Over the last two decades, the world has completely changed due to the digital revolution. From around 1995, we started to see the world ‘open up’, bloggers could have easy success to markets by internet advertising, it was easy to get your website to the ‘top of Google’, social media platforms pop up, like MySpace. However, in the last five years the internet has changed dramatically because of imposed rules from Google and Facebook, this is portrayed as protecting users, but we all know that it is in the pursuit of higher profits with the Google monopoly. These global giants are now swallowing up around 85% of investment in advertising. Media outlets are being driven into signing up for additional business models and direct subscriptions.
Facebook and Google have succeeded in taking over the world (apart from censored countries like China) because they are major platform and they can apply incredible influence in controlling how audiences use the internet, buying up any competition along the way. Like any dominant leaders or monopoly, the government needs to regulate these platforms to ensure it is serving the public in their best interests otherwise we stifle the opportunities that younger generations will produce.
Adrianne Jeffries gave a good example of monopolist platform exploitation with her story of CelebrityNetWorth.com where a small business was started by Brian Warner. In 2008, Brian was trying to find decent information about Larry David and discovered that the searches on celebrity wealth were in high demand, but there was nothing of substance on the net. He started up a small media business to carry out thorough investigations on celebrity wealth, eventually having a team of 12 staff to help him. It may not be the most principled of businesses, but Brian believed he was fulfilling a public demand!
Shortly afterwards, Google presented ‘Featured Snippets’ which lists answers to search questions, placed at the top of their search. This gave audiences a summary of search results, saving them from having to scroll or click to find an answer. Before launching this feature, Google asked Brian Warner if they could use his data, promising him that they would credit him for the information. He declined, but Google still continued to incorporate his data. Google’s algorithm used for the snippets was extremely prone to errors and the celebrity net worth results often fail to credit Brian Warner’s site. In fact, even worse is the fact that Google would end up scraping other sites which had aggregated CelebrityNetWorth.com, having a detrimental effect:
In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did. “Our traffic immediately crumbled,” Warner said. “Comparing January 2016 (a full month where they had not yet scraped our content) to January 2017, our traffic is down 65 percent.” Warner said he had to lay off half his staff. Surely this is infringement of copyright?
Warner was receiving a lot of the traffic from Google initially which gives further evidence of why regulation is so important. Many would say that Google can do whatever they want with their search tool, but this does not explain the core roots in the strength and position of Google. Google’s search tool is not a huge amount better than Bing, indeed some find DuckDuckGo a more superior platform when searching for less present material. However, Google still seems to eat up 80% of the online search traffic.
Over the last few years, Google has been removing as much of the organic listings (free listings) as possible by introducing more and more ‘features’. They removed the right hand column of paid results, and put four on top, and four at the bottom, reducing the organic listings from 10 to an average of 7. They then introduced snippets, google maps, news and social feeds. Organic listings have all but disappeared, and if you are lucky to see a natural organic results, they are usually useless and not what you are searching for due to the new algorithm changes. This is all to drive more revenue to Google through AdWords.
Google was launched in 1997 by co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It was good timing for them, when the internet was exploding with new businesses and audiences were conscious of Google’s presence, which was much better than manual submission search engines and directories striving for position. When audiences were learning about how to search on the internet, they were generally sent to Google. Soon after, the word ‘Google’ became a well-used verb where people would say ‘why don’t you Google it?’. This gave them a tremendous advantage to other search engines, whereby their name became the commonly used word for searching on the internet. Yahoo is fading away because of the lack of investment and innovative foresight. The Microsoft search engine Bing is also no comparison to the search engine giant that Google has become, in fact now takes the data straight from Google, which has given Google even more dominance. However now that Windows 10 has a default browser called Edge that uses Bing, some of Googles percentage of users is starting to drop.
If Google did not have a huge amount of people searching online and such a large database to index for the internet, then every search would be useless. Therefore with Google’s dominance in search engines and their profitable AdWords advertising, it is almost undeserving considering their product. Making a small business almost non-existent online because they don’t stand on their side of the fence is somewhat showing they are in a position of abuse, and of course, there is a long list of small and large businesses who have been at the rath of Google, most notably even SEO agencies who have opposed Google only to lose their rankings shortly afterwards.
How could this be prevented? Perhaps a considered anti-trust process could develop a market with various search players, therefore giving Google some competition. Regardless, all search engines should be made to adhere to a standardised common carrier, where sites will not be ranked depending on what profit they bring to the search platform, therefore getting impartial access to traffic from all user search. One aspect we can be confident in, is that monopolies are regulated but the only option concerns private regulation for shareholders and higher management, or a democratic regulation that supports the public.
I didn’t start in SEO in 1997 because I chose it, business chose me because I could rank my own business website in another business sector. I was naturally good at driving traffic, and naturally clients come to me. I emphasise naturally, as this is supposed to be the basis of Google, driving organic natural results to be users who search for something specific and get exactly what they are looking for, not a paid directory based listing which ends up being nothing to do with the search query.
The whole reason why Google made such a success when they launched back in the last nineties was because of the natural organic search results were so good, now Google might as well be the old Yahoo.