"Google has some sort of moral responsibility to Webmasters"
Reading a discussion in a web forum I found the following statement. "Google has some sort of moral responsibility to Webmasters". These days I am not happy with Google at all as it is not treating me and my websites very well. Reading the statement above made me laugh. Sure, Google is market leader when it comes to search, but do they really have a moral responsibility to webmasters? No, I do not think so. However, the business of search is not just about the search engine and that’s where I think Google is having issues.
Searchers use Google because in the past it delivered great search results and they have one of the biggest search index built up. Now Google is using the power given by the searchers to dictate what webmasters have to do to be included in Google’s index. Fair enough. But recently Google (communicated through Matt Cutts) is giving this a new twist and I think the webmaster community at one point needs to decide if they want to become the tools to exercise Google’s rules or if they want to be an equal part in the world of search.
Example 1: The infamous rel="nofollow" attribute. Google wants webmasters to use this attribute on paid links on their websites. Apparently Google is having difficulties properly recognizing paid links and they want to reduce the page rank value from such links. If the nofollow attribute is in place the Google Bot will be able to identify paid links and no page rank value is given. It is clearly to see that Google (and only Google at this point) asks webmasters to do something so that Google can do its business.
Example 2: Matt Cutts is asking for SPAM reports and similar things in his blog. Reading the comments in his blog, this apparently turned into a witch hunt. There are certain individuals that apparently have nothing better to do to search the web for SPAM or what they think is SPAM and to report it to Big Brother (did I say that loud? of course I mean Google). It is not exactly clear if Google is just looking for SPAM samples to improve the algorithm to recognize SPAM or if they are just not able to find "good" SPAM themselves. The step of asking individuals to report what they think is SPAM, I do not know about that. Who sets the standard and who really decides what is SPAM and why? Honest businesses can be punished because they hired somebody to do search engine optimization and are not aware of that there is something like Black Hat SEO. Google gets out the stick and punishes a website without properly finding out what is going on.
I do see a certain trend here. I would assume that Google needs to be able to do its own job and not rely on the webmaster community. Sure, setting certain guidelines and rules are pieces the webmaster community needs. But I think Google is now using its power to push a second standard into the market. Wasn’t it Google/Matt Cutts who said that websites should be build for the visitors and not the search engines? Now they are asking the webmasters to do stuff that only helps one search engine (example: nofollow). They are also asking for SPAM reports from individuals – opening the door for other businesses to make their competitor look bad eventually?
The rules are changing and webmasters have to become more careful if they can trust their business mainly to Google. The power Google nowadays has can break a business. A small change to the algorithm or a black listing due to a competitor reporting something as "SPAM" and Google not verifying the circumstances, can wipe out the traffic flow to a website completely. These risks need to be put into consideration when looking at Google.
Does Google have a moral responsibility to webmasters? No, it does not. But if Google starts treating business partners (webmasters) as partners of lower value, it might backfire one day. For years webmasters promoted Google just to be kicked in the back now. That is not right.