Google Plays Favorites, Pisses Everyone Off. Again.

by on 07/22/2011 • 49 Comments | SEO

For all the genius minds working over at Google and with reports that company profits are higher than ever, Google needs to go acquire two very important things:

  1. A double dose of common sense
  2. The life lessons one is supposed to acquire in kindergarten

And they need to do it ASAP because it seems the rocket scientists at Google are fresh out of both.

Earlier this week while the “experts” were working on their 200-page Google+ eBooks and charging folks for educational webinars on a 3-week old product, I cautioned readers against leaping into something that wasn’t fully developed yet. I commented that it wouldn’t be Facebook or Twitter or any other social entity that crushed Google, but that it would be Google that crushed Google. If you’ve been in search for any extended period of time, you know that Google has a really bad habit of getting in its own way to the tune of disastrous problems.

And, well, here we are again. A complete Internet shit storm as a result of Google being Google.

Well done!

When Google+ first launched, there was no provision made for of mention of Google+ Brand pages. However, there was a natural expectation that, at some point, brands would be able to participate. Especially for those brands who had been part of Google Buzz or for anyone who has been on the Internet the past year and watched Google promote Google Place Pages as if their life (or bonuses) depended on it.

This is not a new road. In fact, it’s a road Google arguably dug out and paved for us. So when Google+ launched, brands hopped on.

It wasn’t until a week later that it was hinted that official Google+ Brand pages would be coming later and a statement was released asking business owners to hold off on creating these accounts.

But the accounts had already been created. No problem, really. Google will just suspend them. No major harm, no major foul.

Until Google decided to play favorites. Again.

While brands like Search Engine Land and Sesame Street (dude!) lost their respective brand pages, some brands got their previously-shut-down pages restored. Ford saw their Google+ Brand Page given back, while Mashable received what Danny Sullivan referred to as a “wink wink nude nudge workaround” which allowed them to “rebrand” the Mashable Google+ Page as Pete Cashmore’s.

Only problem. Pete Cashmore already had a Google+ Page. So now he has two.

And this is around the time that the Internet lost its shit.

Google was not only applying different rules for different people, they were smacking us in the face with it. And like the rest of us learned in kindergarten, that’s not allowed.

So the Internet placed Google in time out.

Dear Google, may I suggest you put DOWN the bloody dagger before you do more harm?

There are two main issues here:

1. Google should have known better

Google+ may be new around here, but Google is not. They understand how this works because, for all intents and purposes, they created the rules for the kingdom. Actually, they may have also created the damn kingdom. Business Google+ pages were obviously something users would want, would create, and would sneak in – so there should have been a provision made for them at start. Or, if they wanted to delay the release, that should have been stated up front. And when they found business pages being created, they should have nuked them. All of them. Not just the pages that weren’t created by a company that’s CEO could secretly double as an underwear model.

2. Google has zero people skills

One of Google’s core company values seems to be to create a hierarchy that pits people against one another and inspires bad behavior. Google has a long history of treating big brands differently than the little guy whether we’re talking about:

  • Cloaking vs IP detection
  • Incentivized reviews (free Google phone anyone?)
  • Paid links

Google creates one set of rules for us normal folk and then a different set of rules for The Special People. The result of this, of course, is that they piss off everyone else in the process and they create a spirit of “whatever it takes” where we’re all encouraged to act like drug-fueled animals in search of our next fix, exploiting the loopholes and trying to “level the playing field” by doing things we’d never admit to our mother.

Google, want to know why there’s so much spam and bad behavior in search?

It’s because you created it and you created it with moves just like this one.  Moves where your bad planning results in even worse reactionary behavior.

I think I speak for most of us when I say that I don’t care so much what rules Google puts in place. I don’t care if I have to wait three months to get a Google+ Business Profile. I don’t care if there’s a mandatory penalty I have to suffer if I’m caught buying links. I just want that to apply to everyone. Or, if it’s not going to apply to everyone, I want to at least not be hit over the head with the injustice.

We don’t need a reason to dislike Pete Cashmore and his company Mashable. He’s pretty. We already don’t like him. So giving him a placeholder for the soon-to-be-allowed Mashable Google+ account is a douche move.

Figure out what you’re doing. And then do it. Consistently. For everyone. Because when you pick favorites, you piss off the entire Internet and make a giant mess that you’re not going to be able to clean up. Remember? You’ve done this before. You’ve done it repeatedly.

Right now Google+ is gaining users and just may be on its way to mainstream user adoption. But not if you stab yourself in the face before it happens. Now put down the knife before you hurt someone.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

49 thoughts on “Google Plays Favorites, Pisses Everyone Off. Again.

  1. Nice Friday coffee reading Lisa!

    “Google creates one set of rules for us normal folk and then a different set of rules for The Special People.” – Amen to that!

    Other than monitoring the situation, not much to do as a business owner other than continue moving forward and serving clients as best we can. Counting on you to keep us up to date with the important stuff.

    • You’re right. Other than being aware, there’s not much more we can do but stay the course and keep building defensible Web sites through good SEO and marketing. Though, it would be nice to give Google a kick in the shins every now and then… ;)

  2. I would like to believe that this is the time that Google recognizes that all of that blood splatter originated from them cutting their own throats… but history tells me otherwise. Nice post.

  3. Outstanding post Lisa. I agree. Google is in a position to overtake Facebook by leaps and bounds. They need to tread lightly and make sure they don’t piss off the 80% of their users who aren’t in the 20% elite that can get whatever they want.

  4. 100% with you. Google has no people skills and it begins to be pretty annoying not to be treated as a VIP. is GG+ going to have the same fate than GG wave?

  5. I didn’t realize this nonsense with branded profiles was even happening. But WOW!

    The one thing that Google+ really had going for it was that people thought Mark Zuckerberg was the ass in this pony show. Now the internet will have to reconsider.

    • Ha, I love that comment. You’re right, though. It was really easy for us to all assume that Mark Zuckerberg is just a giant ass, but, oh wait, here comes Google to give him a run for his money. And, look, Google’s carrying much larger weapons.

  6. Wow! Way to get me riled up first thing in the morning… The unfortunate thing here is we can’t vote with our time spent online (by not using G+) if we did we’d miss any leg up we could possibly garner in the future. Here’s a bag of shit… just sit there and hold it… and be happy you got that!

  7. That is an awesome assessment of the situation. I was wondering how they would take down the likes of Sesame Street while leaving up others like Mashable. I was kind of pissed off when I saw Mashable re-branded into Pete Cashmore and felt that was not a good thing to do. I totally understand that it’s not about brands right now, but to then allow companies like Mashable to skirt around the issue or to let Ford still have their test account is down right unfair.

  8. Lisa,
    Thanks for giving it to them straight up. Google’s hierarchy is the same as the social environment we live in. Do big companies control search the same way the top 1% of income earners in the U.S. own 95% of the wealth? Cater to the elite, bleed out the rest. As long as we have voices like yours, we can try and level off the playing field. Or is it the same cause and effect, just a different day? Have a great weekend Lisa!

  9. I just can’t get past the fact that no one thought this would be an issue. Look at businesses telling people to find them on Facebook. Not one says “and add our marketing manager Jane as a friend after you find us!”

    • LOL. Google created hits environment. Why do we even have brand pages on Facebook? We have them because of Google and search. Obviously, brands were going to want to get in on the action and there’s no way Google didn’t know that. So plan for it. And by “planning” I mean do a hell of a better job than what you did.

      • You had me at “double dose of common sense.” The more I think about it, the dumber it sounds.

        You want to compete with this scrappy super startup that came to dominate social by adapting to how people were using it, so you create your own social project. Except when people let you know how you should adapt to better fit their needs, you delete them. Brilliant.

        Then you bring a few back in so that you can “understand” how people interact with them. And instead of having the much larger sample group that not deleting anyone would have created, you build your product targeted at this group of people off of a few who were chosen by dartboard. Genius.

        And by “brilliant” and “genius” I mean social is the idiot to Google’s search savant.

  10. Well said Lisa! Ironically I was messing with google+ today and felt like a leper; they should know better is an understatement!

  11. Glad to see that vacation mellowed you out. And sadly, like life, the Internet and Google is not fair. So when and where do we turn? That seems to be the problem. Where do as go…..Bing?

    • I’m not sure we can go or turn anywhere. The best we can do is to build defensible Web sites that receive traffic from a variety of different sources.

  12. I saw the title of your article and was prepared to jump into the comments with retorts like, “Relax – it’s the brands’ fault for jumping the gun,” and “Google’s doing the right thing by taking it slow.”

    BUT, after reading the post you’ve laid out a convincing case that they handled it poorly. At the end of the day, I believe it’s best for the new ecosystem if they wait a few months before letting in the sharks. However, they do appear to be peeing on our legs and telling us it’s raining.

  13. Google finally has a product that can weaken Facebook. Maybe even beat them. Against all perceivable odds, MySpace lost. For me, that’s all I need to know here.

    But….. I think they should have foreseen the desire of folks to create brand pages, and they should have been ready. And when I say, “be ready,” I don’t mean with a strict but evenhanded policy of “shut them all down.” That’s bully customer service – bad. They should have been ready with the feature, fully knowing the desire to create these pages exists (along with the technical ability to create such a page by just using the first and last name fields to jam your company name in there)

    • They must have foreseen the desire for the pages so I’m not sure why it wasn’t handled better. I can understand launching them at separate times to get their bearings or to see how adoption would be, whatever. But they made a mess of this. And now they’re gonna struggle to clean it up with a bunch of pissed off users.

  14. It’s like that Pink song. So what? I’m still a big brand. I’ve got my corp moves, and I don’t need, you, and guess what? I’m making more bucks, and now that brands we don’t like are done, I’m gonna show you +1! It’s so fun! And you’ll just accept it, because, we’re a big corp, and we can do what we want tonight!

    (nananana na na na, nana na na nana)

    Ahem. It’s Friday, I can’t be too serious.

    • I LOVE the circles! :) I finally have a way to share info with only my real-life friends and get away from all you weird industry people.

      I mean, um, I hope you have a great weekend! ;)

      • OMG. Lisa Barone called me an industry people. You made my day. :) Doing a happy dance. I mean, of course, yes, those industry people …

        Have a great weekend too. :)

  15. Lisa – What’s a nude nudge? (wink, wink, nude nudge workaround)

    I now have a rather disturbing picture in my head involving Internet marketing industry influencers and nudity. To heck with Google+ issues, I’m going to start drinking again……..

  16. Two words: “field” “test”

    I guess I don’t understand why people are up in arms over every little thing that’s not 100% perfect or ready-for-prime-time. It’s a field test. It’s not open. If they felt they were ready to go completely, they wouldn’t be using the invite system (as free-flowing as it is right now).

    Maybe they’re not sure that “brand pages” are the best thing for this network. They sure do lack something on Facebook. And, just because brands want brand pages doesn’t me regular users want them as much as we’d all like to hope they would.

    I think the only ones “losing their shit” are those who don’t know the difference between a “field test” (as large as this one may be) and a finished product.

    I patiently await your flames…

    • I think you have a point, Ken. However, if this is the way Google handles field testing, then they need to get smarter about it. Why not pick low profile brands? For god’s sake, at least avoid showing preference for a high profile member of the marketing industry. Pick something off the web-marketing radar like the semiconductor industry or a cupcake joint.

  17. I wanted to post this link on Google + but wonder if the title will fall under Google’s subtle censorship, in which posts which contain (as reddit put it) “the seven dirty words you can’t say on television” appear on your stream but don’t show up in your friend’s streams (they can only see it if they visit your profile). I’m not sure if piss is still considered one of those words, but …

    reference

  18. A little hard on the handsome chief at Mashable, but I definitely agree. It seems like they’re making the rules up as they go along – as if they didn’t consider the fact that businesses would try to exploit the service immediately. It’s almost like they were expecting the product to fail – like Buzz, Wave, etc. – and now they’re struggling because the project’s way more successful than anyone expected.

    I know I’m not supposed to think this since I’m a marketer, but I like the (relative) lack of brands on Google+.

  19. I’m really surprised how clumsy and utter foolish some people can be. Well, then again the people who bring down a kingdom are usually part of it aren’t they? I’m sure most of us trust Google for many a things, so we would ideally want to see them fix their mess up for good this time before they create a full circle of distrust.

  20. Well put, Lisa. I still see many large brands with G+ pages and wonder if their mods haven’t gotten there yet, or if Google is giving more free passes to organizations with some influence?

    All they need to do is be evenhanded and we’ll all just chill out – until then . . . keep keeping them in check!

  21. Spot on Lisa. Google seems to have 2 weights and measures for many things these days including the way it wielded the Panda hatchet. It definitely seems to be favoring the major brands, for whom all the fix rules that mere mortals are scrambling to apply to their buried sites in the hope of seeing some light at the end of the tunnel don’t seem apply. If you have a fat Adwords account and a known brand you’re probably fine. Seems instead of the axe coming down on them they get a slight slap on the wrist (a la JC Penney) and then we’re all friends again, whereas mom and pop sites get left out in the cold for half a year plus. More Google Plus ;)

  22. Google’s had a hell of a job getting small businesses to claim their places pages, even though it’s oodles of free traffic, so why not make a scene with Google+ Brand pages, cause a stir, get some well known bloggers writing about brand pages and hey presto – when brand pages launch more people know about them.

    Or am I giving them too much credit?

  23. LOL @ “Earlier this week while the “experts” were working on their 200-page Google+ eBooks and charging folks for educational webinars on a 3-week old product, I cautioned readers against leaping into something that wasn’t fully developed yet.”

    Interesting perspective on an instance of preferential treatment.

  24. You never have to worry where you stand on an issue Lisa. Your transparency and willingness to say it like it is makes your opinions not only outspoken but valuable. You sort of wonder if the mavens at Google engage in any market focus groups outside of their chosen few. Perhaps talking to those in the trenches versus Madison Avenue and large adwords spenders might be one of the best ideas. Love to hear what they say. My bet is Apple does in a more common sense way.

    But they do say it is a “limited beta” of Google + to give them some credit, wish they could do more for local in this area.

  25. That one’s tough. The whole issue is a shade of gray. It’s easy to see what’s “fair” in the short game, but does that make it the best long-term decision? Is there not a point where even the slighted look past their injury and see the action might result in a greater outcome for all? I’d rather Google+ survives, even if that means I have to get picked last for the kickball squad.

    Put simply, Google doesn’t think fair is a smart bet in this case. They’ve clearly demonstrated that by their actions. They want to make allowances for these brands because their continued presence on Google+ turns that brand into an agent of executing Google’s endgame. Theoretically, big brands bring big crowds (and lots of $). Google sees pissing them off, even under the guise of “fairness,” as being a worse move for the health and legitimacy of Google+ than accepting the aggregate irateness of a cluster of smaller brands and more vocal interested observers.

    But how long do you think people / small brands will stay mad at Google for this? How much of a hit will Google really take in credibility, adoption of their social platform, or inevitable ad spend as a result of this move? Versus what they stand to gain by remaining buddy-buddy with big brands and leveraging those brands to attract users so as not to fall flat on their face? I don’t know many people or brands that are deleting their Google+ account and/or their Google public profile, switching to Bing for search, or reducing their ad spend with Google as a result of this. Maybe I just don’t know enough people / brands? In the end, Google is not so worried if you belly-ache, as long as eyeballs keep soaking ad impressions, profits continue to be record-setting, and Google+ keeps pushing forward with a full head of big-brand steam.

    For the record, I agree that they have very poor social skills and have consistently flaunted a disregard for fairness in their practices. And I think they could have handled this a LOT better. But did this really open our eyes about how evil Google can be? Did we not already know this is how they operate, that this was some great betrayal? I was shocked when they removed big brands in the first place — that was out of character. I at least felt a little more sane when I heard they were selectively restoring some.

    Overall, I think there’s a good chance that a year from now (assuming Google+ survives until then) they’ll look back on this and not second-guess whether they should have gone this route. I think a lot of people & businesses won’t even remember or care. What happens in limited field trial will stay in limited field trial.

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