Google Fends Off Frivolous Lawsuit Over Rankings

Google has fended off a lawsuit filed by a California man who claimed his Web site rankings precipitously and unfairly dropped. The plaintiff, Mark Roberts, who runs two protein drink sites (including MrProtein.com), sued Google for breach of contract. Huh? What contract?

Specifically, Mr. Roberts claimed that within the last two years, he had sustained and suffered damages from Google’s acts and/or omissions including the removal of his web site’s product pages from the Google index, the loss of business revenue and profits and the loss of effective use of his web site’s domains and related consequential damages according to proof.

He goes on to say in his complaint (PDF) that on November 2001, Google and himself entered into an oral agreement where Google agreed to use PageRank to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important, to conduct hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to the specific search being conducted and to list the most relevant and reliable first for searches within the Google system.

Okay, that does not sound like any kind of an agreement but rather the way that Google’s search engine functions. He goes on to essentially claim that because Google has an “Add URL” function, that is their invitation to him to submit his sites and that they would be crawled and included in the index. Furthermore he feels because he submitted his sites that Google should rank them on the first page. That did happen initially but at a later date, Mr. Robert’s pages dropped from the first page and even from the index altogether. On that basis, he files a lawsuit claiming that Google damaged his business. Give me a break, please! In all this, Mr. Roberts decided to represent himself without a professional attorney.

Google’s attorneys threatened to file a “SLAPP” motion against him because California has a strong SLAPP law designed to discourage frivolous lawsuits and permits successful defendants to seek attorneys’ fees. Of course, Mr. Roberts backed off and as such, the lawsuit was dismissed.

A couple of comments regarding this. First of all, DO NOT depend on Google or any other engine to support your business. The search engines have no obligation to help our businesses succeed or fail. Therefore one should not rely on them solely because algorithms change as well as the index itself changes all the time. Secondly, just because you submit your site through Google’s “Add URL” function, that does not constitute an “oral” agreement. Again, search engines have no obligation to list your site in any certain position. Finally, don’t try to sue a search engine over rankings. Rather work to make your site the best of its kind.

I find this story quite humorous but not uncommon. In the variety of forums that I either moderate or participate in, I see people ranting and raving over search engine’s not listing them the way they would like all the time. Many of these people have the same kinds of complaints, faulting the search engine as opposed to realizing that maybe their sites just simply stinks! Instead of trying to improve their sites, they whine and complain. This is the first scenario however where I have seen someone with the cajonas (hope I spelled that correctly) to sue over.

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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