John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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July 23rd, 2007 by john andrews

Google Gains Access to Web Hosting Financial Records

Google would love to assign a credit bureau account to every web site on the web. A social security number. It seems Google is now accessing the financial transaction records of web hosting companies.

You’ve properly obfusctated your public WHOIS data. You’ve carefully managed your public contact information, including your Google account(s) like your AdSense account, your sitemaps account, and your gmail account. You keep your Google-known web sites up on a pedestal, to have them appear as worthy as possible of the GoogleTrust. And those other sites? You know, the test sites, and spammy sites you bought but haven’t yet had time to cleanup, and those 6 year old link farms that were ok back then but have since become “black hat”? How could you possibly turn off that wonderful perseverant PR? Those awesome legacy affiliate codes that outrank even their parent affiliate sites? So, you’ve kept them under the radar.

Unique IPs on separate blocks. Different data centers. But how did you pay for the hosting? Did you use your credit card, assuming the financial transaction data was strictly between you and the hosting company, none of Google’s business?

Well Google checkout changes all that. Google checkout, used for web hosting, hands over all that financial transaction data to Google. And hosting companies like Dreamhost are requiring customers to use Google checkout. Others offer it as an option, but Dreamhost offers only Check or Money Order or Google Checkout under a set of conditions said to be for “fraud prevention” but apparently for profit reasons – Google checkout is free through the end of the year.

I hear you thinking a few things:

1. Any idiot who uses Google checkout for hosting deserves the associated privacy invasion.

2. Any hosting company that requires webmasters to use Google checkout is stupid, and should lose the business anyway.

3. Dreamhost says it only requires Google checkout under certain, undisclosed conditions related to fraud prevention.

4. Who cares? No one should ever use Dreamhost anyway.

Allow me to address these in turn:

1. Any idiot who uses Google checkout for hosting deserves the associated privacy invasion: Yes, I agree. But what if you have been with Dreamhost, and renewal comes up, and you find you can only renew with Google Checkout? Dreamhost will lock the account until you pay, so you lose access to your files, stats, etc. I am quite sure many webmasters fall into this trap, and are faced with “Tell Google who’s paying for this web site, or lose everything”

2. Any hosting company that requires webmasters to use Google checkout is stupid, and should lose the business anyway. I totally agree, which is why I am amazed at this. They need or want the extra 3% so bad they risk such a webmaster-unfriendly reputation?

3. Dreamhost says it only requires Google checkout under certain, undisclosed conditions related to fraud prevention. Yes, I have seen those tech support comments. Onces that say it only happens for certain credit card codes, country codes, etc. Well, if an address in Washington State trips their fraud protection system (before any credit card has been entered) then that’s a bogus excuse. There are many other reports of a similar nature out there. We’re all being thrown to the “Google Checkout only” condition for some other reason.

4. Who cares? No one should ever use Dreamhost anyway. Actually, Dreamhost is good for small-time junk and kids stuff. Like this case that triggered my post – my pre-teen son’s development work. Dreamhost is not very reliable, but cheap and fast, and they implement many features better than other cheap web hosts. And client cases like, 25 domains wrestled away from an extortionist former employee, which need to be parked asap under SEO consultant control? Can’t beat a $8/month Dreamhost account for that.

The point isn’t Dreamhost… the point is so many web masters identifying themselves by credit account to Google. That’s trouble with a capital T as Google tastes the blood of web hosting financial data. What would it take to incentivise web hosts to “prefer” Google checkout? Not much, apparently.

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July 20th, 2007 by john andrews

Shower Gel: Giving Google What it Wants: Ad-filled Web

Axe Shower Gel

Google wants to plaster ads on everything, and Google controls the primary search engine of the web. So, eventually, it is inevitable that Google will serve up nothing but ads.

Take a look at what you get when you do a blog search for “shower gel“. Listing after listing is a fake blog about a shower gel products, with links to shower gel product pages of online stores. Plus a few blog posts about ads for shower gel products.

Oh, and look at all the embedded AdSense.

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July 20th, 2007 by john andrews

Google Bids $4.6 Billion for Open Spectrum

As much as I know I will regret this later, I support Google’s effort to open the wireless spectrum use requirements. Unlike many pro-Google bloggers, I do not think this is a benevolent act by Google. And I don’t believe this is Google working to improve the world. However, the current (and former) telco industry has so screwed the consumer that I fear there is no way anything could be worse than the ad-filled, privacy-threatening GoogleView likely to come out of this.

At least with an Internet-style spectrum allocation, we end-users have some influence over the matters. Did you ever petition your local Board of Public Utilities to  change the way the telco’s operate? Of course you haven’t. The current BigTelco disaster should not be allowed to continue. Google’s $4.6 billion is our money, gathered from AdWords and the like, so putting it into the system in this way is indeed better than paying my monthly Verizon bill, for example (and no, I would never pay for that VCast crap).

So yes, “Go Google” and I bet you could double that $4.6Billion and still make a killing later.  That’s how monopoly momentum works, and that’s why Verizon can charge $45 per month for “unlimited data plan” that is in fact, extremely limited in every way they’ve been able to think of so far (andlikely to be more limited in the future). Until Google requires a social security number of every Internet searcher, Google is less of a threat than Verizon and the other telcos when it comes to spectrum allocation.

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