Earlier this year it was discovered that Google was having a problem crawling Apple’s website and, as a result, direct links to apps weren’t showing in the results. The next few days involved lots of finger pointing, blame shuffling, and hang wringing; but, a few non public changes later, things were sorted out. This, however, set a very bad example that business owners and website developers are sure to fall victim to in the future.
The real problem comes from Google’s special treatment of big brands website. Many moons ago, Google changed the way they handled blocked URL’s: Google now shows the URL but not the content. This non-intuitive implementation was the result of sites like Metallica and Nissan blocking the Google spiders, and Google not wanting to deliver bad results to searchers. I understand Google’s point of view, but this significantly encumbers the process you have to go through to actually block a page you don’t want appearing in their results. When Google makes adjustments to their algorithm to accommodate the quirks of Apple’s IT department, it sets a bad precedent. In the future, others will repeat these same mistakes but not be well known enough or have enough social media visibility to get Google to “take care of it.”
Now, I’m not recommending that everyone take a huge leap backward and embrace a design that resembles Craigslist, but I’m also saying don’t rush out to dress like Lady Gaga and wonder why the rest of the world doesn’t “get you” either. If you are going to take risks, don’t take them with mission critical elements of your website, like products and eCommerce shopping (as Apple did). This problem comes back to the old Developers vs Users debate, where developers befuddle the business side of operation into thinking they NEED this type of improvement, when really all we are doing is coddling developers all over again.