Friday, 27 January 2012

A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma - part 1

In 1939, Winston Churchill described Russia as "A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".  If he were alive today, he might use the same phrase to describe Google.

Many SEO experts have made a living trying to work out exactly what parameters Google uses to decide which websites appear on its first page and which are relegated to the unseen hundreds of pages that follow it.  Google plays its cards close to its chest and, it is said, frequently changes its parameters (no doubt to keep the SEO experts on their toes).

Nothing wrong in that, of course.  If everyone knew exactly what to do to get to the top, and proceeded to do it, Google would have to resort to pulling names out of a hat in order to assign places on the first page.

However, Google's secrecy and unapproachability is not always so benign.  In recent times, while constantly urging people to advertise on the web using Google Adwords, it has also been banning many others from ever using this method again.  Some of those banned have been serious advertisers, spending thousands of dollars a month on their campaigns.  So why have they been banned?  In many cases it's hard to tell.

Google refers to it as a 'suspension' rather than a ban - but since there is no way of appealing against it and since it means that the 'suspended' person cannot use any of his or her accounts to advertise ever again, 'ban' seems to be a more suitable word.

If you go into Google and search for " adwords account suspended" you will find over 82,000 results.  And if you look at the first few pages, it seems that many of these are written by people who do not understand why they have been banned.  

Google's Terms and Conditions state that people cannot advertise anything that contravenes any law in the countries in which the ads are shown and that they cannot advertise anything that violates its policies 'as revised from time to time'.  The first is, of course, reasonable and sensible.  The second is where the trouble lies.  

To be continued . . .

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