Submit-It Express and Google ToS violation?

Some time ago, I came across a piece of software named Submit-It Express. Submit-It express is owned by Microsoft, and is software designed to improve results for search engine rankings. The software has quite a few features, but one of them in particular bothers me.


Submit-It Express makes some claims, and lists some features, some of them are actually useful, like the local spidering software, where you can actually check that your pages are spiderable by search engines. But, the particular feature that bothers me is this:
bq. Monitor all search engine rankings — Check rankings for any keywords you choose across all major search engines (MSN, Google, Yahoo, Lycos, AOL, HotBot, Ask Jeeves, Teoma).
Further down in the feature listing, it says:
bq. No running ranking reports — Once you set up PositionAgent with your keywords, that’s it! PositionAgent will then check your rankings once a week and update your reports.
Now, let’s compare this with “Google’s Terms of Service”:http://www.google.com/intl/en/terms_of_service.html:
bq.. You may not send automated queries of any sort to Google’s system without express permission in advance from Google. Note that “sending automated queries” includes, among other things:
Using any software which sends queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage “ranks” on Google for various queries;
p. *Update:* Interestingly enough, Microsoft has “similar terms”:http://search.msn.com.sg/docs/affiltou.aspx – something which went unnoticed by me:
bq. You will not […] directly or indirectly generate queries, or impressions of or clicks on Results Page, through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means (including, but not limited to, click spam, robots, macro programs, and Internet agents);
p. I don’t know Google’s specific reasoning for having this rule in their ToS, but I do think it belongs there for one sole reason: Automated rank checking does inevitably lead to people creating web sites for the search engines instead of creating web sites for users. More often than not, a web site written for a simple computer program will not be a good web site for a user.
What Microsoft software does with Microsoft’s own products is only their own business, but I’m still really surprised that Microsoft is selling so-called SEO software: Most of the Search Engine Optimization business is about gaming the search engines, so that certain pages and sites rank higher. Often at the expense of better and more relevant resources. Are they at all serious about being in the search engine business?

6 Comments

  1. Jordan Graf

     /  2005-04-03

    At what point does a user agree to the Google Terms of Service?

  2. Jordan, the first line of the TOS reads, “By using Google’s search engine or other Google services (“Google Services”), you agree to be bound by the following terms and conditions (the “Terms of Service”).”
    In other words, Microsoft agrees to be bound by it as soon as it tries to send a query to Google. Of course, that query seems to be in breach of the TOS.

  3. Considering that there is no mention of any terms of service on the Google front page (at least not in the Swedish language version presented to me), I can’t see how I, or anyone else, is bound by any terms of service using the search engine…

  4. Whether you are bound by the different Search services Terms, is something that may have varying legal practices around the world.
    Arguing over this, however, is avoiding the core issue: *Microsoft is creating and selling software which is in violation of their own ToS, and that of other companies.*

  5. They are of course free to violate their own terms of service as much as they would like, they’re not bound by them.
    It’s worse to violate others’, true, but in this case I wonder if Google could make a case for there being terms of service, considering there seems to be no link to any, nor is one presented with a way to agree to them before submitting any searches.

  6. skumora

     /  2005-08-26

    What I have found is that if you stop worrying about rankings and focus on what is good for your readers, magic happens on its own.