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After Google bought Nest, it removed company’s biggest competitors from results (pando.com)
179 points by webhat 790 days ago | hide | past | web | 108 comments | favorite



It's a shame that Pando's inquiry didn't make it to me, because the suggestion that Google took action on vivint.com because it was somehow related to Nest is silly. As part of a crackdown on a spammy blog posting network, we took action on vivint.com--along with hundreds of other sites at the same time that were attempting to spam search results.

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"

- http://www.womenspk.com/5-ideas-for-keeping-your-elderly-rel...

- http://www.frugalful.com/2013/12/five-surprising-ways-to-sav...

- http://doyoulovewhereyoulive.com/archives/top-10-benefits-of...

- http://arch.itect.us/2013/01/17/top-10-benefits-of-automatin...

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.


I have to call bs on Matt's response for two reasons.

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:

http://freshome.com/2011/10/26/greening-your-home-with-a-sex...

THEN we see the scrapes on the same sites found here:

http://doyoulovewhereyoulive.com/archives/greening-your-home...

http://arch.itect.us/2011/10/26/greening-your-home-with-a-se...

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.


Maybe NEST disavowed the links using the disavow tool? Whatever the reason, raising concern is appropriate, but calling bullshit without all the information is overreaching and inappropriate.


The problem is that they won't say. We're here, discussing of a potential violation - voluntary or not - of antitrust laws. All we have is a muddy answer by the lonely marketing gunslinger Google has put in chief of public replies to search issues.

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.


Matt Cutts is "head of Google's Webspam team"; in other words he spews disinformation so that Google can have more influence over their own results. Very similar to the President's Press Secretary or the head of Propaganda. Web site owners are best off to almost completely ignore what he says and instead focus on what really is happening.


Do you have any idea who Matt Cutts is? He's owned the spam problem at Google since practically day 0. He's not some PHB.


Thanks, Matt. I always appreciate your input here. Your response sounds legit. In general, I still think that G is in an awkward position. Essentially we have to believe that Google, a company whose primary goal is to make money, can effectively police itself and operate on a level playing field. Yet there is a lot of secrecy in the things they do and just like any other company they deserve that right (I guess). I wonder if 'we' can do much else at this point except _trust_ what you are saying.


You can do something besides just trusting Google, and that is using and promoting alternate search providers. Google is approaching monopoly status in the search space because we're allowing it. With a bit love, DuckDuckGo and Bing could make dents.

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).


I've got to say I've got a definite softspot for DuckDuckGo, but I always struggle to see bing as a contender. Now it might be for the reasons you mention (Microsoft not giving it enough TLC) but it does make it difficult to switch.

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.


You do know that most of the results served by DuckDuckGo come (via APIs) from Bing?


Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

There's nothing in the mission statement about making money...


Are you joking, right?


No. If maximizing next quarter/year's profits is Google's primary goal, then the logical thing will be to slash R&D, cut back on benefits, eliminate CapEx, basically what Mark Hurd did to HP.

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.


You don't need to be profit centric to insist on a path you think will lead to a greater good. That's enough to scare me, frankly. And, I don't understand why a multimillion public company should be ever trusted just because, well, they say so.

Paving the way to hell have always looked great from the outside, you know, because of all the good intentions put towards it.


Matt,

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?


Well, the best way to report spam is with our spam report form at https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/spamreport?pli=1 because then we can prioritize the report along with other complaints. But you can also post in our webmaster forum at https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!forum/webmasters or catch us during webmaster office hours--see https://sites.google.com/site/webmasterhelpforum/en/office-h... for the schedule of upcoming office hours. Or catch one of us at a search conference (I'll be at SMX Advanced in Seattle in June and at Google I/O later in June).

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.


Thanks Matt,

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.


Email added in the profile. I would be more than willing to show how you guys are sending millions of hits (daily!) to a site scraping content and buying cheap backlinks.

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!


Hey, I didn't see an email address at https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=r0fl ? Maybe the page is cached and only gets rebuilt every so often, but you might want to double-check?


Sometimes people make a mistake and just put it into 'email' (which is non-public) and not into 'about' (which is public).


@natsu was right, I only had the email in "email" and not "about". Just fixed that, sorry about that.


just mention that this site is competing with one of Google products/acquisitions.


What is the site?


http://www.plaintube.com/ apparently. very much NSFW.


Thank you Matt. Agree, even a quick look from a not-so savvy SEO at their backlink anchor text you can see that they were intentionally building a ton of links.

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.


The strange thing to me is that when we took action, our notice told Vivint it was for unnatural/spammy links to their site. It's really not hard to find these spammy posts, so I'm not sure where the disconnect happened.

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"?


The strange thing to me is that when we took action, our notice told Vivint it was for unnatural/spammy links to their site.

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.


> our notice told Vivint it was for unnatural/spammy links to their site. It's really not hard to find these spammy posts, so I'm not sure where the disconnect happened.

the disconnect probably happened because you feel that telling people through an internal tool is adequate.


> our notice told Vivint it was for unnatural/spammy links to their site. It's really not hard to find these spammy posts.

Why dont you simply include these links in your notice, so that there is no ambiguity?


Because then spammers would become more effective at not being caught.


In defense of the OP, the Google spam-punishing procedure is not purely objective or run as an unsupervised automation...it seems that Rap Genius would not have even been discovered had a blogger not made a relatively innocuous inquiry about RG's very public solicitations...which was then upvoted to the top of HN and presumably to Cutts' attention. And then after RG was reinstated, there were complaints that had it not been such a high-profile startup, the Google team would not have reinstated it so quickly (but in the defense of RG, they described and released the source code to the program they used to hunt down the bad links, which made it clear that RG handled the process in a way more efficiently than most other companies might have).

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)


In this case, we started dissecting this particular spammy guest blog posting network in November of 2013, and Google didn't acquire of Nest until January of 2014. So Vivint was link spamming (and was caught by the webspam team for spamming) before Google even acquired Nest.


So in other words you got interested in Nest competition in the middle of Google-Nest acquisition negotiations?


Unless details of when the due-diligence occurred for the purchase, this point is really moot. I hardly doubt your board decided to drop a cool 3.2B the night before the Nest announcement.


They certainly didn't tell the eng staff about it until then.


Great post Matt. Thanks a lot. Vivint is a super shady company in just about every way possible. It's no surprise that they resort to shady SEO.

If only Google could get rid of their Doucebag salesman as well...


I have a website 5000best.com/tools with a ranking of web tools, and I received so far about 40-50 link removal requests. I rejected them all. First I answered to those people, later I stopped answering, because that's waste of my time.

The reason of all that nonsense seems to be this article: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2012/07/new-notif... 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.


It's actually much worse than that. Plenty of the links that those removal requests are all about were placed by spamming comments, creating millions of bogus accounts across as many services in order to boost PR. That was done automatically.

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.


Why did Google ask all those SEO companies to send e-mails to me? Why did Google give them a possibility to blackmail webmasters (disavow tool)? The Internet was not supposed to work this way. I should be able to link to whatever I want, and care only about the users, and not care about how competent or incompetent the search engine creators are, together with the SEO industry.


Why dont you just "nofollow" the links? Everyone should be happy


Wouldn't that break the whole point of links and page rank? I link to things I genuinely like or find useful. The only things I nofollow are things I bitch about, because I am petty and don't want to give them any google juice. Other than that, a link is an endorsement, and if Google doesn't like me "liking too many things", that's Google's problem for not understanding websites that are the work of love.


I "nofollow" the links. Also that is additional work and unnecessary burden for webmasters.


Matt, it looks like you and Google are clearly in the right here, and in fact you work with a very high degree of integrity as a rule. I really admire the job you're doing. However, there is an inherent conflict of interest, or, at least, the potential for a conflict, when the company that regulates and provides "fair playing field" oversight, Google, is also the company that is fighting competitive, commercial battles on so many fronts because of its many, many forays into paid services and products. Again, this is not a criticism of what you and your Google search brethren are doing – I'm with many people when I say I'm in awe of the job you're doing – but to point out the conflicted business model that Google is pursuing. Best, Joel MaHarry


Your examples don't strike me as low-quality or spam articles. Maybe if they were in Nature or Science or IEEE Spectrum. I think you should have a wider perspective, plenty of lifestyle sites I go on have poorer-quality articles that I choose to read, and I can certainly see paid relationships which are pretty transparent when I do so (as can most readers). I actually pay money to buy these magazines, and read articles like this (on many different subjects), so it is fair to say that I would pay to read content like this. I found them interesting.

I wouldn't have paid to read your comment though, probably because I don't care about SEO. (Not a reflection on your comment.)


Wait, wait, wait. Didn't your bosses recently complain about the EU directive to protect privacy as being "censorship"? Yet Google feels it has the right to determine what is "low-quality" or "spam" articles in determining web rankings? How's that not "censorship"? Also, do you ban everything that shows up on say, Buzzfeed, since by any measure that's low-quality and spam.


Thank you Matt. I used to be a Pando reader, but in the past months, for some unknown reason, they started publishing vindictive articles. No proper research, random arguments... while seeing themselves as 'true-seekers', in a very Machiavellian way. Now, as a former Pando reader I'm better off not visiting their site.


I might understand your action if you removed their company from search results when people searched for related keywords. But to remove them when someone searches for their company name is just wrong. You have enough engineers and resource to implement a better solution than to just wipe a company from the Web.


yes, this is a very good point and should be easy to differentiate between a branded company name versus (emd or other spam profile)

also, they continue to sell ads for these branded company searches to other competitors


Truce.


Hey dude3, I mentioned this lower in the thread, but we started dissecting this spam link network in November 2013, well before Google even bought Nest.


Truce


dude3, you know Larry Page doesn't have me on speed dial for companies he's planning to buy, right? No one involved with this webspam action (including me) knew about the Nest acquisition before it was publicly announced.


Truce


You flush a company from existence and then offer them zero help in getting their existence reinstated. This is something an asshole would do.

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.


Thank you Matt. Right from the man himself. I think we can put this so-called controversy behind us.


Google sometimes seems to be the sacred cow of HN...


This is misleading. The article cites a single company that inadvertently violated Google's rules by failing to mark paid links. This seems to be part of the ongoing saga of companies making errors, sometimes honest, and being penalized.

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.


I posted this in a flippant comment already, but it bears worth reiterating that Vivint, or someone friendly to Vivint, also sockpuppet-edited their Wikipedia page, in such an egregious fashion that since March 2014 (not long after Google's alleged action), Vivint's Wikipedia entry has a banner-warning:

> 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)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivint


I would say it is more link-baity than misleading, Google did delist the smart thermostat maker Vivint, and they did buy the smart thermostat maker Nest. The article attempts to paint a picture of intrigue and conspiracy, but I suspect it was just bad SEO on their part, or even Counter-SEO at work by another of Vivint's competitors.

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.


Google doesn't help me find things on eBay or Amazon. Both those sites have terrible site searches, although for dofferent reasons.

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.


It's Pando. What did you expect? I don't know why Pando links so show up on HN.


As someone who knows nothing about Pando, I'd love some more insight into why they supposedly suck.

(Speaking of shitty high-profile news site, my favourite pick is ReadWrie. 80% of what I've read on their site is utter garbage.)


Wow, I was actually about to comment the exact same thing as lallysingh until I saw his comment.

> 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


I actually find the Lacy, etc articles to be the good ones.

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.


You probably have a more nuanced view of the site than I do. I noticed the tendency I described very early on and more or less limited my further exposure to them, so maybe they've matured into what you're describing.


i actually often see pretty good articles on pando.


Here's another thing that Google's alleged dirty-tricks obscured: Vivint's Wikipedia entry including its fairly lengthy "Legal Issues" section:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vivint

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:

> 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)

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.


Take off your tinfoil hat, you are reading into this a bit too much. The basis of the "Legal Issues" section has been there since the beginning of 2012:

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vivint&oldid=47624...

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:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nest_Labs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sonos

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.


FYI. Google "Google settles" and see what happens.


No real comment on the issue at hand, but I've been targeted by Vivint's door to door sales team on one occasion. It was a very pushy salesman that started to ask security related questions despite my insitence for him to leave. Once I managed to gen rid of him I found a dozen plus other similar accounts of pushy and deceitful selling practices in my area. Serves them well I would say.


So, Google is the ultimate police against companies with pesky marketing practices? Do you even realize how bad is this mindset?


In their house, they are... Google isn't a democracy or a charity. They will list you if you follow their rules, the same rules everyone else has to follow to be listed... its their right and prerogative to set and enforce those rules, because its their service.


Is that true even if you are a gigantic monopoly in the search business?


Highly doubt that this was anything but a coincidence. Even if you don't think it was, the Nest deal most likely took more than 2 weeks to close, and it'd be crazy for Google to take such deliberate and egregious actions before then.


Vivint is more of an ADT competitor. They are a security/automation company with monthly fee model.

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.


A likely explanation is that ADT has also been penalised, but the organic references to ADT counterbalance it enough to not affect them as much.


Manual removal from the results supersedes the core relevancy algorithms.


> 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...


This actually makes sense. Does it matter when they started dissecting links? What matters is when they de indexed. Why rapgenius was given break so early? Does Google think people will not know just because they don't have billion dollar in their pocket? lol. Here is my version of story: Board decided to purchase nest and naturally they looked at competitors. They send the message down to webspam team and asked them to check their linking profile and if anything is against the guidelines, take their ass down.

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


I'm sorry, but I wasn't aware Nest HAD competitors. Not only that, Vivint was violating the rules and got punished accordingly for it.

“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.


Why is that inflammatory? I thought it funny and a macabre but helpful statement to highlight the importance of being on page 1 of any result.


There isn't any evidence that Vivint did anything against the "rules". You're jumping to defend google pretty quickly, almost automatically. Just because you like them, doesn't mean they are always in the right.

They might or might not be in this case, we don't know enough to tell.


From the article it appears there was a clear transgression. It's just that it appears to be from ignorance vs deliberate.


[deleted]


I don't understand your point here sorry.


I hate government intervention in these matters, I really do. But in the case of Google I feel that their search results should be walled off from any other business interests. They have so much influence over the discovered internet that maybe its time to separate search from their other business interests.

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.


There's a potentially nasty lawsuit waiting to happen there if Vivint has solid tracking/referral records, since the standard in civil trials is only 'preponderance of the evidence.'


Say what you want about how Google handles penalties but I think it is silly to suggest that Google has acted any differently in this case than to the vast majority of sites out there who receive penalties, but don't have friends in high places to expedite the process of having the penalty lifted.


The more interesting thing to me is the rapidly escalating list of conflicts of interest. Even if Google tries to remain squeaky clean for all eternity, they'll have a harder time of ensuring that they are, with staff tweaking a growing number of signals to their ranking algorithm while being to various extents aware of what is part of Google.

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.


"one of the"


Hmm sorry to say so but Vivint does have several court orders for missleading information.

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...


This is what happens when we let one company get too much power on the web.


Or any other industry for that matter.


Yes, Microsoft has had a desktop and document format monopoly for about 2 decades. It's not about any company being "evil" or bad, it's just with that much control, you can really leverage that monopoly and hinder innovation... What should we do about it?

As for the search engine problem, just use a different search engine. It's such a trivial problem to solve.


Or you could read the article...


And this, children, is how you get an antitrust probe started.


Not if you are good at lobbying... [1]

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB1000142412788732387420...


Very true. Google is to search what MSFT was to OS/PC's. As they expand into new areas they are heading for a brick wall. Unless search is disrupted.


Not sure why I went negative 4 on the downvotes. Google is to search what MSFT was to desktops and they control a super critical entry point to the Internet. As they do more and more non search things they'll be tempted to and overly scrutinized with how they utilize their search business to help those other businesses. Unless search is disrupted and they lose that stranglehold.


Remember when the standard Google excuse was "it's not our fault, it's the algorithm"?

Now it's "what are you gonna do about it?"


I think that these manual actions are likely never to happen to Google properties, but they can easily happen to everyone else. They are opaque and have severe consequences on those that are affected.

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.


http://www.webmonkey.com/2012/01/google-deranks-chrome-downl...


5 Times Google Penalized Itself For Breaking Its Own SEO Rules: http://searchengineland.com/google-penalized-breaking-seo-ru...


If there is any truth to this article, then things are going to get really bad for Google. This with other recent complaints may prove that Google may be stepping beyond the gray areas of a monopoly. A good lobbying may delay the process but it is inevitable.

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.


> the amount of downvotes in this thread is appalling. Anything critical of Google has been downvoted.

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.


I guess fortunately for Google, it appears there's no merit to the accusation?


To piggyback on the conversation, coming from a small business that has seen a reconsideration request wait in hibernation without a reply for over 40 days, the bigger issue that I would hope more journalists would start to shine the light onto is the lack of transparency and need for regulation of Google search by an independent entity. The reality is that Google generates 60 Billion in revenue and close to 20 Billion in profits, but more importantly they single handily control the fate of millions of companies and influence probably a trillion dollars of commerce on a global level every year.

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:

http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2346899/Model-Battles-G...

"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.

http://searchengineland.com/rap-genius-back-in-google-181125

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


OK, I don't like doing this, but I'll admit that I downvoted you. Not because I'm in Google's pocket, though I'll admit that I use some of their products, but because your phrasing is on the rhetorical level of asking "have you stopped beating your mother yet?"

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?


> "have you stopped beating your mother yet?"

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".) [1]

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. [2] Things do add up brick by brick.

[1] http://www.theverge.com/2014/5/26/5753026/google-and-nest-co...

[2] http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/technology/google-reaches-...




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