Google is preparing for each day in court, after a precedent-setting move
by a Florida judge who denied the program giant’s motion to dismiss
a case that would redefine how businesses engage in program optimization.
The case is particularly noteworthy, as most previous challenges supported Google’s search results have resulted in immediate dismissal.
Google claims the plaintiff, e-ventures Worldwide LLC,
engaged in “search engine manipulation” so as to cause its websites to ranked higher in Google’s search results,
stating that doing so was “bad behavior” that had to be deterred. Consequently,
Google summarily de-indexed many of the plaintiff’s websites without review or redress.
The de-indexing wasn’t supported algorithmic rules or webmaster
guidelines, rather, subjectively applied supported an anonymous tip from an unnamed third party.
The larger question here is chilling to virtually any small business
which seeks a better ranking since Google’s own definition of program manipulation is vague and unpredictable.
consistent with a quick filed by e-ventures’ attorney Alexis Arena at Flaster Greenberg PC,
“Under Google’s definition, any website owner that attempts to cause its website to rank higher,
in any manner, might be guilty of ‘pure spam’ and blocked from Google’s search results, without explanation or redress.”
“It seemed as if I used to be personally targeted by Google,” said Jeev Trika, CEO of e-ventures Worldwide.
“I would purchase a fresh domain and post nothing quite ‘bye bye world’ and within minutes, Google would de-index that domain too.
So, Google’s argument that it had been removing websites because they were violating Google webmaster guidelines falls flat.
it had been not about the website content, it had been about targeting the website owner.
the very fact that Google targets people like this is often not something
that’s according to their published policies, or what they tell the general public.”
The brief notes that “search engine manipulation” includes anything done to an internet site to form it more visible on Google —
and thus virtually any business using generally accepted SEO tactics (or any marketing tactics, for that matter) might accused of manipulation,
giving Google an excuse to de-list an internet site arbitrarily and out of doors of its algorithmic process,
or as within the case of e-ventures Worldwide, de-index all of an internet site owner’s properties summarily.
Should Google prevail, commonly used tactics like title tags, incorporating keywords in headlines, incorporating legitimate backlinks,
or maybe writing a daily blog would all be suspect.
The result of this case could dramatically
affect how virtually every business in the world does its online marketing.
A First Amendment question.
Google is saying First Amendment rights, stating that it’s a publisher and liberal to publish or not publish anything it sees fit.
How Google defines publishing may be a little bit of a stretch
they are doing publish a constantly evolving list of algorithmically-ranked links to websites,
but that’s by no means equivalent to operating as a media outlet that exercises editorial discretion.
By journalistic definition, a SERP isn’t an equivalent thing to a piece of writing —
it’s just a mechanically ranked database.
Google’s entire case, however, rests on a primary Amendment argument.
There is a crucial distinction being brought call at this case
that goes far beyond the rights of e-ventures Worldwide and calls into question
the very nature of SEO and digital marketing. In previous cases,
the courts have found that Google does indeed have First Amendment protection,
but in those cases, the questions associated with the rankings of an internet site,
instead of deletion of internet sites just because they were affiliated with an individual or a corporation.
Previous cases have held that,
for instance, if someone claims they ought to ranked higher within the SERP than Google shows,
Google prevails on First Amendment principles.
“But, if Google bans 366 websites from all search results because they’re affiliated with a specific person or company,
then that’s a really different thing than anything the courts have addressed previously,”
said Alexis Arena, e-ventures Worldwide’s attorney.
Google didn’t offer a response to our request for a comment,
but they did provide a replica of their most up-to-date June 1 legal filing,
which attempted to strengthen their First Amendment claims and argue again for dismissal, a
reinforcing its opinion that program results are “editorial opinions”
and thus qualify for First Amendment protection.
What is SEO and is it a legitimate strategy?
“Before Google refined their algorithm, the primary page of search results
often might achieved with tactics like keyword stuffing and artificial linking schemes,
but those days gone,” said Jeev Trika, CEO of e-ventures Worldwide.
“Because of changes to Google’s algorithms,
Web publishers like myself now go the additional mile to supply websites and articles that are relevant,
useful, and written to journalistic standards, which has made the virtual world a far better place.”
But, says Trika, Google has overstepped its bounds in invoking
First Amendment rights to arbitrarily quash websites without review,
on the idea of an unsubstantiated third party anonymous tip, and out of doors the realm
of the Google algorithm.
“Google’s actions deny businesses the essential right to plug themselves within the digital economy,” said Trika
Google actually controls the marketplace for Internet advertising, and must held to a better standard.”
Trika suggests “Google isn’t drawing a distinction between generally accepted program optimization techniques –
like simply creating and publishing outstanding articles and useful information
and what they ask as program ‘manipulation.’
SEO is just engaging in an ever-changing array of tactics to realize recognition
something businesses have done long before the web existed.
By Google’s own definition of ‘manipulation,’
any company using header tags or incorporating keywords into headlines
might be subject to arbitrary de-indexing.”
“Google’s business model isn’t,
at the top of the day, providing a free program or publishing data, it’s selling advertisements,” said Trika.
“The free program is simply a vehicle for doing so. Google has an economic reason to deny legitimate Web publishers who are promoting SEO placement within
the SERPs in order that they will sell more advertisements,
but that sort of anti-competitive action shouldn’t protected by the primary Amendment.”
Ever since the primary advertisement appeared in the very first newspaper,
companies have attempted to use marketing, advertising,
and PR tactics to bring more attention to themselves. SEO is simply another tool during this time-honored commercial tradition.
the result of this case could have an enduring effect on
how companies move their marketing initiatives into the digital world.