Do Google obey TOS?

Spy on Google’s advertisers!

Find out what they’re doing and beat them at their own game. All you need to do is spy on your competitors, learn about their keywords, see what they’re spending and discover the profitable ad campaigns – and all the keywords used in them!

Sounds great, right?

Well, maybe, maybe not, but there is one thing I find very interesting. In my Gmail account today Google themselves put an advert about a keyword spying service. Seems funny to me, when Google are so secretive about everything they do, that they’ll allow an advert to appear on their email service – an advert that promotes using other people’s activities so you can make more money.

Ah, wait. When you do that, Google make more money because you’ll be placing Adwords ads to copy successful campaigns. I wonder if that has something to do with this particular advert being prominently placed inside Gmail?

Click to see larger image

What do you think?

Personally, I don’t have too much trouble with learning from others – it’s what makes the world go round. Outright copying is not so good though. As you can see in the image, I’ve left the URL of the advertised site displayed (not an affiliate link). The service looks good enough. I have no problems with what they’re doing.

What really prompted me to write this post (apart from Google’s ironically placed ad) is a question I got from someone who wanted to know if a particular service would cause their site to fall foul of Google’s terms of service. Google can do what they like with their own websites, but they cannot tell you what to do with yours – there are no terms of service imposed on you just because they’d like you to think there are.

Unless you contract with them for something, they have no right to impose any terms. They don’t own the internet, despite what they’ve managed to make people think to the contrary.

Yes, they can de-index your site if they don’t like it. They can do what they want with their own websites and services. So it pays to be smart if you want good rankings in Google. You have to play the game to win. Google do – that’s why they’re showing an advert inside Gmail for a ‘spying’ service.

Yahoo even agree – here’s a quote on the ‘spy’ service website from one of their heads of SEO: “Best Tool By Far For Anyone.”

So I’d have to say that Google seem to be tacitly agreeing that doing what works…works.

Next time you’re worrying if everything you do meets Google’s ‘approval’, ask yourself this: does an ad that links you to a tool to copy other people’s keywords and ad campaigns really meet the approval of the webmasters whose site campaigns are going to be copied?

In other words, did Google meet the terms of service of those sites? No? How strange. For a company that unilaterally imposes terms of service on the entire internet, it’s not really what you’d expect – is it?

Oh, quick tip: want some top rankings in Google? Just pay them some money and they’ll push your results ahead of everyone else. Take a look at this picture to see what I mean:

Google take money to put adverts in a place where web searchers will see them. But if you do that (with paid links), you may find yourself in trouble. That’s the general understanding most webmasters have.

NOTE: I’m not bashing Google. They help to make a lot of people a lot of money. What I do find objectionable is the implicit assumption that it’s up to Google how we should all behave. It isn’t.

Please let me know what you think about it. Is Google two-faced?