Yesterday, Greg Sterling wrote an article named Deconstructing "Search Neutrality" which brought to light a overlooked claim by one particular site owner, claiming Google has whitelisted his web site.
Visit searchneutrality.org and read the paragraph midway through. Here it is:
For three and a half years, Google ignored all of Foundems appeals to lift the penalty, despite Foundems mounting credentials, which included Foundem being named the UKs best price comparison site by The Gadget Show (the UKs leading technology television programme) and being selected to power content-integrated vertical search services for many of the UKs leading media companies. Eventually, interest from the national media persuaded Google to open a detailed dialogue with Foundem, which culminated in Google manually removing the penalty (by whitelisting Foundems site) in December 2009.
You see that last line? It says Google's site was whitelisted by Google after receiving a penalty and having a ton of bad press about it.
It was actually brought up in a solo post thread at WebmasterWorld in November, but no one really took notice. Or at least, I didn't.
Michael Martinez found it strange that the SEO community did not react to such news. I agree, and I am partially to blame for not bringing this to light. In two forum threads, one at HighRankings Forums and the other at Cre8asite Forums, Michael said:
I am a little upset and disturbed right now because in reading the claims made on this site I discovered that Foundem -- a UK price-comparison service that was penalized by Google for aggregating content for several years -- has been claiming to have been whitelisted from Google's spam penalty since last February. I have found numerous news stories mentioning this claim of whitelisting, but none of those stories were published on Search Engine Land, where Greg Sterling has covered Foundem's story many times.
Foundem has allegedly shared an email from the Google Adwords team with an update on the whitelisting request.
This is a very serious matter.
First of all, a known spammer is alleging to have been given a free pass to spam Google's search results. Everyone else, it seems, still has to play by the rules.
Secondly, we have been told for years that there is a WALL between Google organic search and Google paid search -- that neither side of the business is allowed to interfere with the other side of the business.
Apparently, that's not true, either.
Google needs to come clean on this matter and either change its policy so that ALL aggregators are allowed to compete in the search results OR they need to enforce their policy fairly and neutrally.
There are certainly, in my opinion, reasons for some businesses to vent about Google promoting its own content above search results -- but the solution is NOT to bully Google into whitelisting a site that is violating Google's spam guidelines. THAT is unfair and if that is the way Google is going to do business then they can count on me to call for government regulation of search results.
Does Google whitelist sites? Is it fair?
Google should go on record about this. I suspect when/if they do, they will say it was an algorithm change that results in Foundem's reinclusion, but who knows. I'd like to see a comment from Google on the matter.
As Michael correctly points out at Search Engine Land, "Im surprised the SEO community hasnt made any fuss over that."