Webmasters push back against recent changes at Google by JD Lasica

Target audience:

Businesses, brands, marketers, search specialists, SEO experts, Web publishers — anyone with a business website.


By and large over the years on number of fronts — search, mobile, open source, public policy — Google has generally worn the white hat. They’ve played the good guys in this still unfolding Internet saga right from the start. Back when search was still young, as I wrote in 2001, Google decreed that there must be a clear demarcation between search results and sponsored links, and it has been thus ever since.

So it was somewhat jarring to see the cool reception that Google’s Matt Cutts — probably Google’s biggest superstar behind Larry, Sergey and Eric — received yesterday at the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Francisco. Cutts laid out a rosy portrait of the company’s Knowledge Graph, unveiled last week. Search on “chiefs” on Kansas City and you’ll get a different result than if you searched out the Chiefs rugby team in Australia or New Zealand. (For the possible downsides of this, see my interview with Eli Pariser, author of “The Filter Bubble.”)

But Google is doing more than just personalization, and audience members took to the microphone to push back. Their objection came down to this: By all appearances, Google’s recent moves seem to be moving the company away from its search roots and more into the role of an online publisher, a one-stop shop, a commercial Wikipedia.

Google’s entry on Tom Cruise, part of its Knowledge Graph initiative.

As one questioner put it — and you may have noticed this trend — when you do a search on Tom Cruise now, you don’t just see link to his Wikipedia page, his website or other sources, you see a content capsule right there in the search results (see image at right).

And not just good ol’ Tom. Do a search on best hotels in San Francisco and you’ll see a spate of choices that Google ranks before Frommer’s or Trip Advisor. When you search on hotels or other items, the results you get, well, depends

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