Google has made another alteration the Google Help Center, this time removing the assurance that Google’s results are completely automated. The change was first noted by Phillip Lenssen in his Google Blogoscope.
As recently as February 2, the document outlining Google’s Principles stated, ” The order and contents of Google search results are completely automated. No one hand picks a particular result for a given search query, nor does Google ever insert jokes or send messages by changing the order of results. Occasionally, when a particular website is the subject of public attention, other sites begin linking to it. This may elevate its importance as gauged by our ranking software, which assigns a PageRank value based in part on who links to a given page. Higher ranking in Google results may lead to more awareness, which may lead to more links and so on.”
Today, the same page opens with the headline, ” Does Google ever insert jokes or send messages by changing the order of its results? “concluding, “… No. Occasionally, when a particular website is the subject of public attention, other sites begin linking to it. This may elevate its importance as gauged by our ranking software, which assigns a PageRank value based in part on who links to a given page. Higher ranking in Google results may lead to more awareness, which may lead to more links, and so on.”
The Google Principles navigation page was altered as well, changing linked text worded, “Does Google ever manipulate its search results” to read, “Does Google ever insert jokes or send messages by changing the order of results?”
Uh, huh… Is Google playing a joke on its critics or is the change a post Valentine’s Day love letter to their new friends at AOL, and in Beijing , or are they making subtle comment on the two-minute cloaking penalty assigned to BMW last week.
It is very possible that the deal made with AOL in late December and its continuing collaboration with the Chinese Government in regards to censoring Google.Cn, has prompted a universal realignment of the company’s stated values. If that is true, they haven’t “jumped the shark” they have been consumed by it. (You are what you’re eaten by?)
It is also possible that the alteration is a reference to the delisting and rapid reinsertion of the German language version of the BMW website last week. Google confirmed BMW had been removed for using a technique known as java-script cloaking, a spam-offence generally punishable by 30-days in the penalty box. After BMW.de complied with Google’s demand they remove the spam, their listing was re-included in the index. All obviously done by hand. If this scenario is true, Google might just be clumsy enough to fall into the shark’s mouth, get chewed a bit and spit out as unappealing.
Whatever motivated Google to remove the assurance of automated organic results, the alteration, we are no longer able to tell clients Google’s results are guaranteed by Google to be 100% organic. That is a very bad thing for Google today.
Yahoo and smaller rival Lycos have both publicly conceded the general, organic search space to Google but recently, it has taken a number of major hits to its reputation, some well earned, others slightly misplaced. It continues to dominate the search engine spectrum but is now the in the center of the ongoing discussions about human rights and freedom of information.
Google’s greatest asset is the faith its users place in it. With billions of dollars in the bank and a number of the world’s greatest minds working under its roof, we cannot understand why Google would break with the very core-principle that made it unique.