A very interesting civil lawsuit has been filed against Google in the US by kinderstart.com who experienced an 80% decline in revenue following Google imposing a site penalty in March 2005. Fulll story here.

Kinderstart is claiming that Google unfairly deprived the company of customers by downgrading its search-result ranking without reason or warning. The complaint accuses Google, as the dominant provider of internet search results, of violating KinderStart’s constitutional right to free speech by removing the company from their search engine results.

Google has not officially responded as yet but the company aggressively defends the secrecy of its patented search ranking system and asserts its right to adapt it to give customers what it determines to be the best results. Not only does Google reserve the right to adapt their algorithm, there is no legal obligation for it to inform web sites that they have been penalised nor provide any detailed explanation regarding why the web site is banned.

It will certainly be interesting to watch the outcome of the case and it shows, yet again, of the incredible power that Google offers web site owners. As this case shows, however, it can be dangerous to rely on this power and you should certainly NOT try to outwit it.

As recent examples (e.g. BMW / Bigmouthmedia) have shown, Google can and will remove sites from the index if foul play is reported. It is not known whether kinderstart.com was attempting to manipulate search engine results or if they had employed the services of an SEO agency, but it demonstrates yet again that ethical search engine marketing should be the only approach considered if you wish to avoid a ban.