Google Sued Over Page Ranking according to this Reuters story from PCMag.com. This will be an interesting one to watch for what it means to the search industry and especially for whether Google, or any search engines for that matter, owe anything at all to companies indexed by those search engines.
There is a longstanding debate among business owners about whether Google must include a business web site in their index and whether, once a high ranking has been achieved for a particular keyword phrase by any company, Google owes them some method of protecting that ranking or some explanation (and/or solution) for drops in their search positions.
The plaintiff claims 10 million page views monthly prior to some alleged Google penalization in rankings (causing an 80% drop in revenue and 70% decline in audience). The site in question is itself a search engine called KinderStart with an interesting trademarked tag line, “Because kids don’t come with instructions.”
Currently the Google query “site:kinderstart.com” shows 44,800 pages indexed, but the results appear to be almost entirely “supplemental” results. The site claims to have been banned from Google, when in fact they are still in the Google index – although one would expect even a small vertical search site to have quite a bit more pages indexed than they do.
In the best commentary I’ve seen – in RedHerring.com yesterday – Kevin Lee, the chair of the SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization), is quoted as saying,
“It’s as if a movie producer or director sued a reviewer for a bad review,” he said. “If they decide your site is not worthy of high rank—it doesn’t matter why—the third party service decides the rank of the site. If they stop being relevant, their business model is dead. If Roger Ebert started saying that mediocre movies are good [in his reviews], no one’s going to read them.”
The idea that Google owes any site anything is absurd and should be dismissed without comment by the judge hearing the case. If the case qualifies as a class action, the resulting lather will be nothing if not interesting. Ongoing argument could expose Google to reduced popularity and require exposing at least pieces of their ranking algorithm. I hope the judge gets some good advice and drops the case as he should.