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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Most anti-Google article I've read

So Justin Martin of FSB Magazine doesn't really like Google. He says there is a love hate relationship with small businesses and Google, but it seems all evidence is to the contrary in this article.

Allan Keiter awoke one recent morning to the scary news that his Atlanta company's website was nearly impossible to find on a Google search. His site helps consumers compare cellular calling plans.

Until that morning, the site had often ranked in the top-ten nonpaid results for search terms such as "free cell phones" and "family plans." And like thousands of other businesses, Keiter's company relied on free Google searches to drive customers its way.

"Google is going to bleed away a lot of our sales," software developer Mike Landis, near his office in Asheville, N.C.

Keiter had fallen victim to what's known as the dreaded Google dance: sudden, seismic shifts in search results that occur whenever Google's engineers decide, without warning or explanation, to tweak the software algorithms that determine how the mighty search engine processes keywords.

It's like owning a shop on a busy street corner where all the pedestrians suddenly and mysteriously vanish.

In the months after he fell prey to the Google dance, Keiter saw his revenues plunge some 20%. When he contacted Google for an explanation he was simply told that the algorithm was secret sauce. "There was nothing I could do," he says. "They make changes in their ivory tower, and it ripples through to the little guy."
I think small businesses relying on just one search engine for traffic is a bad idea. Here is some Google love:

Thanks to Google, many startups have reached profitable niche markets at little cost. Take Shark Diver, a San Francisco adventure-travel company that Patric Douglas founded in 2000. Shark Diver ( arranges tours to tropical locales worldwide where shark fans can frolic underwater with their favorite predators.

Douglas, 38, estimates that at most, 100,000 people in the U.S. possess the requisites for this pursuit: diving experience and a crazy streak. By bidding on search terms such as "cage diving" in Google auctions, he has been able to zero in on his target market. Shark Diver is now a profitable business with 20 employees and about $1 million in annual revenues, according to Douglas.

His thoughts on Google? "They're gods. Back in the day, there's no way I could have drilled down to a niche this small."

More established businesses have been able to slash their marketing budgets by switching to search-term advertising. Ray Allen, 64, quit the cutthroat New York City advertising industry to start American Meadows (, a wildflower-seed company based in Williston, Vt.

Ten years ago Allen was spending $300,000 a year on magazine ads and print catalogs to generate about $1 million in annual revenues. Today he spends just $120,000 a year (mostly with Google, but also with Yahoo's (Charts) competing pay-per-click ad service) to generate more than $2 million in revenues. "This is a total revolution," crows Allen.
So hey, Google does good, huh? Not according to this article when they talk to a small book publisher:
Google's recent move to assemble a vast digital library of books is viewed as a threat by much of the global publishing industry. Google decided to forgo the usual process of obtaining permissions from thousands of book companies.

Google stresses that any publisher can keep its books from being digitized simply by sending a list of titles to Google. But that's not good enough for Lynne Rienner, whose Boulder-based book publishing company is 22 years old, has 20 employees, and books less than $5 million a year in sales.

"Google is trying to turn the copyright laws on their head," she says. "Why should I have to let Google know which books they can't copy? They should be seeking permission from me regarding which books they can copy."

Rather than compiling a list of her company's 1,200 titles ("a waste of my staff's time"), Rienner fired off an angry letter to CEO Schmidt. Google responded with a letter agreeing not to copy any of her books. Rienner is unmollified. She worries that she will be cut out of some future digital moneymaking opportunity. "Books are my unique content," she says. "I'm sure the smart people at Google are busy dreaming up all kinds of ways to make money off them."
What most makes this article irritating is the book publishers. Do they not know that billions of people have access to the internet and can therefore search for the most obscure book that would otherwise never be found. Say I wanted to find a book on Purple headed dinosaurs in Cretaceous and Jurassic periods. And there is only one book on that subject. Lets say the publisher of said book didn't want it cataloged into Google's library, would the user find the book? Nope.

What this small publisher needs to realize is that her sales would most likely increase by a significant amount. But all she is worried about is her books being copied illegally and Google making money off her books.


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