Google vs. KinderStart.com

The overwhelming power that Google possesses is awe-inspiring. Your web traffic can be so tied to your Google ranking that a slight change in how you rank could ruin your business. Furthermore, when you are blacklisted by Google your site doesn’t appear — even if you search on your site’s name!

Being blacklisted means you have done something wrong in the eyes of the search engine and is probably the worst fate a site can suffer.

In some cases the site’s ranking can drop so they are near the last listing Google shows for a search term – result number 1,000. Recently BMW’s German site was blacklisted on Google and this may be the highest profile site Google has decided to blacklist.

It is still a gray area that differentiates legitimate search engine optimization techniques from those that are not allowed. Google won’t tell you precisely what constitutes "blacklist worthy" behavior so most webmasters use research and some common sense as guides.

The trouble is the pressure to get your site ranked higher that drives more and more companies closer to the edge of allowable SEO. To date there was nothing that could be done about being blacklisted except to hope that Google will take you off the blacklist at some point in the future.

Perhaps the system will one day change. It is possible that Google will have to be more forthcoming about how it decides to rank sites and punish them if they abuse the system. At least that is the hope of one dotcom that is pretty unhappy with how Google currently works. A lawsuit brought against Google from KinderStart.com says Google changed the way the site comes up in its search results and they have subsequently lost 70% of their traffic. They are seeking to be compensated for their lost traffic.

It is unclear if Google blacklisted the site but KinderStart’s lawsuit alleges Google’s policing efforts have penalized web sites that have done nothing wrong. To make matters worse, the suit alleges the banished sites can’t determine how they can restore their standings because the company [Google] doesn’t explain its actions.

"The world is becoming increasingly ‘Googlized,’" said Gregory Yu, a lawyer for KinderStart. "For most people, that has been a good thing, but not for everyone."

Yu hopes to prove Google has become an "essential facility" that should be required to warn Web sites before dropping them from the index. "We don’t really feel there is enough transparency and openness in a service that has become so important," Yu said.

This is a really interesting lawsuit but Google would obviously have to give up trade secrets if it were to comply with Yu’s requests. And although virtually every company in the world would benefit from the knowledge of how to come up higher on Google searches, it just doesn’t seem likely that KinderStart.com can win this case.

In addition, if Google is required to pay a company if they lower its search ranking, is Google entitled to money if it gives a site a high ranking?

Perhaps however this case will act as a catalyst and a number of sites that feel they have been wronged by Google will come together to try to get Goggle to be more forthcoming about how it works.

I wouldn’t bet against Google on this case but if Google loses there could be some major ramifications to how search engines of the future operate.

  • NevDull's Take On Things
    March 20, 2006 at 1:13 am

    Rankings Extortion?

    In Rich Tehrani’s blog, I saw this post about KinderStart.com suing Google for blacklisting them.  In it, Rich hypothesizes about the possible implications of the lawsuit — rank us or pay — and it does cause me to think about the ob…

  • bernie lomax
    March 23, 2006 at 6:22 pm

    Kinderstart brings about a lawsuit against Google yet still runs AdSense on their site? Interesting. Additionally, a search engine uses ranking to differentiate itself in a competitive marketplace – why would anyone use different search engines if they all provided the same result?

  • Rich Tehrani
    March 23, 2006 at 8:03 pm

    Excellent points!

  • Ted
    March 28, 2006 at 4:56 pm

    From the complaint it looks like Google did blacklist (totally censor) Kinderstart although they are not now blacklisted and currently have a good pagerank (7). I think there is a big difference between a ranking issue and a censoring case where a site has been intentionally “cherry-picked” for deletion.
    Is Google a “publisher” or a “common carrier”?
    There is a long discussion of this at:
    http://www.searchenginehonesty.com/

  • free publicity
    June 29, 2006 at 1:16 pm

    Talk about free advertising…
    That site sucks anyhow…and that is why Google Probably replaced it…
    Kinderstart has probably zero stickiness…
    so when Google Does Its Dance….well, no one comes back to them…..simple…
    Google give oppt to all, no?
    or maybe I am wrong…
    in any case, their link Pop sure has gone up since we all write about them…Now, that is Good PR~!

  • John T
    July 4, 2006 at 7:44 pm

    lose 70% of your traffic? Sue Google. Hey presto – traffic back up.
    this is purely a PR stunt that seems to be working very well.

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