Is Google Stealing Your Content and Hijacking Your Traffic

Google has long been an advocate of “build great content”; however, in reality, it’s turning into “build great content … and if we like it we’ll take it from you, put it on our pages, and deprive you of that traffic. Without compensation.” Strong accusations, sure, but I’m willing to step up to the plate, put my money where my mouth is, and show you how it’s being done.

Let’s say you live in the Miami area or are thinking of taking a vacation there. You might want to bring your family to the Miami Seaquarium, and it might be a good idea to find out exactly where they are and what hours they are open. So what do you do? Fire up your browser, head on over to Google, and search for [seaquarium miami]. You should get a result that’s something like this:

So what’s the problem? First of all, Google gives away the hours right in the SERP. There’s no need for the people to visit the website. While I don’t know for a fact that traffic growth is a success metric for the Miami Seaquarium, I think it’s a safe assumption. By denying the Miami Seaquarium that traffic they deny them the opportunity to upsell visitors to the upcoming aquarium programs. Now Googlers might counter by saying that it’s all about “providing a better user experience.” Maybe at the next conference I’ll improve the movie going experience of some Googlers by telling them the surprise ending of the latest movie before they see it. I mean, I saved them money and two hours of their time, right? That’s gotta be a better user experience.

See that review and link to “more information”? Click either of those and, instead of being taken to the Miami Seaqurium website, you’re taken to the Google map listing page. Google stole the information they wanted from the Miami Seaqurium, hijacked the traffic for themselves, and put them on a page with contextual advertising that puts more money in Google ‘s pockets. The only person that gets a better user experience out of that is someone whose paycheck directly results from that advertising. Really this is nothing more than a scraper adsense website designed to hijack traffic away from place it should be going. Because Google controls the SERP’s they make sure they are at the top, guaranteeing clicks, traffic, and revenue from that page.

This is almost the exact behavior I described in my debate with Danny Sullivan a few weeks ago on Sphinn. I stand by my position that giving Google the copyright to the information for free right out of the gate is the same as giving them permission to steal and develop a money making operation based on your labors without giving you any of the action.

Want another example of Google stealing? Sure, here we go …

Let’s say I decide I want to go to nice steakhouse for dinner. I know there’s a Bryant & Cooper here on Long Island. I wonder if it’s still any good, so I type in [bryant & cooper steakhouse long island reviews]. Here’s what I get:

So it’s got four out of five stars based on 48 reviews. That’s pretty good. I can call and make reservation right away and my mission is accomplished.

So what’s my beef here (pun intended)? Another long-standing Google suggestion is to build a website, service, or product that people want to use and place value on. This is what’s called a Point of Differentiation or POD. One way to do that is with user-submitted reviews. I wonder where Google got those 48 reviews? Let’s  check it out.

Let’s see…there are some reviews from Google, but the majority are from Zagat and CitySearch. Let’s review. Google says build great content and a service people want to use, which Zagat and CitySearch did. Then Google went and stole that content from them and put some adsense advertising next to it. If we go back to the original SERP and scroll down a bit … yep, we’ll find Zagat and CitySearch. Google hijacked that traffic, and those two sites got nothing to show for it.

What you need to do is ask yourself a question. Do you think Google is going to use less information or are they going to take more? Are they going to decide they can better serve the customers in your market by stealing your best content and putting it on their servers, where they collect the ad revenue, while they kick you to the curb faster than a no-good, two-timing, philandering spouse? Do you feel confident betting against the all-consuming data borg? Well do ya, punk?

The problem is that, as SEO’s, we’re the canaries in coal mine. We’ll notice trouble before it happens. Probably a few of us are going to have our websites killed by Google before the main stream press and Government notices. But the sooner we see the truth for what it is and stop burying our heads in the sand, the sooner something will happen to change it.

You may have friends who work for Google, but Google is not your friend. Google is like the feudal lord who grows rich off of the peons, serfs, and indentured servants who labor in the fields. No matter how hard you work you will always serve your digital master.

Update Patrick Sexton’s Video Response

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