Posted July 7, 2008 5:59 pm by with 15 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Capitulate. Bow. Buckle, fold, submit, succumb, surrender, yield. However you want to put it, Google blinked first in the battle over a link to the privacy policy—and has also found the magic number of words on a page!

Google had been taken to task recently by several organizations—from membership organizations it was trying to join to privacy advocate groups—for not linking to their privacy policy from their homepage. Google founders refused on principle, claiming that the additional seven letters would clutter their beautiful, clean homepage. You know, the homepage that already had 28 words on it.

Marissa Mayer posts on the Google blog last week that they did finally add a link to the privacy policy, but they could only do that by preserving the sacred 28 words on the page. So they sacrificed, changing the last line of the page from “©2008 Google” to “© 2008 – Privacy.” Says Mayer:

I thought about the homepage, and how to keep it simple, all the time. Yet I hadn’t thought to look at it through this very simple lens: just count the words. The fewer, the better. Ever since that night, this has been our discipline, and everyone who works on the homepage and its design knows the current number: 28.

Okay. So every single one of the words on the page other than the last “Google” was absolutely vital. Let’s review what those other words were:

  • Images
  • Maps
  • News
  • Shopping
  • Gmail
  • more (which contains another 13 links)
  • iGoogle
  • Sign in
  • Advanced Search
  • Preferences
  • Language Tools
  • Advertising Programs
  • Business Solutions
  • About Google

Shopping? iGoogle? Are you kidding me? I mean, we can’t even trim “About Google” to just “About.” (Are the users so stupid that they can’t figure out what “About” would refer to?)

Google prides itself on its clean, 28-word homepage. Granted, Live has 50+ words on its homepage, but Yahoo Search and Ask get away with 20 or fewer words, including words in images and buttons—and they link to their privacy policies in those words.

Let’s be honest—the reason they claim that they need the page to stay at 28 words is because their earlier claims were so ridiculous that they need to stand behind them or they’d look like idiots.

  • Am I the only one who finds it a little ironic that Google objects to having to put a privacy policy link on their… ahem… landing page?

    I’m left pondering what Google’s Quality Score would be like bidding on “search engine” if AdWords were someone else’s.

    28 words = POOR ($10 Min. Bid)

    Brian McLeod’s last blog post..Why Are A Wise Man And A Wise Guy Opposites?

  • I dont understand this issue about the privacy policy. What changes if they put it on their homepage? Does anybody read it? Does it in any way change their business ethics? Does it change the content of their policy? Does it change how they follow this policy?
    It changes nothing. The whole discussion is useless.

  • Jordan McCollum

    The previous article ( and linked to above) discusses the legal implications of a California law that requires them to have it on their homepage.

  • Warenwirtschaft…It’s all legal protection. It’s so someone is semi-protected against some other joker filing a lawsuit about something that some other lawyer thought about while talking to a few more lawyers, think of all those bills that have to get paid.

    Kidding aside, it’s really to protect Google. They need to show how they treat your information and who they do and do not give it to. Personally I think it’s a good thing to have on the front page. Although, if people are concerned about it, google didn’t make it too difficult to find after the “About” page.

    Erik’s last blog post..Wanna Buy Some Blogs?

  • This post is very entertaining. I wonder if they’ve run their homepage through Google Website Optimizer yet to verify without a doubt that this 28 words is the magic formula. I’d like to see a screenshot 😛

    Linda Bustos’s last blog post..Does Your Ecommerce Website Speak to Howsers?

  • I can’t believe that Google is worried about cluttering up their homepage. The probably just understand that nobody is actually going to read that thing!

  • I guess now we know one of G worries 🙂 .

  • Does nobody see the bandwidth implications of having uneeded words on a page that serves billions of searches per day! $$$!

    Mark’s last blog post..How To Install AutoStumble On Linux

  • Erik

    They may as well remove the copyright designation, as their revised page and use of the copyright registration symbol is now not consistent with copyright office pronouncements. According to the Copyright Office, here is what is required (note the use of “should” and the AND requirement for all 3 elements) for an effective displya of the “circle R” registration symbol:

    “Form of Notice for Visually Perceptible Copies

    The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following three elements:

    1. The symbol © (the letter C in a circle), or the word “Copyright,” or the abbreviation “Copr.”; and
    2. The year of first publication of the work. In the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article; and
    3. The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.”

  • Google’s always prided themselves on clean pages.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Interview with SEO: Brian Carter and Search Engine Journal Post

  • Would 29 words really be that bad? Who made up this “28 words to a page” rule?

    [link removed]

  • I guess now we can move on to bigger things. You are probably right that there is some law somewhere requiring it to be on the main page.

  • Outside of the US, there are more than 28 words. Here’s mine on

    * Web
    * Images
    * Maps
    * News
    * Video (we don’t get the Shopping link here)
    * Gmail
    * more (which contains another 10 links)
    * iGoogle
    * Sign in
    * Advanced Search
    * Preferences
    * Language Tools
    * Search:
    * the web
    * pages from Canada
    * offered in: Francais
    * Advertising Programs
    * Business Solutions
    * About Google
    * Go to
    * (C)2008 – Privacy

    36 words.

  • In our local Google – there is no Privacy link still, and it says “©2008 Google”.

    But when you switch to “ in English”, here we go – “©2008 – Privacy”.

  • Pingback: » Google Chrome - Google’s New Browser | MarketPyre()