Is Google Doomed to Become the Search Engine Scrapheap?

The way in which search engines are displaying organic search listings has altered a lot in the last year or so. Google, being the most popular engine is probably top of the list for changing its own format from one of genuine results to a large proportion of paid ads.

Most people of course don’t notice, but with most searches that are likely to have some commercial value (shopping searches, product reviews etc), what used to be a nice clean page with 10 results containing websites that in most cases gave some value to the searcher is now a page full of text advertisements with the organic listings pushed further down the page.

Now before I continue, I should point out that I’m talking about the kind of search results that have commercial value. Information searches that don’t make any money for anyone are generally not included in the focus of this article. Those kind of searches still provide good information and are a valuable research tool. Not knocking that side of search. Only the commercial side of things.

Big Brand Domination

Another big change that again, most people don’t notice is that big brands are dominating the organic listings where smaller, independent sites once provided their own opinions, advice and reviews. You only have to type in a search for a product like a small kitchen appliance, popular toy or some beauty products and you’re going to find under the ads that Amazon is probably the top result, closely followed by the likes of ebay, Sears, WalMart and other big name stores.

On first refection, you might think that’s fine. Let’s face it, if you want to buy something online, chances are Amazon will have it at probably the best price and they will ship it free to most locations now. Why bother with any or the other stores even, let alone all those little independent review sites?

In fact, why bother even wasting a click and a short wait for your browser to load up Google’s annoying paid ads? Just keep Amazon in your bookmarks or favourites and go straight there. Cut out the middleman with all its blatant ads and go straight to the place you want to go to anyway!

By making sure that Amazon ranks top for most product searches, Google has really taken a path that will dig its own grave and bury it.

Google Decided to Wage War on SEO

And in the process, while it was stamping out all the little “work at home mom” sites and destroying the incomes of thousands of ordinary people, it decided to replace their sites at the top of the first page of the search results with Amazon plus a bunch of other big brand names. Oh great, take the food out of the mouths of the little guy and give it to the already uber-rich fat cats. How popular!

Sour grapes? Yeah, of course. A lot of my sites suffered the same fate and I lost some of my online income. I look at these changes from the perspective of a one-man business that once worked very well and now doesn’t. I never used spamming tactics or automation like some did. My content on the web is all original, researched and useful. I built sites that I am proud to show off to anyone who wants to see them. Just what Google said it wanted.

Say What You Mean?

But Google doesn’t really want that at all. Google doesn’t care how much work and effort you put into building a great site with well researched, original and entertaining content. If you want to rank for any term that you can potentially make money from, Google does NOT want your site to rank for it.

Why?

Because you are making money from that search term and Google is not.

Every time a potential customer clicks one of my affiliate banners (by way of thanking me for providing a useful, informative and factual review of a product I hasten to ad), the commission goes to me and not to Google. Google hates that. They want it all. They want EVERY sale, click and cent that is spent online to go into their bank account and NOT into those of the little guy.

Don’t believe me? Like I care.

What Makes Google Tick?

Think about what drives Google. It’s more than just a search index. It’s a multi-billion dollar company that answers to its greedy shareholders who are constantly baying for more, more, more! And in order to give them more, Google has to grab income from every possible source to do it. Hence the proliferation of Google Ads splattered all over their results pages. Hence the all-out war on SEOs who Google sees as taking money out of its pockets.

But maybe this very strategy will be its downfall.

You see, people are not stupid. You can fool some of the people some of the time… and you can probably fool most of the people most of the time. You know where that’s leading. People may become ad-blind after a while, but it’s hearing it from someone I know who doesn’t have a clue about search engines, SEO or search strategies that brought it home to me.

Real People Think Like Real People

She looks at Google to search for a new book or a new toy or whatever. After a while she stops bothering to look at Google. That’s because she’s clicked the ads enough times, not realising they were ads and been sent off to sites that she didn’t want to be sent off to. So now she doesn’t bother even opening Google in her browser.

Nope. She goes straight to Amazon and searches there. Because she knows that Amazon’s search feature will bring up exactly what she wants to see!

Not a bunch of other stores and a crapload of ads that will send her to where she doesn’t want to go.

She is not alone. Lots of people I know are bypassing Google to search Amazon for what they are looking to buy online. It’s sensible, saves a little time and gets them directly to where they want to be. Looking at the product sales page where they can see the price they will pay, product info and they can even read other customer reviews. All on the same page. No being screwed around by greedy Google ads. No wasting time searching Google only to find Amazon is the top result anyway.

Could Google’s own relentless drive for more profit and its destruction of those independent review sites that actually provided people with something they DID want – independent reviews of a product that does NOT come from the store selling it – be the engineer of its own downfall?

I think it just might.

I probably left a lot of key points out of this article, but I didn’t plan on sitting here all day to write an in-dept finger wagging at Google. I just wanted to add my own opinion to the multitude of others and point out that a lot of the little sites that Matt Cutts and his Spam Team squashed actually served a valid purpose.

Independent reviews of a product, when properly done are a valuable resource for buyers not wanting to get possibly biased reviews from the manufacturer or seller’s own site. Sure we make some commission for adding our own affiliate links to the seller’s site. But that’s no different from a big newspaper earning money for writing an editorial about a new product and displaying an ad on the page. Companies pay for promotion and it makes them more sales. It’s a money-go-round that works.

Everybody wins. The product seller makes a sale. The affiliate makes a commission for making that sale happen. The buyer gets the product they wanted after reading a review that gave it to them straight, so they are happy with their purchase.

And it worked very well online too until Google decided to get greedy and suppress it. Bad Google.

Will Google Really Count Social Links? I Don’t Buy It!

I’m quite taken with Internet Marketing, especially as it is provides my living and it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, I can still make it as long as I have my laptop, a connection to the net and some coffee. Who wouldn’t be over the moon to be able to say that all the hard work I put in for my own good over the last few years is now paying off very well, thank you. So what is this post about? Well, it seems there may be a threat to the way many Internet Marketers make their living.

I’m not talking about the list builders who live off noobs to this business chasing the get rich quick dream like a bunch of blood sucking leeches, but those of us that make our money from affiliate commissions gained from attracting buying traffic to our websites and directing them to a variety of real products that companies are selling and picking up a pay-cheque for those buyers we send to them. We do this of course by working hard to place our websites high up in the search engines index by what is known in the business as SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Briefly, it is building highly relevant websites around a large group of those products and then building links to those sites. There’s more to it than that, but up until now and probably for a while longer, the more relevant links you attracted to your websites, the higher you would feature in the search engine results because they placed a higher level of authority on your site because so many other site owners linked to yours.

The threat seems to be coming from what is known as social links. In short, the rumour being spread around is that Google, who are the main search engine and the one we marketers aspire to reach the top of, intend to count social links obtained from popular social sites like Facebook and Twitter and add this to the level of relevancy they give to our sites. 99.99% of people don’t know or care about any of this, of course.

But for those that are concerned, I have a sneaky feeling that if this really is going to happen, it will be pretty temporary. Why?

Think about it (if you are a marketer with SEO knowledge, that is). Google has spent years battling against spammers who continually try to game their index so they can get their garbage sites to feature top for competitive, high value keywords. Spammers use a number of automated techniques and sometimes get a foot in there for a while. But the boffins at Google who write and tinker with their famous algo generally get the upper hand.

Google’s mission is to bring Internet users the best search experience possible by placing the most relevant websites at the top of their index for all keywords searched on. I know I’m right about that.

I also know that the getting of links to websites can be gamed to a certain extent. Its done by the use of placing links in blog posts of other people’s blogs that you guest post on, which is actually the norm, completely above board and acceptable. That process can be accelerated by using other people to write your articles and even automated to a certain extent, but the results are that real content has to make its way onto real blogs for this to work. It takes a lot of time, effort and hard work to achieve good results, so much so that almost nobody tries all that hard. For Google, this is not really the problem.

The problem is the automated linking systems and other blackhat techniques that are designed to game the index. Most of these the algo tinkerers have all but got on top of. Which leaves us with a fairly robust search engine that delivers mostly relevant results.

So why on earth would Google want to totally upset this particular apple cart by including social links in the algo’s mechanism for ranking sites?

Anyone who knows this stuff will know that automating the creation of social links is way easier than getting real links from blogs. Every SEO with enough knowledge to be dangerous will be all over this like a cheap suit. Blackhatters are probably already writing (or have written) automation tools to auto-generate so many social links as to place a ton of spam websites on the top of Google’s index the second they start counting them. There will be social groups and supposedly hidden groups set up in places like Facebook with the sole intention of generating thousands of social links to an army of websites.

Why would Google allow something like this to happen?

I’m sure they know full well what the consequences of counting social links (or “likes” or whatever they call them) will be. The answer? One of two things will happen:

1: Google goes ahead and count social links, “likes”, tweets and suchlike. Their index implodes under the weight of all the spam rising to the top like effluent rising to the top of a septic tank.

2. Google are really yanking your chain.

I like the second answer. I believe they already know all this and started the rumours deliberately. That way SEO’s everywhere will divert their time and attention to building social links, stopping them building the links that really count.

2a. Oh yeah, the algo boffins will be laughing their asses off at all the headless chickens scurrying around building social links like their lives depended on it!

Why am I writing all this, when clearly no one will believe it?

Something to do with all the time I’m saving by NOT wasting it on Facebook…

Terry Didcott

Finding a Niche to Target: Weight Loss

I can’t believe a month has flown past since I wrote that last tongue-in-cheek stab at the make money online niche that looked more like paella than money. Well, I have to say, I didn’t make a whole load of paella from it, but it gave me the idea to branch out into different niches and see where the land lies.

Only problem with doing that on a site like this is that too many people will read it and figure out which niches I’m looking at targeting. Now that’s a real nuisance as I want to make use of this blog’s authority to boost the fortunes of some of my other sites in niches where they can actually do very well, but I’ll also end up showing everyone else what to target and just create a whole load of competition for myself.

What to do, eh?

Well, I’m going to not post about a certain niche that I’m interested in here and see how many new sites crop up for the keywords in the next couple of weeks just to test this theory out. So here is a niche that you can really get your teeth into if you really must. But be warned, it may not be as easy as you think.

It has nothing to do with make money online, so if that’s where you’re aiming all your arrows, this will be of no interest to you. Its actually in the weight loss niche, so if you think that is too competitive for you, then you are probably right. Weight loss is one of the most competitive niches around and its is damn difficult to break into. But once you have, then it can also be quite lucrative if you know how to work it. All the usual suspects will work, some better than others and I’m bust testing different streams of income right now. Not here on this site, of course, but on other domains that I own and maintain.

Actually, this post isn’t even going to link to any of those site, just to annoy you if you were thinking of clicking through to see what I’m up to. Ok I lied a little. I’m going to link to my new weight loss page on this site. In any case, you won’t learn much from my weight loss sites any more than you will learn from all the other sites that exist on page one in the SERPs for their given keywords. They all do one thing and that is advertise this or that weigh loss program, diet food plan or exercise and fitness system that will help (or otherwise) people to lose weight. They do this while writing articles about them to pad their sites out with plenty of original content, which is what the search engines like to see in a site these days.

While this is supposed to be a personal blog and not really a money making niche blog of any kind, it is a useful tool for me to try things out with. After all, it is all about what I’m doing online – and I’m busy making a living here! So of course anything that I write about concerning my online exploits and business are valid, just they become less readable and more functional. Well, if functional is going to help my business more than readable (which it will), then so be it.

In this particular niche there are so many different keywords to target, its difficult to nail down any specific one right here from the long list of weight loss tips, diet food delivery plans, weight loss supplements, fitness exercise equipment and apparatus, specialized diets like low carb, high protein, low fat diets and all the rest.

Ok, this is just a toe in the water tester post to see what it does and what traffic it attracts from where, so if you were hoping for something more, sorry to disappoint, but some things need to be kept a little closer to the chest than others. If you want to go target weight loss as a niche to make money from, go knock yourself out!

Terry Didcott