes is to give the whole industry a black eye. It’s paints us as unscrupulous, unethical turds. Once is forgiven, twice is a pattern.
If you have issues with something, just take it to Google or Bing. You know they’ll read it, and if they do nothing, then move on. What you don’t do is go crying to Big Media in attempt to force somebody’s hand. Keep doing that, and the GOOG will be likely to crush you all the next time for showing their ass in public (again).
The Brand Bias is Real
In combination with the Vince Update and the Domain Update [a.k.a. implicit site search], where big brands are getting multiple results at the top of the SERPs, (effectively doing ORM for big brands) it’s impossible for big brands not to get a better than fair shake. It’s always about brands, suggesting otherwise is naive.
That’s Why Joe and Jane Person Could Care Less
Brands are brands for a reason; they have consumer clout, they offer price break deals (in relative terms), and they advertise their asses off in other mediums: television, radio, print, web, etc. They achieve a saturation level at astronomical speeds. And so stuffing a single channel isn’t that much damage to a big brand. Sure they may take a revenue hit in the short-term, but other efforts even this out. That’s the “dirty little secret” no one wants to talk about.
So while a handful of Joe’s and Jane’s likely care as Danny Sullivan pointed out, it’s hard to imagine that these revelations startle anyone but marketplace we aim to provide our skill set and services to.
Showing Google’s Ass in Public: How’s That Working Out for You?
That’s all the tattles, the New York Times, and the Wall St. Journal served to do, drop Google’s pants in a very public way. And, all it made Google do is break out a temporary pimp-hand to show justice has been served. And, if you ask JCP or Overstock how they’re feeling today, they’ll probably say, “just fine thanks”. The numbers don’t lie:
Here’s how the numbers breakdown for each of them:
- Year over Year Gains (March 2010 – March 2011): +17% gain in unique visitors
- 1 Month Post NYT Scandal Article (Feb 2011 – March 2011): +6% gain in unique visitors
- Year over Year Gains (March 2010 – March 2011): -7% gain in unique visitors
- 1 Month Post WSJ Scandal Article (Feb 2011 – March 2011): -7% gain in unique visitors
So, clearly, Overstock got the worst of it, but a 7% decrease is small price to pay. The more interesting of the two is JCP. Not only did they get 17% lift over the year, but EVEN AFTER the “supposed” penalization, they still got a 6% lift. It’s quite clear that the “scandal” did absolutely nothing to effect JCP site traffic, in fact, one could argue for the old adage, “there’s no such thing as bad press”. And with the help of AdWords and distributors, there was hardly a tremor felt. Furthermore, it speaks to the power of brand in the eyes of Google and consumers.
What Can We Learn From This?
A couple of things to be certain. First, exploit as many media channels as you can. My gut says that if Overstock were engaging in some other media channels, they could have lessened the meager 7% decrease and probably broke even or had even a slight increase in traffic. Second, Google provides these penalizations as nothing more than dog and pony shows of justice. Even after a public Google ass-showing from the New York Times, JcPenney was doing better. It tells us these “penalties” are nothing more than facades masquerading as “fair and balanced” play. It also tells us, the more renown your brand is, the bigger the facade.
So by all means, keep feeding Big Media these tales of sordidness. Just know that your efforts, as Aaron rightly points out, feed “sleazy pageview journalism”, and serve to puncture holes in industry.