Could You Walk In Google’s Shoes? Making Tough Calls With Search Listings

It’s pretty easy to sit back and slam Google for how you think it should make decisions when it comes to search listings. It’s much harder to actually make those decisions, when you have a deeper understanding of all the implications involved. To experience this better, here’s a chance to put yourself in Google’s shoes and make some of the tough decisions.

Below is a video from a special session we did at our SMX West search marketing conference earlier this year. Patrick Thomas, Google’s search policy specialist and Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s web spam fighting team, suggested a variety of scenarios to the audience that certainly had no easy answers, as you explored them more. In particular:

  • A woman commits suicide. She leaves a note online, which then ranks tops for her name. Her family wants it removed. Do you take it down?
  • Do you remove graphic and violent content, such as war footage, which can be both shocking yet also have redeeming values?
  • You have a picture of Ho Chi Minh’s wife that you show within a fact card, but the Vietnamese government tells you this isn’t true, despite others saying it is. Do you remove it?
  • MartinLutherKing.org is a white-supremacist site that ranks well for “Martin Luther King,” in part because of many schools linking to it, assuming it’s somehow honoring the civil-rights leader. Do you change those rankings?
  • What if a search for vaccines brings up 9 out 10 top listings that are against them, because anti-vaccine campaigners are more vocal than those that accept them?
  • When auto-complete suggestions present stereotypes about countries, races or religions, do you censor those?
  • Someone doesn’t like a picture of them online and wants it removed from Google’s listings. Do you do it? What if it’s a newsworthy photo?

The session gets into more scenarios, as well. Check out the video below:

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By the way, Google’s looking for people to give them feedback about such issues. Learn more at this Google blog post.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Critics | Google: SEO | Legal: Censorship | Legal: Copyright | Legal: Privacy | Legal: Regulation | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • Jake Goldblum

    honestly- screw you search engine land- what a piece of ___. Google has been going big brands for the last 6 months and putting small businesses at risk. What a fluff piece

  • Neil Forrest

    Scenario: You state that exact match domain names will count for very little in the SERPs, but then continue to let them rank very well, despite an absence of geniune content, appalling bounce rates and the being riddled with low grade banner advertising.

    Do you apologise to webmasters who are committed to providing a good content driven service, and make good on your claims? or just shuffle on with your hands in your pockets whistling the theme tune to Seinfeld…

  • bees1844

    I felt I could answer those questions pretty easily. Take the first example: presumably the woman’s intention was to share it with a particular group of friends, and she just happened to use the internet as the medium to do this.

    When she died and the piece became linked to, it ranked highly – far, far higher than the woman had intended, and so her message became shared with a far bigger group than she had initially intended.

    In that case, pull it from the index.

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