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  1. #1
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    Google blocks popular Dutch website for many years

    I am an internet development specialist with 10 years experience and would like to share my story.

    For many years Google has been blocking the popular Dutch website I Love Holland, an online platform that offers a devoted internet portal with quality insights into the social aspects of every city and village in The Netherlands, among information and services such as news, weather and an event agenda.

    The website main domain is www.ihvn.nl with a subdomain for every city and some major cities have their own domain, such as www.ihvamsterdam.nl, www.ihvgroningen.nl, www.ihvutrecht.nl, www.ihvdenhaag.nl,www.ihvhaarlem.nl, www.ihvleiden.nl, www.ihveindhoven.nl, www.ihvbreda.nl, www.ihvmaastricht.nl and 40 others).

    The website exists since 2007 and has more then 100.000 fans on Facebook and more then 10.000 followers on Twitter. Visitors often send a comment by email just to say that they find the website beautiful or handy, which indicates that people want to find the website.

    However, for many years the website can’t be found in Google. Massive amounts of effort and work by over 70 people among the owner and technical developer did not have an effect on the amount of traffic from Google, which has been the same about 1000 to 2000 visitors per day, which is an absurd low amount relative to the market perspective and the fact that the website is really one of the best out there for some queries.

    The website has never been involved with dubious practices to get high Google rankings. The focus of the development has always been 100% on quality service and content to win the (presumed) ‘corresponding’ high rankings and traffic from search (in The Netherlands over 90% of users search via Google, 2011).

    An example query is “news Arnhem”. Arnhem is the capital of the province Gelderland. The website has it’s own domain www.ihvarnhem.nl and has over 7000 fans on Facebook and almost 400 followers on Twitter.

    i-love-arnhem-news-section.jpg

    fb-news.jpg twitter-news.jpg

    There are 5 editors for this city that daily select news articles that highlight beautiful or special aspects of Arnhem which are then shared on social media, by a newsletter, RSS feeds and on the website. The publications are highly popular, however, the website can’t be found in Google for the query “news Arnhem” while it is one of the best websites for news about Arnhem.

    google-result.jpg

    Google is blocking the website, for many years, and I could only wonder what the reason or motivation could be and kept focussing on building quality and technical advancements.

    Because of the bad findability of the website it did not became the intended financial success. To pay the bills I therefor worked as freelance SEO and website development specialist via the company www.whseo.nl.

    During the past two years I noticed more indications of low quality search results and recently I found an example that clearly shows that Google is deliberately providing low quality search results, most likely to increase ad revenue by forcing both companies and search users to ads.

    I developed the website www.stockbusters.eu, an e-commerce website that really is about a 10 in 10 in website quality. It is impossible that the website or content can be seen as low quality, everything has been setup really well and no faults have been made. The webstie is live for more then a year.

    When you search in Google for products that are offered on the website, often ‘sitemap.xml’ (XML file) is listed in the top 10 results while the product pages rank very low or not at all. The following is an example. The query can be seen via the following link and has been tested with proxies. It occurs for any user.

    http://goo.gl/c2rCr

    google-example-sitemaptop10.jpg

    The sitemap is added and accepted as valid XML sitemap in Google Webmaster Tools. It is certain that is has been correctly setup. Many browsers, such as Google Chrome, do not support XML and show scrambled XML text in the browser, leading to a bad user experience and causing visitors and potential clients of the e-commerce website to get the impression that the website contains errors or is unreliable, causing damage to the company/domain/brand.

    It is to be expected that Google has made enough technological advancements to know the difference between an XML sitemap and a HTML page. It is therefor pretty obvious that Google is delivering low quality search results on purpose.

    After a half a year of work on the website www.stockbusters.eu, during which high quality content was added and the website was promoted via social media and YouTube, the amount of visitors from Google Search remains the same at about 150 visitors a day, indicating that Google keeps the amount of visitors at a fixed level, just as seen with www.ihvn.nl and other projects/websites that I have worked on.

    This example indicates that Google is manipulating the search rankings based on factors that are not transparant and do not seem to be honest, and that they deliver low quality search results on purpose, most likely to increase ad-revenue for themselves.

    Why Google is blocking the website I Love Holland may remain a mystery, but for me as an expert in the SEO field and 100% clean reputation and intentions, it is pretty clear now that Google is not a honest company and that the market chances are not fair for internet businesses that want to serve the public in their unique way.

    Why do you think that Google is blocking my website? And is it legal? (can they just do anything as they like as a company?) Any advice or comments are very much appreciated!

    Best Regards,
    Jan Hakvoort
    Last edited by Ted S; Mar 3, 2013 at 19:28. Reason: Fake Signature Removed

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jan WCI View Post
    This example indicates that Google is manipulating the search rankings based on factors that are not transparant and do not seem to be honest, and that they deliver low quality search results on purpose, most likely to increase ad-revenue for themselves.
    This argument is made every time a company feels they should rank better but let's be clear here, Google can sell ads because people use them, people use them because they find the results more relevant than anyone else [or have stopped bothering to check]. If Google stopped showing relevant sites they would stop profiting. Not overnight perhaps but certainly in time.

    Furthermore the idea that Google has personally sought our your site from the millions and millions of pages out there many of which are far bigger and divert far more traffic from them for revenue reasons... well it seems farfetched.

    I'll leave the SEO analysis to the experts who may have ideas on why you're not getting the results you believe you should [what I see is incredibly similar sites with more never-ending lists than content] but sufficient to say even if it was all true, even if they were singling just you out, even if they denied you the same ranking formula others had so long as Google is not misleading the consumer about it then tough. They're a business and can deliver their service as they see fit.

    Companies and even countries challenge this regularly under the pretense that they are so big they have obligations to be fair but fair is a relative term and more importantly, it's regulated by the market. They survive only as long as people use them.
    - Ted S

  3. #3
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    Hi!

    Thanks a lot for the reply and insights.

    To be clear, I am not claiming anything, I am just sharing my observations. I don't know why Google is blocking my website and if they specifically did so for my website or if it is part of some sort of scheme to increase ad revenue, or an 'accidental error'.

    All I know is that my intentions and work on my website is and has been 100% honest and sincere. And I have 10 years experience in the internet and SEO business, I do know a lot about it.

    As of fairness, if you promise users the best search results, I do think it is a form of a crime when you do not deliver on that promise for the purpose of commercial self interest. In particular, given the essential role that internet search plays in society, and the monopoly that Google has.

  4. #4
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    Hi Jan,

    First of all, it's not true that Google has blocked your site. The site is present in Google's index, and shows up in searches. Your problem is that it is not showing as high as you would like.

    To illustrate, I note that many of the city-specific pages have inwonersprofielen (residents' profiles) for the city. A city that I know well is Apeldoorn in Gelderland. If I search for inwonersprofielen Apeldorn, I see http://www.ihvapeldoorn.nl/inwoners/ at the top of the search results. So there is no question of your being blocked.

    However, that's very much an artificial example. I assume that there are more typical keywords that people will search for, and in these cases your site is not showing at all. If that's the case, the reason is simple: there is very little indexable content in any of your pages.

    For example, if I go to the main page for Apeldoorn, I see the heading Actueel op Ik Hou Van Apeldoorn, plus lots of rotating graphics, plenty of adverts, a Flash object that plays a video, some links to pages that contain even less content, plus some other items that are changing too fast for me to see them. There's almost no text that a search engine can get its teeth into. That alone is a likely reason that you are ranking so badly.

    I admit I only took a quick look at the site. It's possible that I have missed some content deep down in the page structure. Then again, if I missed it, so will many other visitors, and that might also be a factor in your lack of ranking.

    A final point: you refer to the city-specific sites as sub-domains of ihvn.nl. They're not. www.ihvapeldoorn.nl, for example, is a distinct site in Google's eyes, not a sub-domain of www.ihvn.nl, or anything else. That might not matter much, but it does indicate that any effort you put into promoting the base site won't give any benefit for the city sites.

    Mike

  5. #5
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    Dear Mike,

    Thanks a lot for your reply. It seems you did not read my post however, because I described some examples and information you did not seem to notice:

    - the website has high PR values and all content can be found when adding the domain in the query, however, the traffic from Google is kept at a fixed low level (+/- 1500 visitors per day)

    - I provided an example query including pictures of corresponding 'high quality' content on the website. The website does not rank for 'news' about a city, while the website is one of the best in the market for news about a city, because it provides the news in a unique and highly popular way. (please see my examples, over 8000 readers for just the city Arnhem, 5 editors that actively select and publish special news items, and not a single ranking in Google for related queries)

    It is not true that the website does not have much content. You did not seem to click on the pictures you saw on the index, which lead to company profiles for which we have received massive amounts of positive responses via Twitter and e-mail.

    There is news, and see for example the event agenda, with quality content.

    http://www.ihvrotterdam.nl/agenda/2013-03/04-maandag/

    It can't be found in Google. Try it yourself:

    https://www.google.nl/search?q=agenda+rotterdam

  6. #6
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    Jan,

    You're right that I didn't click very deeply into the content (as I stated myself). For what it's worth, the reason was that all the pages I looked at consisted of flashing objects that kept appearing and disappearing so quickly that it was almost impossible to see anything of interest. For example, on the Apeldoorn home page, I noticed a picture of the Echoput hotel (where I've often eaten). But by the time I moved the mouse over to it, it had changed to an advert for a travel bureau. At least, I think that's what it was, but that too disappeared before I had time to read the text.

    When the Echoput eventually came into view again, I managed to click on it just in time (you need fast reflexes to use your site), but even then all I could see was some irrelevant tweets, a couple of news headlines, a few adverts, and similar stuff.

    You say you've got many thousands of readers, lots of Twitter followers, positive email feedback, etc. That's good. You must be doing things right. Maybe you should be building on that, and not worry about the likes of Google.

    Mike

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    Dear Mike,

    The company profiles are a first version and could be improved, however, the information is unique and high quality. For example the Klout score of the company is presented, this is a score that shows the influence of a brand or individual on social media. Further, the goal is to provide a good overview of the social media presence of the company, which is pretty exclusive.

    The business guide has been added for 6 months and it received about 2000 tweets from users and companies that say they find it a really nice overview (it is unique because it offers a ranking of companies based on popularity on social media, including sources such as Klout). Even big fashion companies and coffee brands tweeted about the business guide of specific cities, but Google does not rank the business guide for related queries.

    http://www.ihvgroningen.nl/hotels/

    The business guide pages do have PageRank values of 2 or 3, and the content can be found by adding the domain in the query, so this again is an indicator that Google cuts the traffic at a fixed level of +/- 1500 visitors per day (for years), doing so based on factors that are not transparent and do not seem to be honest related to what people really want to find.


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