We took action on vivint.com because it was spamming with low-quality or spam articles like
- https://web.archive.org/web/20130919184930/http://anadesign.... for "Alburquerque NM home security system"
and a bunch more links, not to mention 25,000+ links from a site with a paid relationship where the links should have been nofollowed.
When we took webspam action, we alerted Vivint via a notice in Webmaster Tools about unnatural links to their site. And when Vivint had done sufficient work to clean up the spammy links, we granted their reconsideration request. This had nothing whatsoever to do with Nest. The webspam team caught Vivint spamming. We held them (along with many other sites using the same spammy guest post network) accountable until they cleaned the spam up. That's all.
Digging a bit deeper I found that the bottom two links you mention Matt are both scraped from a site called freshome.com. This raises the question should sites/brands be worried about content that gets scraped and put on low quality sites? That sort of "manipulation" seems quite inorganic.
My second question is what about Nest posting on Freshome.com as well found here:
THEN we see the scrapes on the same sites found here:
Notice how both NEST articles are found on doyoulovewhereyoulive.com AND arch.itect.us?
Case in point, Nest has links from the EXACT SAME SITES and didn't get penalized. This raises a huge red flag. If these links are the reason that Vivint was penalized, I'd love to hear how Nest somehow managed to escape a penalty.
How is this possible? Matt is the ultimate super-nice guy, and I think he's sincerely helpful and motivated, but he's nonetheless the keeper of a smoke screen.
I think this way of handling (better: brushing off) issues is unacceptable for a giant corporation whose search branch personifies the Web for a way too large amount of users.
Google is in a position of monopoly, at least on a cultural basis. Even if they don't exploit their power with evil intentions, they still retain it. They corporate mission may state what they want, but I don't get why that should be enough. It's a Public Company, and nobody should ever be satisfied with answers of the "take our word for it" kind.
And that "don't be evil" mantra? I've seen much too shit in the last few years to still believe it's not just an empty marketing motto.
I think the other problem is that search doesn't matter as much to anyone else. Yes, Microsoft made Bing, but Bing is essentially a side project for MS -- their crown jewels are Office and Windows, and everything in the company revolves around that.
Just like everything MS does ultimately comes back to Office and/or Windows, everything Google does ultimately comes back to search. If a company with resources, like Amazon or Microsoft, made search a top-tier priority, they could take marketshare from the big G.
One potential move that would greatly assist Bing, for instance, would be for Microsoft to make Android phones and put Bing as the search provider instead of Google. They could team up with Amazon and use Amazon's app store. Instead of doing this, Microsoft released a totally separate platform. Why did they do that? Because Java is competition to C#. Who cares about C#? Microsoft cares, because C# (and Xbox, and...) is about keeping Windows the dominant platform for any and all software, because that's how you keep selling Windows licenses and keep Windows shipping on every PC sold. It's all about protecting their lock-in. If MS embraced Android, they may help Bing, but they'd be undermining the Windows lock-in strategy.
Every company comparable to Google has similar problems. DDG is noble but nowhere in the type of ballpark where they can realistically compete (for now).
That being said I make sure that DuckDuckGo is always one keypress away, I still haven't managed to make it to a full switch but I try and use it more and more.
There's nothing in the mission statement about making money...
If you mean Google has to make money to survive in the long term, then that's absolutely true, just as it's true for any other company (Microsoft, Yahoo, DuckDuckGo etc.)
I don't see any evidence that Google is more profit centric than any other company.
Paving the way to hell have always looked great from the outside, you know, because of all the good intentions put towards it.
I have tried reporting a website that buys 100% of its links (I used to work for them and have tons of proof) and is being rewarded with 2.5-3mil hits a day from google and yet no one seems to care! Is there a way to get my point across or do I have to write a blog post that gets picked up by HN to get any action taken?
If none of those work, I often pass on spam reports that people tweet to me (or when they do a blog post and tweet me that link). You can also tweet to @googlewmc (for Google Webmaster Central). Or if you add an email address on your HN profile, I'll drop you a note.
I have tried the first link several times with no luck. I've heard that it's a myth that it actually gets checked but seems that may be wrong :)
I will try all the other avenues mentioned and worst case will fly to Seattle to report this site in person. Site that is blatantly spamming is plaintube and is ranking for an insane amount of adult terms. I'll try to get my point across via the methods you described. It would be wrong of me to hijack this thread to get my point across anymore. Thanks for your time.
I'm surprised that such tactics work in 2014, and am just as surprised that I got your attention. Hacker news is a powerful place!
I think the only thing that made it a tad fishy was the timing. It just seemed like the acquisition happened, then the penalty tight after.
Regarding timing, Blekko did a neat site called http://www.spamclock.com/ that claims a million spam pages are created every hour. It's safe to assume that Google algorithmic + manual protections against spam have to operate at that scale. As Del Harvey pointed out in a recent TED talk at http://blog.ted.com/2014/03/19/how-to-keep-240-million-twitt... , "[At Twitter], a one-in-a-million chance happens 500 times a day."
And since Google operates on an even bigger scale than the volume of daily tweets, you end up with these sort of occurrences. For example, it's virtually guaranteed that some website's rankings went up today, and they happened to start using AdWords today. Likewise, it's virtually guaranteed that some website's rankings dropped today, and they happened to start using AdWords today. There's no causality there--buying AdWords doesn't help your Google ranking--but to that particular website, it might look like causality even though it's just the law of large numbers. I think the logical fallacy is called "Post hoc, ergo propter hoc"?
Yeah, but the perception of a conspiracy is the price you pay for handwavey/non-specific guidance about what's wrong. If your notices are not specific, then it's hard for people to know definitively whether or not they are in compliance. The flip side of that, of course, is that if you are fully specific then bad actors will exploit that in order to game the system. But that's the price you pay for ubiquity. Taking your power for granted may backfire on you if a regulatory agency or a jury decides you are not as objective as you believe yourselves to be. Intent is less important than how it manifests from the perspective of a disinterested bystander.
the disconnect probably happened because you feel that telling people through an internal tool is adequate.
Why dont you simply include these links in your notice, so that there is no ambiguity?
So Google's banhammer is wielded by humans with biases...that much is clear...but do we really know the order of cause-and-effect here? Perhaps this suspicious timing was an inadvertent screwup of Vivint's...that is, right after Google's acquisition of Nest, someone on Vivint's marketing team thought, "Oh shit, better step up our back-link game"...and then took it to a level that triggered a Google investigation. That chain of events could also explain the coincidental timing...and also could mean that both Cutts and Vivint's CEO are both telling the honest truth, as far as they know (not all CEOs are privy to the actual workings and details of their marketing teams)
If only Google could get rid of their Doucebag salesman as well...
The reason of all that nonsense seems to be this article:
and notifications in Google Webmaster Tools that tell people that spammy links point to their website, but do not tell them specifically which links Google does not like. I understand that Google uses link data mainly to estimate popularity of a website.
I don't understand why so large company, a global monopoly with so large revenue, and so much data gathered, can't figure out which sites are more popular than others without wasting webmasters' time. What's so difficult about that task? Why shift any work burden on website owners?
If this task is too difficult, maybe it's time to support the competition, or create a serious competition. Maybe Google does not deserve to be the largest search engine and get all the profits.
So now, after the penalty hammer comes down the automatically placed junk supposedly has to be manually removed by the website where the spam was posted, usually accompanied by some vaguely threatening words to the effect of 'if you don't comply we'll use the disavow tool'.
I wish them good luck and refuse to honour any of these requests, they can disavow until they're blue in the face.
See, sending out those vaguely threatening emails is still almost at 0 penalty (it is an automated action) but using the google disavow tool requires a human.
Preferably google should add some really nasty captcha or hard to solve puzzle there for every link disavowed.
I wouldn't have paid to read your comment though, probably because I don't care about SEO. (Not a reflection on your comment.)
also, they continue to sell ads for these branded company searches to other competitors
But this is par for the course when it comes to small businesses interacting with Google. They don't give a crap about helping. They will gladly take your ad dollars, but anything outside of paying them is seen as an offense that can result in your company being banned.
Google is evil. Let there be zero doubts.
Is the company even a major player in the smart thermostat space? It's not even listed in this market analysis from last fall: http://cleantechnica.com/2013/11/14/honeywell-leads-smart-th....
It looks more like a competitor in the home automation systems space that sells smart thermostats mainly as part of a more comprehensive system.
Given the absence of action against any of their more major competitors, this seems like a coincidence.
> This article appears to be written like an advertisement. Please help improve it by rewriting promotional content from a neutral point of view and removing any inappropriate external links. (March 2014)
That said, three major things stand out, which are not link baity and really do indicate a problem.
First, Google is how people find things, that gives them extraordinary power to direct the market, and that power is operating completely unchecked.
Second, searching for Vivint, is what we at Blekko call a 'navigation search'. If you've typed in Vivint it is pretty clear the result you want, and in the article Google auto-corrects it away to vivino. Now I just typed vivint and it found it, but if Pando was accurate that a navlink wasn't found when they tried it, that would be a pretty egregious failure of a search engine, I could see 'smart thermostat' not listing them but not a search on their name.
And the final thing is of course the opacity of it all and the challenge of the algorithm. It really is a dead end until some sort of AI comes along, human curation did wonders for our index and Microsoft's. Google might do well to stop investing a billion dollars a quarter in acquiring traffic and instead spend that money making a cleaner index.
For example, searching eBay for "16 GB MicroSD cards" and then sorting by price returns a huge list of people selling a choice of an adapter for micro-SD to SD for 99pence or a MicroSD card for £X. Thus, sorting hy price just returns the proce for the adapter card (which I am not interested in).
Searching Amazon is a hideous experience where results are stuff with sometimes hundreds of irrelevant near duplicate results with no way to rapidly jump past them.
One way Blekko or DDG or Bing could earn my undying love is by making site specific search better. I would gladly click on result links even if you presented me with affiliate links.
(Speaking of shitty high-profile news site, my favourite pick is ReadWrie. 80% of what I've read on their site is utter garbage.)
> As someone who knows nothing about Pando, I'd love some more insight into why they supposedly suck.
This may not be a satisfying answer but it's the same reason as the one behind your opinion of ReadWrite: when you read enough of their articles (or at least enough of the ones that make it onto HN) and they're almost _all_ crap, it's a simple matter of numbers. As far as _how_ they got this way, just take a look at their pedigree; the founding members include the boot-scrapings of the tech-press: Sarah Lacy, Michael Arrington, M.G. Siegler, Farhad Manjoo, etc
It's the lesser-known writers churning out several articles a day on the site that are consistently laughably wrong about nearly everything. It's hard not to come to the conclusion that's because they churn out several a day.
Lacy's interviews are pretty decent quality, and I like the monthly in-depth interviews with the high-profile tech ceos.
I think Pando's obsession with "speaking truth to power" has led them to make some poor choices in desperate attempts to create controversy. It's a seductive path for a journalist, but you've got to learn to do it right, and I don't think they have yet.
According to that section, Vivint has made settlement/voluntary compliance agreements with, or been penalized by the states of Kansas, Ohio, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Washington, Louisiana, South Carolina, Minnesota, Tennessee, California, and Oregon upon accusations of fraud and deceptive practices.
Holy shit...Google has even more power than we had yet imagined! Talk about Pando burying the lede here.
Edit: Holy, holy shit: it appears that even Wikipedia itself is on the scam. At the very top of Vivint's Wikipedia entry, some Wikipedian/Nest-boardmember has placed a banner warning stating:
So a company that Google has wiped out from the search results also, within a few months later, has its Wikipedia entry vandalized by the Wikipedia Cabal to make it look like an advertisement for Vivint, as if Vivint or someone friendly to the company would ever break the rules on Wikipedia. Surely this is a conspiracy to end all conspiracies.
In terms of why it's marked as an advertisement, compare Vivint's wikipedia page to Nest Labs or Sonos and see what you think:
The historical versions are written in the same way too. They are advertisements, some PR guy at Vivint has written them to try and make the company sound good and added loads of backlinks.
It is clear they have spent alot of money buying links from their profile, but so has ADT.
A more fitting question would be why ADT hasn't also been penalized.
Because Google is not competing with ADT, YET?
I wonder if we will ever see ATT style, govt forced, split up of Google sometime within this generation...
You know there are laws but prosecutors decide whether to file charges or not or a police decide whether to pull over or not if the car is driving 8-9mph more than the speed limit. Be polite to them, you can get away or get less penalty. Show aggression to them, you will get charged for much more things than you were initially approached for. Sometimes you dont even know what that means. Once I got a traffic citation after making a wrong U-turn and since I was "showing attitude", I got citation for having foreign materials on my liscense plate?? LOL
Of course attitude= money in this context
“And, as they say, there’s no greater place to hide a dead body than on the second page of Google’s search results.” is a massively inflammatory statement.
They might or might not be in this case, we don't know enough to tell.
Page and Brin were geniuses in realizing early that search was the golden ring to reach for. They deserve their billions for bringing this amazing service to us; but now with shareholders muddying the waters I don't think this should be leveraged for other business efforts.
I too, don't think Google is in the wrong in this case. But the wider issue of having what is likely the largest gatekeeper of internet traffic own a growing list of other properties is likely to sooner or later become a major problem.
I also don't see how vivint makes the same products as nest or even making em a competitor... Nest is something that is coming from the future and I can assure you that vivint is not even close in that.
Also I don't get how Google is supposed to contact every website that puts on a banlist for innapropriate or missleading content...
As for the search engine problem, just use a different search engine. It's such a trivial problem to solve.
Now it's "what are you gonna do about it?"
How are websites selected for manual actions? Does someone get handed a list of sites to check out? Are they selected algorithmically? How are manual actions decided upon (when it is up to humans, it can be very inconsistently applied)? How are the results communicated to those affected (I hear that it is communicated in very vague and unhelpful ways via Webmaster tools)?
If one isn't friends with Matt Cutts or have deep SV connections (i.e. if I am not RapGenius), how does one get a manual action removed quickly? Apparently it is really really hard if you are not RapGenius.
Seriously, these manual actions are scary as hell for those relying on Google to send them traffic. If MF can be seriously harmed by a manual action, no one is safe.
OT: I don't usually complain about votes but the amount of downvotes in this thread is appalling. Anything critical of Google has been downvoted. Ironically, if asked, most people here would be against censorship of any kind, however for many that is valid as long as the opinion stays within their perception. Under the same argument, I can "predict" that this post like other similar ones before is going to flagged off the frontpage. Its starting to get repetitive enough to be no longer ignored. Not sure how the situation can be improved because in reality its very hard to built a community with diverse opinions.
This isn't nefarious, nor is it a coincidence. There's an article that any reasonable person can quickly recognize as complete garbage (look at other people's responses to your comment for more detailed explanations of why). The people that are convinced by this drivel are probably going to be the ones with an axe to grind for whatever reason, and almost by definition, most of the comments "critical of Google" in this thread specifically are going to be the same sort of idiotic fact-free drivel that you find in the article.
They create a set of rules that they apply on a very subjective basis.
Just one example, ever get hit with a thin content penalty?
Google has a video out that creating pages to market cities in every state appears against guidelines, I guess they forgot to tell that to Zillow (dominates google search for mortgage rates/city search) without real content and simply a rate widget advertisement feed, and there are hundreds of these examples out there.
Yet in a statement made over the porn model lawsuit, here was googles reply:
"Search engines are neutral platforms that do not create nor control content on the web,” Google said in a statement to CNN. One of the interviewees in the CNN video argued that the creators of content should be held responsible, not the search engines.
The rap genius penalty has already been highly publicized, but here is a good recap of how quickly the penalty was lifted.
This is beyond frustrating for small businesses to see this quick turnaround, when most small business owners are sent to the google webmaster forum, where they have to try to get problems solved by volunteers and not actual employees.
What small business owners need is a real voice and oversight to provide a tangible path back into the index, as opposed to the vague answers and rules that apply differently.
Google should be required to provide real employees supporting their web forums
Google should be required to provide clear examples of why a website was removed
Google should be required to provide clear timelines if a penalty has been placed on a website
Small business are pushed out of business when they are removed from Google, it’s time for some real change and forced transparency
The OP does not provide a shred of independent proof that Google unfairly penalized Vivint, and yet you're already rushing to what you apparently think is an inevitable conclusion (e.g. Who knows if this thing is at all true, but Google has been pretty fishy lately).
Come on, do a little research. Have you ever heard of Vivint before? I hadn't. So I (yes, I'll admit) Googled it and was surprised to find that Vivint bills itself as an "Affordable Home Security Systems" seller. OK, granted, I don't own a Nest device, so I googled "Nest" to see how they describe themselves...and Nest advertises itself as the "World's first Learning Thermostat. Programs itself. Saves Energy"
So help me out here, and I'll ask the mods to remove my downvote: what about a thermostat is directly competitive with a home security system? What about something that "programs itself" is at all analogous to an ADT-like system that seems to require human check-in, or at least a $50 a month service fee to have remote access? AFAIK, Nest's monitoring service is free, presumably because the thermostat is supposed to, well, "program itself" and thus requires less hands-on-touch by Nest.
And as someone already stated...at least a few of us HNers know of ADT...hell, I see their stickers everywhere...and has ADT complained about being wiped out of Google? I'd be willing to accept the possibility that ADT has paid its own "protection" fee to Google...but Jesus, there should be a level of evidence we accept to get to that accusation, and that level should exist beyond "website is tipped by competitor of Google believes that Google is out to kill competitors".
edit: to be fair, the OP has quotes (but no actual data, just claims) from a small company named FoxtailMarketing.com. That's also a place I've never heard of, but I have done the diligence of visiting their website to see what the company does...Here's the very first non-motto copy that shows up on the homepage:
> We guarantee that you will never be devalued or penalized by Google when you use our digital marketing strategy to build your brand online. At Foxtail Marketing, you can make your business more relevant online without fear of becoming obsolete.
A company that is built around telling people that they (Foxtail) can guarantee SEO-optimization without fear of penalty of the Google-banhammer...Call me skeptical, but unless the person behind FoxtailMarketing is Matt Cutts's best friend, then that kind of claim strikes me as the kind of thing a less-than-trustworthy firm might say, and that such a firm would benefit by being the "voice of expertise" in an otherwise one-sided story (the OP itself states that the story idea came from a "PR-organized dinner in San Francisco last night" in which Vivint's founder happened to be hanging out at). But maybe someone here has used Foxtail and can vouch for their SEO-magic?
Really? You couldn't think of a better example to compare my comment to?
>yet you're already rushing to what you apparently think is an inevitable conclusion. (e.g. Who knows if this thing is at all true, but Google has been pretty fishy lately).
Saying if there is truth to doing something illegal, things are going to get bad is not an inevitable conclusion or anywhere close to what it means. Its the same as saying if there is truth to the accusation that the politician accepted a bribe, his political career is in jeopardy.
> Come on, do a little research. Have you ever heard of Vivint before?
I would have if it did help sustain the point. The point is if Google is giving an unfair advantage to its own products regardless of the moral stance of their competitors. Your revision akin to "look, I don't know him and since he seems shady, his accusation of being robbed is false".
>So help me out here, and I'll ask the mods to remove my downvote.
Nope you don't have to. I don't care about petty fictitious points but it was seriously appalling to see just downvotes and no reply to any comment that was critical of Google. Some here believe downvotes should be reserved for spammy or off topic comments and others believe it should be for disagreeing - Go figure.
>what about a thermostat is directly competitive with a home security system?
Well what about a home security system competitive with another other. Yes, nest is moving into home security (Try doing the "research".) 
The rest, I have no idea how you interpreted my comments but I was referring about how Google was under fire dealing with Webmasters and Adsense clients. Combine that with the ruling by the EU.  Things do add up brick by brick.