The following fun item came up today from Aaron, who managed to sue Google in small claims court over a Google Adwords / Adsense dispute and actually ….. won the case. Here’s the story.
Adsense expert Jennifer Slegg suggests Aaron may have been violating the terms and I think most advertisers would agree that we want Google to police Adsense very carefully to avoid the many problems that come when publishers’ material is unlikely to generate business for the advertiser.
However I’m also very sympathetic to Aaron’s criticisms of Google’s failure to bring enough transparency to the adsense and ranking processes despite very noble individual activity by guys like Matt Cutts, Adam Lasnick, Brian White, and pretty much all the engineers I’ve talked to in person. My beef is with Google’s company policy of sharing too little information and having “too weak” diagnostics that don’t allow webmasters to fix common problems or challenge fairly subjective ranking decisions, especially when what Google sees as questionable linking activity is involved.
Google suggests that ranking opacity prevents spam where I’d argue that on balance it would help avoid many common practices that now penalize people without them even knowing. Just last week, for example, Matt pointed to a very expensive Forrester business report on “legitimate” SEO approaches that suggested a “paid blog posting” tactic that could get both the blogger and the referenced site in ranking trouble with Google. Although Matt is one of the last people at Google I’d accuse of being “too secretive”, the overall policy is too opaque to reasonable let legitimate webmasters make the best decisions for their sites and clients. The Webmaster Console has helped but it’s too little too late in my view. Google owes every webmaster a clear answer to the simple question: Why is my site ranked below clearly inferior sites? Usually this answer would involve a downranking from link manipulations, selling links to other sites, or other things Google finds offensive and lists vaguely in the Webmaster Guidelines.
I do complement Google on the fairly new webmaster forums feature which can be very helpful in diagnosing problems with websites: