For some considerable time I have been following a Google newsgroup all about how and why Google ranks web sites in their index. Basically this is how Google determines who gets page one billing, and who gets buried down on page 40. In the techy world this is known as Page Rank.

Google themselves are pretty tight lipped about the whole process claiming that to disclose this trade secret would open the door to less than scrupulous Web sites manipulating the system. I must agree with Google on this point.

One of the recurring themes in this newsgroup is of Web sites that for no reason suddenly disappear completely from the Goggle index, or suddenly move from a high ranking page 1 position to being relagated to page 40 for a given search term. If the web site is of a commercial nature the ranking with Google is obviously very important, being on page 1 will for drive more visitors and consequentially generate more sales.

One such site is www.kinderstart.com , suddenly in March 2005 their Google popularity dropped to zero. This had a large effect on traffic to the site, and obviously adversely affected revenue.

KinderStart decided to fight back, and filed suit against Google. While this is not a high profile case it is a very significant one. Google could of course just restore the Page Rank to the web site, that however would open up a flood gate of court cases from other dissatisfied web sites.

In a Reuters story KinderStart counsel Gregory Yu is claiming

KinderStart, a Norwalk, Connecticut-based Web parenting site that features links to information about raising children, alleges violations of antitrust, free speech, unfair competition and defamation and libel laws in its suit.


KinderStart argues the site’s sudden demotion in March 2005 to a “zero” ranking in Google’s search system has severely harmed its business. It seeks class action status on behalf of what is says are many other sites that have suffered the same fate as Google regularly fine-tunes its rankings.

Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has the unenviable task of dealing with this case. He has heard arguments from both sides and has stated that he will give a ruling by the end of the year.

I am sure that the people in the Webmaster Google Newsgroup are watching this case with great interest. 

Simon Barrett

http://zzsimonb.blogspot.com 

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