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Friday, December 21, 2012

Google Forces Raven Tools to Kill Rank Tracking Tool


raven-tools-logoPopular search engine optimization, social media, and PPC metrics tool provider Raven Internet Marketing Tools has announced that it’s discontinuing its popular rank checker tool. This decision comes after failing to pass an annual Google AdWords audit.

This decision comes as a shock to the SEO industry, which relies heavily on ranking data scraped from Google’s search results pages to gain insight into the effectiveness of SEO campaigns. But what does it mean for the future of the industry?

In order to predict what the future holds, let’s take a look at what steps Google has taken leading up to this most recent event.

On January 29, 2012, the popular all-in-one SEO desktop software Market Samurai announced that it would switch from Google to Bing after Google made changes to its services that prevented Market Samurai from operating properly. From the blog entry:

“Several days ago, Google made some significant technical changes to its services that make it impossible to reliably perform large volumes of free queries.”

Since the switch, Market Samurai has continued operation using a mix of data from Google and Bing.

On November 14, 2012, SEOMoz announced its API access to Google AdWords had been revoked by Google. It didn’t explain why access had been revoked, but SEOMoz is one of the largest and most influential SEO data providers; it’s safe to assume that a failed annual Google AdWords audit was the culprit, likely for the same reason as Raven Tools’ API revocation.

Google’s terms of service are clear: Any product or product feature that collects scraped data or uses scraped data acquired from another source is not allowed. The penalty? Revocation of access to the AdWords API.

But why enforce the rules now, when the terms of service have been clear about scraped data for years? Google has huge expenses for its data centers, and large volumes of automated queries only increase those expenses. But is Google really just trying to cut costs, or is there a larger agenda?

Is Google ramping up its enforcement of its terms of service? If so, why now? Is this Google’s latest battle in its war against SEO professionals? Will Google continue to enforce its terms of service and threaten to revoke API access from other, similar service providers like MYSEOTool and AuthorityLabs? Will SEO tool providers follow suit with Market Samurai and switch to Bing as a data source?

Right now, the questions are more abundant than the answers, but one thing is clear: Google is flexing its muscle, and the SEO industry is on notice.

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