AOL Exec Accuses Google Of "Killing" Truveo

Squashed by Google

An AOL exec says it’s Google’s fault his business is tanking.

Confirming our earlier story, Truveo president Pete Kocks admits AOL’s video search engine Truveo is tanking.

But he says we were wrong to suggest that Truveo is dying because Tim Armstrong buried it in AOL Ventures, the place AOL sends businesses to die (or be sold or spun off).

Pete says “AOL Ventures isn’t killing Truveo – Google is.”

He wrote us to explain his bold accusation:

In May, Truveo reached a peak in traffic and was the second largest video search engine worldwide, with 25.6 million unique visitors, and was the second largest in the U.S., with 5.1 million unique visitors (dedicated video search websites in the “Search and Navigation” category of comScore).  

Starting June 16th, 2009, Google began removing all references to from Google web search and consequently our traffic took a substantial hit.  At that time, we were almost completely excluded from Google results  — not even the contact page on was available via web search.  The reality is that Truveo uses a number of industry standard techniques to increase traffic from web search and that Google is treating us differently than our competitors.

The key part is that last sentence about “industry standard techniques to increase traffic from web search.”

We translate that to read: ‘Google dropped us from their search results because our video search is better than theirs. Since that’s a pretty big anti-trust no-no, they justify themselves by saying we were gaming their search engine. But really we weren’t doing anything our competitors don’t do.’

We showed Google (GOOG) Pete’s letter but their response wasn’t very helpful. A spokesman told us:

“Google continually takes action to improve the quality of our search results as outlined in our publicly available webmaster guidelines. As a matter of policy we typically do not comment on search rankings for particular websites. You can read more about Google’s webmaster guidelines online.”

More helpful in evaluating Pete’s claim was Danny Sullivan, the king over at Search Engine Land. Danny is an expert in search engine optimization (SEO), which is the crafty science (or dark art, depending on who you ask) of manipulating Web sites so that they rank higher in Google’s search results.

Danny sounded very sceptical of Pete’s case.

He said it’s unlikely Google would risk its standing with the government to squash a small competitor like AOL (TWX), and that it’s more likely one of three things happened instead:

Truveo botched itself. Truveo re-designed in July, and even though Google traffic started to fall off before then, Danny says, “it’s much more likely that their redesign wasn’t done properly than that Google suddenly went after them.”

In other words, Truveo goofed up its SEO and is now blaming imaginary enemies.

Truveo actually was improperly gaming Google. Danny says Pete’s defensive way of calling Truveo’s SEO methods “industry standard techniques” makes it “sounds to me like is [Truveo has] been actively trying to do SEO techniques against Google and maybe [ got in trouble.]”

Google stopped sending its users to Truveo as a service to its users. Does a Google user searching for ‘The Office’ episodes really want to go from one search results page to another before finally going to Hulu? In other words, asks Danny, “If Truveo is just turning up pages on Hulu, why do I need to go to Truveo?”

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