On Friday, Google will try to convince a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that challenges the heart of the company’s business: its methods for indexing and ranking Web pages. KinderStart.com originally filed suit against Google in March alleging that it suffered crippling financial harm after its Web site got dropped from the search engine’s index.
This is not the first lawsuit of its kind as I recently wrote about another similar lawsuit filed over positioning in Google’s index.
As search engines have become the norm for not only information retrieval but finding products and services on the Internet, it has become crucial for companies to ensure they have visibility. Quoting from the MacWorld article, “having a Web site that ranks low or disappears altogether from the Google index can have devastating effects for a company. This is what KinderStart.com alleges happened to it.”
“Google shouldn’t have completely free range to be able to remove sites or hit them with a zero PageRank,” states said Gregory Yu, KinderStart.com’s attorney. KinderStart.com is charging Google, among other things, with violating its right to free speech; illegally using a monopoly position to harm competitors; engaging in unfair practices and competition; committing defamation and libel and violating the Federal Communications Act. They are seeking a class action certification for the lawsuit, damages and injunctive relief, among other things.
What is interesting about this is that if you look below the surface, KinderStart.com actually does not deserve to be listed in the Google index, mainly for violating their guidelines. My friend, Ian McAnerin pointed out that 1.) they had (and may still have) tons of comment spam (including porn, pills etc) in their site aimed at kids, no less; 2.) their site used a pop-up that attempted to feed the visitor spyware on the homepage and 3.) they used methods known to “conserve page rank” with no other purpose, a novice SEO technique. This was all discovered in a thread at Search Engine Watch Forums which was started back in March of this year right after the suit was filed.
Despite the fact that the site doesn’t deserve to be in the index, Google should have the right to do with their search engine what they wish. It is their index and no one pays any monies to be listed in it for good or for bad. So how can one sue Google? I liken it to entering a race and then trying to cheat your way to victory and then suing the race promoters because you were disqualified. Even if you did compete fairly, to sue because you didn’t finish where you wanted to would be positively ridiculous. So is this lawsuit.
It is one that many of us in the search engine marketing industry are watching closely however. If KinderStart.com is successful, we will see a whole strain of lawsuits from site owners over rankings and positioning.
What’s to follow? Will site owners begin to sue directories such as DMOZ because they won’t list them, claiming that it has a negative effect on their business structure?