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Thread: How Google’s search manipulation can hurt the consumer

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    Franc Tireur is offline Senior Net Builder
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    How Google’s search manipulation can hurt the consumer

    As Google continues to transform itself into an entity building all things for the Internet, concerns and criticisms about its platform are building. Is the platform putting small business and buyers at a disadvantage by giving better placement to businesses lining its pockets?
    Way back in 1998 when Google launched, its core product was search and its main customer was the user. Throughout its early years, the company was laser focused on making the best search engine and refining the content it surfaced PageRank. Google wanted to perfect search so that users could find the best results based on an unbiased algorithm.
    Almost 15 years later, Google has morphed into a search engine, advertising platform, software developer, hardware developer, game and app developer, mobile operating system developer, Web browser, video host, blog platform, social network, and most recently, an e-commerce site with its release of the pay-to-play service Google Shopping (formerly known as Product Search).
    All this, despite the fact that Google’s core philosophy – explained in a post titled 10 Things We Know to be True – pointedly says: “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” Oh how the times have changed.
    “You can make money without doing evil.”

    But that’s not the only core principle that one-time lovers of the search giant have begun to question. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that have recently lost significant amounts of traffic from Google are worried that the search giant no longer lives by its founding principle: “You can make money without doing evil.” With display ads – expected to generate $2.31 billion in net revenues this year for the search giant – increasingly seen as an outdated form of advertising, and the CPC of Google ads decreasing by 15 percent, Google is exploring new sources of revenue generation.
    Critics of Google have started questioning whether the company has begun quietly exploring a system of pay-to-play for placement in its search results, an accusation that Google firmly denies. But some are loudly questioning whether a company in control of 65.3 percent of search – processing more than one billion search queries a day – can be completely unbiased when creating a search algorithm in which its own products, and the products of its advertisers, are competing for rankings. Unfortunately for Google, those critics include the Federal Trade Commission.
    Is the search giant stifling free competition?

    Recently, the FTC launched an investigation to determine whether or not the search giant is engaging in anti-trust behavior and limiting free competition by manipulating search results to give favorable placement to its own products (like listings from Google Shopping or Google Places) and to companies that can afford to pay in the form of advertising. Similar charges were launched against Google in January when it rolled out Search Plus Your World, which incorporated Google+ content into its search results. Critics argued that the search giant was playing favorites with its own social media site at the expense of competitors like Facebook and Twitter. Both of which, it should be noted, are much larger, more robust networks with arguably more valuable social content.
    FTC investigators are also looking into whether or not Google AdWords, the search engine’s advertising marketplace, discriminates against companies advertising on sites that Google considers competitors – like comparison shopping sites and consumer review sites.
    Google vs. the small business owner … and thus, you

    Whether intentional or not, many small businesses have recently seen dramatic drops in traffic that previously flowed through Google. The comparison shopping site NexTag saw a 50 percent drop in traffic from Google in recent months; the number is especially significant when considering that 60 percent of NexTag’s traffic comes from Google in the form of search and paid ads. NexTag’s response was to double the amount it spent on Google ads.
    In a recent OpEd in the Wall Street Journal, CEO of Nextag Jeffrey Katz wrote, “[Google] has used its position to bend the rules to help maintain its online supremacy, including the use of sophisticated algorithms weighted in favor of its own products and services at the expense of search results that are truly most relevant.
    “It’s easy to see when Google makes changes to its algorithms that effectively punish its competitors, including us. Our data … shows without a doubt that Google has stacked the deck. And as a result, it has shifted from a true search site into a commerce site – a commerce site whose search algorithm favors products and services from Google and those from companies able to spend the most on advertising,” Katz said, adding, “Google’s latest changes are clearly no longer about helping users.”
    While NexTag was able to increase the budget it allocated to Google ads, other small businesses that also get the majority of their traffic from Google can’t afford to follow suit. Tim Carter, who runs AskTheBuilder.com, said in less than two years, daily traffic to his site dropped 87 percent – from 60,000 to 8,000.
    “Google has decided, in their quest for higher profits, to put lower quality content on page one of their results. Much of the content now being served up on page one of Google results is either content created by advertising partners who are just interested in selling more of their products, or it’s content mashed up by work-at-home non-professionals who are feeding the gapping maws of the content farms,” Carter said.
    On a Google search results page, the average click-through rate (CTR) for the first, second and third positions are 36.4 percent, 12.5 percent, and 9.5 percent respectively. That means the top three listings attract more than half of all click-throughs in a given search result. Companies whose listings don’t even make the first page better be destination sites, or have a strong flow of referrals from prominent sites, because they won’t likely get any substantial traffic from Google. And while this hurts businesses, the larger implication is that it hurts consumers.
    “Google has drastically hurt my business, but it’s not about me,” Carter said. “It’s about the collateral damage being felt by tens of millions of consumers. These consumers are being deprived of great independent content written by experts with hands-on experience. This information is needed by consumers in this tough economy to make informed purchasing decisions,” Carter said.
    “In my opinion, Google is absolutely engaging in anti-competitive behavior. I’m convinced they’re making side deals with the major content farms … If you want to know why Google changes their algorithm, just follow the money trail. It’s all about money.”


    Is Google's search manipulation hurting consumer? | Digital Trends

    I read that google is expanding their paid shopping products internationally. I guess, we are going to see a dramatic reduction of the organic search in the next years.


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    Mike Dammann's Avatar
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    Old sites are still exempt from penalties. And that has nothing to do with the content. Many of these sites are full of wrong information, but still outrank quality sites that get loads of traffic without Google. I am not sure how this will be in the future, but my guess would be that every few months systematically those old sites are going to be deleted as well and the only thing remaining organic is going to be Google images which Google will probably make sure website owners are responsible for if those images are copied.
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    Franc Tireur is offline Senior Net Builder
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Dammann View Post
    Old sites are still exempt from penalties. And that has nothing to do with the content. Many of these sites are full of wrong information, but still outrank quality sites that get loads of traffic without Google. I am not sure how this will be in the future, but my guess would be that every few months systematically those old sites are going to be deleted as well and the only thing remaining organic is going to be Google images which Google will probably make sure website owners are responsible for if those images are copied.
    The first thing they need to do is make sure who own the authorship of contents, then they can move on to be much more accurate about the quality contents. Their index still have tons of low quality contents with a bunch of links, that rank high those sites.

    I saw huge sites with low content single paragraph ranking to the top providing a bad user experience. Also huge affiliate sites pilling up on the top ranking with serps on 5~10 pages providing a bad user experience.

    I am not sure they are really serious about their serp super duper quality.
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    There's no competition in Search except for a weak effort from Bing. So, I don't see Google changing their ways anytime soon.

    Any thoughts about DuckDuckGo ? The results look pretty good!

    I just ran across this: Bing Attacks Google Shopping With "Scroogled" Campaign, Forgets It's Guilty Of Same Problems
    Last edited by bogart; 29 November, 2012 at 02:40 AM.
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    Any thoughts about DuckDuckGo ? The results look pretty good!
    It's a good SE. I use Google largely out of habit.
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    As a side note, I just read the Google War Report, which is about Google's war on affiliate marketing sites. The author makes some good points and may be correct that Google actually labels ALL affiliate marketing sites as thin content sites. I've seen several affiliate sites with 100% unique and high quality content on each page, with 400+ words on each page, disappear from Google search results. I also saw an online store that did rank well disappear from Google search results with no Panda or Penguin issues. The only identifiable issue with the site is that the owner added affiliate links to Amazon on the formerly high ranking product pages for products that were discontinued. That appears to have been enough to drop the rankings for the entire site.

    The Google War Report is a subtle pitch for the author's Elf Links WordPress plugin. You can download the report on the author's demo site, plus you can see what the plugin does on that page.

    Elf Links Demo

    Google is up to much more than what they are telling us. We ain't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

    DuckDuckGo looks pretty good. I can see that they do not regionalize the search results.
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopDogger View Post
    As a side note, I just read the Google War Report, which is about Google's war on affiliate marketing sites. The author makes some good points and may be correct that Google actually labels ALL affiliate marketing sites as thin content sites. I've seen several affiliate sites with 100% unique and high quality content on each page, with 400+ words on each page, disappear from Google search results. I also saw an online store that did rank well disappear from Google search results with no Panda or Penguin issues. The only identifiable issue with the site is that the owner added affiliate links to Amazon on the formerly high ranking product pages for products that were discontinued. That appears to have been enough to drop the rankings for the entire site.
    96 percent of Google's revenue comes from advertising and advertising revenue is flat. So, the only way for Google to increase revenue is to take more of the search volume.

    At this point, Adsense publishers are competitors to Google Adwords and Afflitates are competitors to Google paid shopping results.

    The only solution is to find traffic sources outside of Google which isn't going to be easy.

    Google has every incentive to provide search results that are less
    relevant than the competing advertisements.

    I believe that is one reason why so many SEO penalties are inflicted upon
    small businesses,

    One byproduct is, when compared to the remaining natural search results,
    there is more relevancy for pay per click ads, and thus more money for Google.
    Elf Links Demo

    Quote Originally Posted by robjones View Post
    It's a good SE. I use Google largely out of habit.
    It's hard to remember the urls. I've been noticing a lot of ads on the New York City subways where a whole subway car is plastered with ads for i.e. Food Delivery | Restaurant Takeout | Order Food Online | GrubHub

    DuckDuckGo has increased search volume from 10 million a month in October 2011 to 45 million this past October 2012.

    I think that these 3 search engines are the biggest Google competitors outside of Bing.

    1. DuckDuckGo
    2. blekko | spam-free search
    3. http://www.ixquick.com (meta search engine that does not record your IP address or search history)

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    Quote Originally Posted by iowadawg View Post
    Soon, there will be no more searching.
    Care to ellaborate?

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    Mike Dammann's Avatar
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    So what is an "Affiliate site" by definition? I have seen, as NE said above, many of the types of sites which go against everything we have been talking about yet rank well. From what I see, that has to do with the authorship. I do not see any sense in approaching this algo wise.
    Many sites are filled with spam and having loads of IBLs that are spammy, but they seem to be ok if they have strong links "protecting them" so to speak.
    My guess would be that with the reputation system Google wants to get rid of the types of web people who provide nothing and only benefit. My guess is to continue focus on content that pleases your visitors in order to stay afloat.

    So from my standpoint, the best advice would be to be very niche and expand once following justifies the elevation.

    Quote Originally Posted by TopDogger View Post
    As a side note, I just read the Google War Report, which is about Google's war on affiliate marketing sites. The author makes some good points and may be correct that Google actually labels ALL affiliate marketing sites as thin content sites. I've seen several affiliate sites with 100% unique and high quality content on each page, with 400+ words on each page, disappear from Google search results. I also saw an online store that did rank well disappear from Google search results with no Panda or Penguin issues. The only identifiable issue with the site is that the owner added affiliate links to Amazon on the formerly high ranking product pages for products that were discontinued. That appears to have been enough to drop the rankings for the entire site.

    The Google War Report is a subtle pitch for the author's Elf Links WordPress plugin. You can download the report on the author's demo site, plus you can see what the plugin does on that page.

    Elf Links Demo

    Google is up to much more than what they are telling us. We ain't in Kansas anymore, Toto.

    DuckDuckGo looks pretty good. I can see that they do not regionalize the search results.


    ---------- Post added at 15:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 15:15 PM ----------

    Quote Originally Posted by bogart View Post
    There's no competition in Search except for a weak effort from Bing. So, I don't see Google changing their ways anytime soon.

    Any thoughts about DuckDuckGo ? The results look pretty good!
    The results are good. But even though I am killing it in duckduckgo I have never once seen a referral from them, so their user base must be pretty low.
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