A glimpse of the future: Google abusing monopoly

One of the most basic elements of online reputation work is to ensure that your business ranks in the major search engines for its own name. Over the last couple of days, I spent a bit of time digging into why one particular website wasn’t (possibly contributing to my unfortunate situation at 4pm yesterday).

They are not a client and unfortunately I was digging into this purely out of curiosity rather than commercial interest.

A while back, I wrote about the UK charity search engine everyclick and how they didn’t rank for a search for their name. They are still nowhere to be seen in the natural results (though buying branded PPC).

The first bit of digging I did showed that they were down at #61 - a clear penalty as they remained indexed, but search results #61-65 were clearly the results that should have been 1-5.

I have now spent a bit of time digging through their on-site behaviour, inbound links and anything else I can think of and can find nothing to justify a penalty.

My last post explored some of the things I thought they could do differently (and some of these still apply) - such as avoiding duplicate content issues with the pages charities create for them on the charities’ own domains, having a bit more indexable content and less duplication on their own site etc. but they have cleared up a lot of the problems I identified back then and I can no longer support my initial conclusion that they were suffering through duplicate content filtering. Previously there were very strong pages on charity websites with the same title as their homepage. They have now changed their site significantly and that is no longer true - yet they rank badly for the search for their exact title tag.

I found a few new things that aren’t great - such as a 302 redirect from www.everyclickschools.com into the site, and a lot of widgets that link back with identical anchor text (but in my opinion this is not in any way misleading - and these widgets are genuinely useful and placed editorially on powerful charity websites).

In short, I can see no reason why Google would wish to penalise this site.

Except 1.

That it’s a search engine.

Now, it’s small, but the charity concept is pretty powerful and they have some evangelical fans (and it’s powered by Ask who are at least in the search engine race still!).

I’m not an expert on anti-trust / monopoly law, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a company with a truly dominant market share treating its competitors differently to everyone else didn’t break the rules. I think this would be like Microsoft selling Vista with a browser that redirected apple.com to microsoft.com (and I reckon they’d be slapped pretty hard for that).

When I wrote about this before, I thought it highlighted some technical problems for everyclick.com. Now, I think it’s more sinister than that and indicates potential future problems for Google.

I could be wrong about this - maybe they’re up to something nefarious that I haven’t spotted. If you think that’s the case, let me know in the comments, via twitter or by email - I’m pretty easy to contact and I’ll update the post.

Will Critchlow

Will Critchlow

Will founded Distilled with Duncan in 2005. Since then, he has consulted with some of the world’s largest organisations and most famous websites, spoken at most major industry events and regularly appeared in local and national press. Will is part...   read more

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8 Comments

  1. As ever it could be one of many problems. I'll start.

    Duplication on home page a few times, including the HTTPs server -

    http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=site:http://www.everyclick.com/+Everyclick+-+fundraise+online+for+All+Supported+Charities&hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&filter=0

    or search for "site:http://www.everyclick.com/ Everyclick - fundraise online for All Supported Charities" then click omitted results.

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  2. Yep - seen those problems (see earlier post). But would you classify them as deceptive enough so that people shouldn't find the site when searching for its name? It's trying to do good and running big advertising campaigns that will drive many people to search...

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  3. No, it doesn't make sense that a duplication would cause such a problem.

    I can't see Google putting a penalty on a site like this as they are a 'competitor', it would just cause bad press for Google if it got out into the public domain....

    Another point, hidden text.

    E.g. line 214

    Enter search

    from style sheet

    .no_display{display:none;}

    Not malicious but could cause a problem!

    This page is number 2 for "everyclick" now hopefully someone from everyclick will pick up on it and make some changes to the site.

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  4. I have noticed this issue with a lot of websites recently. They appear to have a penalty, when you look into them there are issues with the site, however most of the time I wouldn't think they are worth penalising for. Especially if you look at all the sites out there that SHOULD be penalised but are not.
    The problem is that it makes no difference to Google if they penalise someone’s site but for that person their rankings in Google could be the main reason for their income. Obviously this goes to show you shouldn’t rely on your Google rankings for your income but it is unavoidable for some people.

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  5. Hi Will,

    It's nice to know that people have their eye on our website, especially now we have expanded into a full online fundraising platform.

    You have managed to notice that Everyclick.com has been penalised again - only two days after it happened this time. On Thursday morning (23rd October), the site was no longer listed #1 for the search term 'Everyclick'. We've been #1 for our name for many months now, after fixing the problems from our old site.

    This time it seems to have been a sudden penalisation by Google and we are working on discovering anything which might have offended them. We think we may have found the reason, and the site has been submitted for reconsideration. We're continuing to look for any further issues and can only wait to see if Google changes its mind in the next few weeks.

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  6. Hi Will,

    Gocompare only dropped for the term 'car insurance' after being caught buying paid links, not for their brand name, which makes this penalty seem pretty harsh.

    I talked to Polly from Everyclick and they seem to think it has to do with duplicate content.

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  7. How strange. I did the same thing aukseo did and immediately set off to try and figure out the problem but I'm stumped. The fact that your post is second says it all. There is definitely something untoward going on.
    Duplicate pages will end up in the supplemental index but wont cause a penalty and I've seen sites which are still hanging on to top rankings with worse coding than this one.
    I do feel sorry for these guys coz theyre obviously trying to do some good as well! I think ill write a small blog post about them and give them another link.

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  8. Hello Will and thanks for bringing this to our attention.

    We definitely need to be vigilant though it is prudent not to jump into any conclusions before we have hard evidence I suppose. I would like to believe there is nothing sinister about this and that there are purely technical reasons that have driven this site so low in the rankings.

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