In a one-two punch sending many web masters reeling, Google has announced it is buying dominant Internet advertising system DoubleClick for more than $3 billion dollars, and deploying new algorithms designed to penalize web sites that accept paid advertising outside of the Google advertising network. In light of this action by Internet search behemoth Google, a web master would have to be very foolish to accept paid advertising that did not contribute profit share to Google machine. The risk of losing value in the search rankings is simply too great.
The DoubleClick deal has some analysts puzzled, as the $3+ Billion dollar price seems very excessive given the reported sub-200 million dollar earnings booked by DoubleClick. But when coupled with the new rules banning sponsored links, reviews, and articles unless they are registered with Google first, this move makes sense. Google might be able to own all Internet advertising by effectively banning everything not included in the combined monster network of DoubleClick + AdSense. It seems that is what has begun.
Even Google-loving web masters are concerned because of the way these new rules were announced by Search Spam Team representative Matt Cutts. While Matt stated that there were “tons” of ways to report sponsored links, articles, and reviews so they wouldn’t earn Google’s wrath, he only named two of those ways. One of them was quite complex, requiring multiple layers of pages (some redirected with specialized computer code) to funnel traffic according to whether or not it followed sponsorship. It’s isn’t clear that many web masters are capable of implementing such sophisticated schemes. The second method mentioned by Matt Cutts included the use of a controversial HTML tag attribute introduced by Google without sanction from the HTML standards body known as the W3C. This places web masters in a professional predicament; do they adhere to professional standards, or bow to the Google rules instead? The new use of this attribute also seems to contradict Google’s own previous description of it’s intended use.
To put it mildly, web masters are confused and frightened by the new actions by Google. In many cases, Google controls as much as 95% of the traffic coming to web sites. Sweeping changes like these can destroy web-based businesses unable to decipher the new rules or get into compliance fast enough (if that is even possible). The danger may be greatest for business owners, however, who know even less about the technical details of web sites. Previously accepted practices like linking to other websites are now high-risk, as Google threatens to devalue sites that link out under sponsored arrangements like discounts, membership or even professional courtesy.