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.
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.