This came to me as a shocker, and just like you, I dismissed it saying “yet another claim” initially. But curious, I took another look into the matter and it looks like that there might be some “substance” in the claims. Let’s check some details.
Google has repeatedly claimed that they don’t interfere with anything manually on the SERPs. They insist that everything is “as generated by the bots”, and there’s nothing you can do to manipulate them.
But there are examples where we’ve found that if you have the right influence, things can be manipulated.
The John Chow Story:
Play dirty – Get banned – Befriend Matt Cutts – Get Back on SERPs !
John Chow, who runs the blog johnchow.com had been banned / penalized from Google regular SERPs for violating the Google TOS. He had been involved in a major scam where he encouraged bloggers to link to his blog with a particular keyword. This resulted in johnchow’s blog appearing on the top results in record time. When spotted, Google penalized the blog and it couldn’t be found via organic searches on Google.
Many SEO’s and bloggers believed that if you do something as nasty as what John did, you’re doomed for life. But apparently, if you have the right connections, you can sneak through.
The Henk Van Ess Revelations :
Google employs an army of people to grade websites, instead of algorithms
Henk Van Ess is a dutch journalist who revealed that Google employed a large army of people who rank search results and entries in those results. (Details here) He also reveals that Google secretly (or not) removes links from its search results upon complaints from people manually. This website has the details of links that were removed from Google.
Here’s an example of a latter to Google, requesting removal of an URL.
Mountain View, CA, USA
Sent via: email
Re: DMCA NOTIFICATION / FILM DISTRIBUTOR REQUEST
1. Rights Owner(s) : *MAGNOLIA PICTURES INC.
2. Rights Agent : *WEB SHERIFF
3. Infringed Rights : *COPYRIGHT, TRADEMARK, PERFORMERS & MORAL RIGHTS
4. Infringed Movie(s) : *DISTRICT 13 – ULTIMATUM / BANLIEUE 13 – ULTIMATUM /
GHETTOGANGZ 2 – ULTIMATUM (PIRATE COPIES)5. Infringing Activity : *COPYRIGHT / TRADEMARK FILE UPLOADING & DOWNLOADING
6. Infringing Web Site : blogspot.com
7. Infringing File Location(s) :
8. DMCA Request : Please remove Infringed Movie(s) from Infringing File
Location(s) ASAP : thank you.
9. Signature :[redacted]
for and on behalf of
London W6 9DX
The Michelle Obama Story
This one’s popular. Searching for the first lady’s name on Google images search will surprise you as Google shows a photoshopped image of a chimp.
But if you look at the ad right above, it says something about offensive search results.
The page says –
Search engines are a reflection of the content and information that is available on the Internet. A site’s ranking in Google’s search results relies heavily on computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query.
The beliefs and preferences of those who work at Google, as well as the opinions of the general public, do not determine or impact our search results.
Hmm, that’s a tricky one. So why didn’t Google take this stand in John Chow’s case ? Or why don’t they remove this particular search from the SERPs ?
So, what it looks like, Google might occasionally , in particular situations manually “manipulate” the SERPs by removing / adding links from it. Of course, they have their own justifications for each case and mostly they would be legitimate. But I think this raises a question to all of the webmaster SEO community, “Is the most widely used search engine completely trustable ? What if they screwed up ? Would you allow them to ?”