Google's $4 Million Revenge on a Merchant

What happens when a small business owner gets on Google's bad side? In Ryan Abood's case, the answer is, "your business gets crushed and you spend a year and a half in internet Siberia." Do not trifle with The Google.

Abood kind of had it coming. The proprietor of GourmetGiftBaskets.com had been indirectly buying links to boost his position in Google search results, a big no no in the Google rulebook, he writes in Inc. magazine. But the rulebreaking was inadvertent; Abood said he had paid for ethical search engine optimization only, and one of the two companies (!) he hired to boost his search ranking broke with that policy. The entrepreneur was hardly a Google-gaming pro, in fact he had only thought to dabble in what's known as "SEO" after noticing that his parents' flower shop had done a tidy gift basket business thanks to its organic Google rank.

Crossing Google's guidelines got Abood effectively ejected from search results right before the 2008 holiday season, when he lost close to $2 million in business. He lost another $2 million or so in 2009 and didn't get back atop the search results until June, after Google revamped its search results. Google's Matt Cutts has confirmed the businessman's story via Twitter and added the warning, "our guidelines are clear on this topic." Translation: Let Ryan Abood be a lesson to the rest of you about how Google can bring the pain. Chilling.

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