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Allan Keiter awoke one recent morning to the scary news that his Atlanta company's website was nearly impossible to find on a Google search. helps consumers compare cellular calling plans.

Until that morning, the site had often ranked in the top-ten nonpaid results for search terms such as "free cell phones" and "family plans." And like thousands of other businesses, Keiter's company relied on free Google searches to drive customers its way.

Keiter had fallen victim to what's known as the dreaded Google dance: sudden, seismic shifts in search results that occur whenever Google's engineers decide, without warning or explanation, to tweak the software algorithms that determine how the mighty search engine processes keywords.

It's like owning a shop on a busy street corner where all the pedestrians suddenly and mysteriously vanish.

In the months after he fell prey to the Google dance, Keiter saw his revenues plunge some 20%. When he contacted Google for an explanation he was simply told that the algorithm was secret sauce. "There was nothing I could do," he says. "They make changes in their ivory tower, and it ripples through to the little guy."

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