TNG/Earthling : Power Player
NYC based TNG/Earthling, Inc. is responsible for the high Google ranks of this and many other sites under their technical influence. We felt that our readership would appreciate an understanding of the impact this consultancy has on making our website more visible in Google searches.
The company founder Bob Sakayama is widely known in the search engine optimization field as an innovator of many of the techniques currently used by the industry. The division of his company focused on SEO quickly grew into a market leader after demonstrating expertise in the arcane world of Google penalty unwinds. He is credited as the originator of much of the the nomenclature associated with search compliance, including terms like trademark suppression, link farms, negative SEO, nuked domains, and many others.
When one of TNG's first websites was suppressed in the search, Bob's team first discovered by direct communication with Google (back then they actually responded to emails sent to email@example.com) that the search engine penalized sites that violated certain rules, now known as Google's guidelines. Violation of these guidelines could result in the loss of ranks or complete removal from Google's index. Bob ran a number of experiments by intentionally violating the guidelines to observe the penalty process, then corrected the problems and observed the recovery. By posting his early experience on some of his blogs, he achieve very high ranks for searches for "Google penalty" and other related terms. His legacy site Google-Penalty.com still gets significant traffic. This visibility lead to TNG becoming the early market leader in penalty remediation and quickly lead to their rise as a credible consultancy for search engine optimization. A number of SEO agencies soon became clients, expanding Bob's base and visibility further within the professional community.
Within a short period of time Bob's knowledge was in great demand not only by businesses seeking to profit from the search, but also by organizations wanting to avoid Google penalties. Investors, venture capital firms and businesses seeking to identify areas of risk in online businesses sought out Bob's expertise. He was invited to speak before groups as diverse as SEO conference organizations, professional forums such as London's financial groups where experts advised the leadership of quoted companies (public corporations), and directors of large individual corporations. Bob is quoted in this Forbes article on the topic. Risk evaluation became an area of expertise related to both SEO and search penalty avoidance that was in high demand as the need to identify online vulnerabilities grew. This only became more obvious as uninformed SEOs became the greatest source of Google penalties due to an explosion of inadvertent over-optimization triggered by over zealous search agencies and individuals.
TNG's early websites like Re1y.com and Google-Penalty.com were widely read within the SEO community and Bob's successful strategies often became the source of controversies often generated by comments made on these sites. "Google is evil" is one such comment, which Bob continues to hold as true. However, early on there were far more Google worshipers willing to argue that he was on the wrong side of history - something that in hind site seems ridiculous given the feeling about big tech in general. The Google is evil comment came on the heels of observing in appropriate penalties handed out to innocent websites, sometimes as a result of 3rd party attacks - something Google had claimed was not possible. But unfair penalization is only one example of a problem behavior. A really stunning example of how Google is subverting the websites in its index is demonstrated by what are known as "zero click" searches - searches for which no clicks to websites other than Google's exist or are necessary. As Rand Fishkin points out in a recent post, over 77% of mobile searches are zero click. Many of these queries involve answers that have been scraped by Google from independent sites that used to receive traffic from those results, but are now only exploited for their content by the search engine. Do a search for airfares, or song lyrics, or the population of any city to confirm this claim. While this may be useful for searchers, it is an existential threat to the websites that originally curated that data but are no longer receiving that traffic because Google has expropriated their content without acknowledgement or compensation.
Although the climate surrounding SEO has changed significantly, the need to perform well in the search has only grown as competition fueled battles play out in the world of online commerce. Some of the players have changed, and search is performed in multiple platforms like Amazon, and social media, but Google's hold on the dominant position for search and search dependent commerce appears to be solid. TNG's role has moved more toward addressing the concerns of their clients and in science based experiments to discover information used to advantage those clients. Google has been forced to change their algorithm and methodology to account for changes in the marketplace and the legal framework, but the ability to exploit the search in competitive markets on behalf of clients continues to be a winning card for the company. But being on page one in Google is not enough and hasn't been for a while. Power players like TNG/Earthling know this and while they frequently do get clients into the #1 spot for valuable terms, even that may be less valuable than getting multiple (actually a large number of) keywords into the top 3 positions.