Google Compliant SERP Tracking – Nope
Note – I have updated this post from last month because I was dead wrong.
We developed a WordPress plugin that allows users to see daily rankings at Google, tracks those results daily, weekly and monthly, and will export the entire ranking history into a .csv right from the WordPress Admin.
The plugin uses a Google API and your own Google Account, and your own Google Custom Search engine, but despite my earlier claims, I now know that…
Our Plugin is not Google TOS Compliant
The plugin actually seems to be in violation in a number of ways, and thanks to @rjonesx for setting me straight before I made too big a fool of myself.
Here are the sections of the TOS that are problematic.
Under Section 1.4 Appropriate Conduct, it reads – You shall not, and shall not allow any third party to:
e) minimize, remove or otherwise inhibit the full and complete display of any Results Page (including any Results);
In other words – we would have to show all of the ads. That’s impossible, really, since there are ads for every query, and since it happens in the back end, there’s nobody to show them to anyway.
g) transfer, sell, lease, syndicate, sub-syndicate, lend, or use for co-branding, timesharing, service bureau or other unauthorized purposes any Service or access thereto (including, but not limited to Results, or any part, copy or derivative thereof)
Sounds to me like like “…or access thereto” shuts us right down, because our plugin does provide users with “access to” their own Google Custom search engine results. Under that clause (g), it almost sounds as if using the CSE in the way Google actually intends you to use it could be construed as a violation, doesn’t it?
(i) directly or indirectly generate queries, or impressions of or clicks on Results, through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means (including, but not limited to, click spam, robots, macro programs, and Internet agents);
There’s another nail in the coffin right there – the prohibition of “automated” queries. While I could stand here all day and tell you that the word “automated” did not appear as a “shall not” when we began this project, I can’t prove it, and it really wouldn’t matter anyway. It’s there now – game over.
(j) modify, adapt, translate, prepare derivative works from, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble or otherwise attempt to derive source code from any Service or any other Google technology, content, data, routines, algorithms, methods, ideas design, user interface techniques, software, materials, and documentation;
We cannot “prepare derivative works from” a Google Custom Search Engine. Oh. So our plugin will let you search your own rankings for up to 100 queries a day, and if you want to search MORE than that, Google will bill you directly, so it’s a revenue generator FOR Google, but we weren’t even allowed to build it in the first place. Oops.
(l) “crawl”, “spider”, index or in any non-transitory manner store or cache information obtained from the Service (including, but not limited to, Results, or any part, copy or derivative thereof);
The simple act of storing the ranking history of each key phrase clearly violates Google’s Terms of Service. This seems to me like a ridiculous constraint, but it’s Google’s game, and they make the rules.
Frankly, I’m not sure. The plugin is 100% functional, and 95% ready to go, but now that I know that it’s not a Google compliant solution, I’m not sure what to do. I can’t sell it, can’t lease it, can’t distribute it, and cant even give it away under the current Terms of Service.
What you see below are still the current plans, although I’m considering other options, including just giving it away entirely for free, although that too, seems to be in violation of the custom search engine TOS .
Rankings at No Added Cost
My plan was to have current Basic and Pro members have it added to the plugin, with a white label version for client sites. I’m still committed to that, but it’s going to take more time.
The Google API already works, even in older .php installations, but I cannot legally add it to our plugin, because in doing so, both you and I would be in violation of Google’s TOS.
If you’er not trembling in fear over violating Google’s TOS that’s one thing, but to do so from a plugin, which runs off the IP address of your website seems less than smart.
Since we still want ranking reports for our plugin, we are experimenting with other API’s. To be clear, NONE will be “Google compliant”, but they’ll use a third party that scrapes the results, so Google won”t know you’re doing it.
If you choose to throw caution to the wind, and say F/U Google, our paid members may still have the “standalone” non-compliant version by filling out this form.