The fundamental criticism is that we are getting a Google-shaped web rather than a web-shaped Google, due to Google’s defacto monopoly position.
If you’re an IT guy, you must be familiar with the no-follow tag often used in the HTML pages across the Web.
However, if you are not in the SEO game for a while, you may have missed Google’s despotic stand on no-follow in the recent times, especially in 2014.
Yes, Google has been demonstrating a great deal of high-handedness and dictating terms over how the webmasters should use no-follow tag while linking out externally.
Google has been handing out penalties to many renowned blogs on the Web accusing them of violating its TOS (Terms of Services) for no good reason, causing widespread frustrations among the SEOs.
What is a No-follow Tag?
According to Wikipedia, nofollow is a value that can be assigned to the rel attribute of an HTML a element to instruct some search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target’s ranking in the search engine’s index. It is intended to reduce the effectiveness of certain types of internet advertising because their search algorithm depends heavily on the number of links to a website when determining which websites should be listed in what order in their search results for any given term.
The Google Webmaster Tools resource says “Nofollow” provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow links on this page” or “Don’t follow this specific link.”
Watch this video by Matt Cutts, head of Webspam team at Google
No-follow was created in January 2005 by Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and major blogging platforms to help fight comment spam. In September 2005, Google recommended the no-follow attributed be used in blocking paid links. (Source: SEL)
In layman terms, if you are no-following a link, you’re essentially telling Google that you don’t trust that source. This stops Google from sharing your influence (read PageRank) with that link.
However, to normal users on the Web, it doesn’t make much of a difference as they will click on the hyperlink to follow the link anyway.
What’s the Deal with Google in 2014?
Google has been heavily criticized by renowned bloggers for its double standard and autocratic approach towards throwing penalties at blogs over its “perceived” violation of Webmaster’s Guidelines.
So Google is technically telling those blogs that it doesn’t trust the way they are using the no-follow tag on their website.
Here the Series of Events
On July 23rd 2014, Rand Fishkin, the co-founder of Moz, shared his frustration over how Google considered a legit link from YouMoz as inorganic. It was sort of an open letter to Google stating that Google didn’t know what it was doing.
Here’s what Rand Says,
If Google doesn’t want to count those links, that’s their business (though I’d argue they’re losing out on a helpful link that improves the link graph and the web overall). What’s not OK is Google’s misrepresentation of Moz’s link as “inorganic” and “in violation of our quality guidelines” in their Webmaster Tools.
That feeling I get when Google Webmaster Tools’ tells someone a totally legit link is “inorganic”: pic.twitter.com/7fd773enyG
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) July 22, 2014
On March 22nd 2014, Doc Sheldon, a long-time SEO, wrote an open letter to Google over how frustrated and angered he was over how Google handed over a side-wide penalty for its perceived violation of Webmaster’s Guidelines. Here’s a portion of his open letter to Google,
I’ll posit something for your consideration, guys… you are NOT too big to fail! You may be too big for others to destroy, but as a business, you can destroy yourselves quite handily. And although it may be very difficult to see it from your perspective, you would do well to take an objective look at a few basic facts:
The billions you rake in come from us! Most failed societies, governments and businesses destroyed themselves from within, by losing perspective. We all got along quite well before Google! The way things are going, we might get along even better without Google.
Sheldon’s outburst against Google gave rise to a series of hot debates across the Internet including this one on Inbound.org where David Leonhardt made an insightful comment.
So Matt Cutts is playing editor on Doc Sheldon’s website. Fair game for Google to decide whether that link is relevant to its algorithm; none of Google’s business to decide what link is relevant to Doce Sheldon’s website. If he wants to link to his favourite pancake recipe, that is HIS editorial decision. If Google wants to ignore that because it cannot fathom SEOs eating pancakes, that is Google’s business. But it is none of Google’s business to decide whether Doc Sheldon should feel pancakes are relevant to his audience.
He also added,
One of the HUGE myths that the entire SEO community has fallen for is that of relevance. In the real world, nobody markets on relevance; they market on audience segmentation. Just as a wild example, let’s suppose that SEO fans are 13% more inclined to love pancakes than the average citizen, then real world “natural” markeitng would entail getting mentions on SEO blogs. This whole relevance, based primarily on keywords and semantic equivalents, is an unnatural made-for SEO distortion of reality.
On March 19th, 2014, Ann Smarty, founder of MyBlogGuest, shared her frustration over how Google had penalized her site citing that as Guest Blog Network.
Danny Sullivan, the founder of Search Engine Land, has spewed a sarcastic attack on Google on a number of occasions.
Commenting on Rand’s aforementioned blog, he says
Sadly, we also have to keep walking along the insane lines Google keeps painting. Sometimes it’s like those light cycles from Tron, where you try to avoid the walls, but they keep coming close to you.
In his post involving the penalty against Doc Sheldon’s blog, he says
Enough with the penalties and get into a model where if you don’t like a link, you don’t count it rather than issuing penalties.
On March 24th, 2014, Jon Cooper, the founder of Point Blank SEO, wrote why he was so scared of writing blog. Here’s a portion of his post that sums up the entire post.
I really believe Google is transitioning from being on the defensive, to being on the offensive. Fear building is continuing to grow, and it’s definitely off to a hot start in 2014.
Here’s an interesting comment found on Ycombinator.com, which aptly explain Google’s autocratic approach to penalizing sites across its index.
The fundamental criticism is that we are getting a google-shaped web rather than a web-shaped google, due to google’s de facto monopoly position.
I will leave you with that thought.