Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

“I am an atheist – I don’t believe in Google”

I start this piece with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the one deity which has most affected my life for the last ten years – Google. Like many of you reading this, Google has had a direct influence on all aspects of my life, and that influence has grown so strong and powerful, Google has taken on a mystical, almost God-Like presence in my daily life.

Forget Big Brother, Google has far surpassed that label or status in the eyes of many and has become one of the driving forces in our daily routines.

Quite frankly, I can’t imagine my day without Google in it. I use so many Google products in my personal and professional life it’s not remotely funny. While I have been gradually weaning myself from Google Search, I still use Google Analytics, Google+, Google Alerts, Adsense, YouTube… and the list goes on. As much as I dislike the idea, Google and its many products have become heavily woven into the very fabric of my life.

Google has been my muse, savior, mind-reader, educator, nemesis and generous benefactor. There is simply no other company I have followed so closely for the last 10 or 15 years.

Please don’t get me wrong, my feelings for Google are evenly divided – I love and hate it with the same passion that scares the bejesus out of me sometimes. Those mixed feelings have evolved over the years mainly because I owe so much of my current life and lifestyle to Google. Like many online marketers and site owners, Google has had a direct correlation to my very livelihood.

Directly and indirectly, Google has contributed to my online earnings over the years, and they still send me the occasional check. I run several sites and free Google traffic made those sites very profitable. Like many site owners and online marketers, I know the power of Google when it comes to getting free organic traffic. It was only a couple of years into my online endeavors when I truly fathomed just how powerful and lucrative receiving targeted keyword traffic from Google is for any site – especially when it comes to affiliate marketing.

My Google traffic numbers kicked into high gear after I started writing simple viral articles which were rapidly picked up and displayed on other related sites on the web. These articles had links back to my sites in the resource box. At one point, my Google traffic was worth 2 or 3 million a month if I had to pay for that traffic through a PPC (Pay Per Click) system. Needless to say, that kind of traffic means big affiliate checks and site revenue.

For years, this targeted traffic flowed freely until Google introduced the Panda and Penguin Updates starting in 2011. Panda didn’t affect my traffic that greatly, although article marketing sites did take a hit, and many were considered to be content farms by Google. However, Penguin spelled the end of much of my free organic traffic from Google. Suddenly, instead of being a vote for content, articles and article links, were considered spam by Google.

Unfortunately, my articles were viral, meaning I gave webmasters who found my writing and content to be worthwhile permission to display my content on their sites or blogs. I still have articles being picked up and displayed and I still consider this to be a vote for the quality of my content. Google, however, does not. I totally disagree with this. Ironically, many of these articles were written about Google. For example, one of my most popular earlier articles was entitled “Three Ways To Index Your Site With Google Sitemaps [Difficult, Hard, And Easy]” and still gets picked up today.

I even received direct feedback from Google that one of my articles picked up by a PR7 site was considered spam because the link in the resource box was “unnatural” and manipulating rankings. It was at this time (the launch of Penguin) that I lost all respect for Google as a determiner of quality content on the web. Penguin was simply wrong and cut at the heart of the Internet – link building and the sharing of quality content. Webmasters became so fearful of Google and the harm it could do to their sites that they were even afraid to link to their own content on their own sites. To make matters worse, following Panda and Penguin, Google penalized a WHOLE site, if it triggered a filter, which made other perfectly superior quality content on the site invisible in Google.

With the release of the Hummingbird update, my respect for Google eroded even further. In my heart of hearts, I strongly believe Google is gradually reducing/eliminating its main competitors – other websites on the net. If Google can display content or answer questions directly on its site via Knowledge Graph or other means, then visitors will stay and only use Google. It simply means that visitors have more time to click an ad and earn revenue for Google. I also believe Google would be more than happy to deal with ONLY 1,000 or maybe 10,000 sites in its index – dismissing all other sites to the disposal bin.

While Google strongly denies it, it is also my belief Google de-ranks sites which depend upon affiliate marketing. Google says it is the quality of these sites which has resulted in lower rankings. Still, one can’t help but wonder if it’s the competition Google is targeting here because if brand name companies can get their sales/leads from affiliate marketers, they don’t need to spend big bucks on Google Adwords. Likewise, if these brand name companies can get their sales/leads from SEO, they don’t need to spend big bucks on Google Adwords.

Google is a fierce competitor, and it goes after its competition with a vengeance. When Facebook knocked Google out of the top spot on the web, it created Google+ to compete and get its traffic numbers back up. Just examine other areas where Google has taken on the competition – Chrome vs Internet Explorer, iPad vs Chromebook, Android vs iPhone… and with free products like Google Hangouts and now Google Helpouts, there is direct competition with countless software programs and services around the world.

“In ancient Rome emperors were so powerful, they were considered gods – does the same faith await Google?”

Google has come a long way from that timid backrub between two Stanford Graduates Larry Page and Sergey Brin in a Menlo Park garage back in 1998. Today, its share price has surpassed $1000, and Google is one of the richest companies on the planet. The company is now venturing from the virtual world into the real world with products like Google Glass, Chromebook, and Android Devices. And, the list will only get longer. There is no topic or problem Google won’t tackle, from patenting a lie-detecting wireless electronic neck tattoo to overcoming death with the Calico project. Talk about being a god. Don’t laugh, the first church of Google is rumored to be floating in San Francisco Bay.

However, all is not turning out as planned. It could be just me, but it seems Google is really starting to tick a lot of people off mainly due to its privacy policies. They recently settled a privacy lawsuit (dealing with tracking customers in Apple’s Safari browser) with 37 states and the District of Columbia for $17 million.

In addition, Google’s recent move to marry Google+ with commenting on YouTube videos was the last straw for me. It has really turned me off Google. I have a Google+ account and like it, but I don’t want to sign over my soul or my name to Google in order to keep using it. On second thought, that boat has probably already sailed, but I have to try and keep some self dignity.

Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, YouTube and Privacy Changes… for me and for many former loyal Google followers, it seems like Google has abandoned all reason or has shown blanket disregard for how webmasters, site owners and surfers feel about all these changes. While Google’s head apostle Matt Cutts has been the most outspoken in telling us that Google really does care – for the most part, that argument has fallen on deaf ears, mainly because there is a widespread perception that Google has nothing but contempt for its users.

Sadly, Google has let a lot of people down (myself included) – not just let them down gently but thrown them off a cliff. It’s like suddenly discovering your favorite mistress has a thing about bunny rabbits and boiling pots or like finding out your best friend has suddenly turned into your biggest bully.

For me, it feels as if Google has turned into this monster bully who simply must have its way. Get rid of your SEO or else, accept our privacy policies or else, use Google+ or lose YouTube… and the demands go on. As a former teacher, I know a thing or two about bullies and Google should be careful of all the negative press coming its way. Bullies get their way for a little while, but they harvest resentment which lasts for years and never really disappears.

Google should also realize bullies like empires fade away, and no one is immune to this fact. Who really knows what the future will bring?

Besides, one sure way to defeat a bully is to take away their playground. In the web of the future, who is to say there will even be an Internet or at least the “www” version most of us are now using. There is a strong possibility Google will tick so many people off, it will not only ruin its own brand but will also seriously sour the Internet as a whole.

In the minds of many, Google and the Internet are one. Maybe it won’t be Google that falls but the Internet itself. Fear of Big Brother, real or imagined, will be the motivating force behind these changes which could prove fatal for major data collection agencies like Google. Human nature may prove to be Google’s biggest foe which no amount of payout can defeat.

Led by rebellious youth, (where all true revolutions start) there may be a strong movement away from the present day Internet into the deep web, where all roads are made of silk and there’s not a googler in sight. Google may be rendered obsolete on this brand new web unless, of course, Google does reach divine status. Then, all bets are off.