An interesting read on the Guardian website about concerns over the power the mighty Google has over thousands of businesses.

The article explores the reliance many businesses have on Google for web traffic (especially true in the UK where over 75% of searchers are using Google) and considers the financial impact of being delisted.

A couple of examples of companies suing Google are mentioned, including the well documented, and the article considers how Google should best defend themselves agains such cases in the future. An interesting suggestion of establishing an independent ombudsman is raised but didn’t appear to appeal to Google.

The problem is a symptom of the incredible success of Google. As Douglas Merrill, Google’s vice president of engineering, states:

“Spam is an arms race. Our job is to keep the spammers out of the index. It’s a spy versus spy battle.”

Huge amounts of money can be made by exploiting holes in the Google algorithm, which explains why the search engine is so secretive about their technology. They also claim that the reason that they don’t tell webmasters why their sites are banned is to prevent abuse by spammers (through revealing more information about how search results are ranked).

In the US, Google’s lawyers claim First Amendment (freedom of speech) rights to rate websites how they like and argue that the technology led approach is actually far more objective and fair than the human editorial approach of the likes of Yahoo!

This is an important point – nobody should assume that they have a god given right to rank well in Google. Google does not owe anybody anything and a well balanced search engine strategy must mitigate the risks of poor rankings on Google.

No business should be too reliant on Google for referring visitors. Whilst it is the clear leader, there are other channels that can deliver targeted traffic.

Rather than obsessing, on a daily basis, where your website is ranked on Google, it is always wiser to focus on creating a website offering users a mass of rich content / functionality and to continue evolving it. As long as the basic SEO principles are considered and there are no technical hurdles for the search engine spiders to overcome, the traffic will come.