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|Google starting to reserve top spot for itself|
I know this is not exactly new, but i was wondering what people think about this.
we all know that google puts a few ads above the serps, which is perfectly fair, because everyone knows that they are ads because they say so, and print them in different colours etc. even the dopiest of internet users can tell they are different to the serps.
but what if they styled those ads to look EXACTLY like the serps? and what if they all pointed to google's own products?
to me, that is unfair. because that is an example of google highjacking the serps for the own benefit.
but that is exactly what they are doing: search for a big cinema in a big city. if you get the same results as me then you will be looking at a blue link (looking identical to the serps) and a snippet which contains blue links (looking identical to site links) all pointing to google's own products. that is a total of 9 links providing pretty much everything the searcher is likely to want -- which films are showing, ratings, show times, reviews and trailers -- all styled to look like position 1 in the serps. there is no coloured background like the ads have, and not a single mention of the word 'google' to show they are links to google's own sites.
position number 1 has effectively been taken over... its been hijacked... and what percentage of people click position 1? something like 45%, i can't remember.
45% of our traffic has effectively disappeared.
clued up people like us release what position 1 no wis, but i reckon 95% of people will look at that and not be able to tell that it's related to google at all. they will just assume that it's the best site in the serps.
and don't get me started on what really winds me up... it's the fact that it's all done with OUR content.
|who is going to replace them? |
Right now Google is pushing a lot of people, companies, and countries the wrong way. So will a couple brilliant developers working in a garage unseat them? I don't think so. How about a tech company taking them on? I doubt it. But it would not surprise me if a country (read: China) -- or grouping of countries (read: EU) -- decides that this one American based company with American employees is getting too big & powerful for its britches, and is gathering too much data about its own citizens. So to my way of thinking, it is not out of the question that this country and/or union could put up the considerable seed money to hire the very best people to design the very best search engine, buy the most powerful servers, set up the necessary data centers, and do the PR. If that were to happen, and if it was done right, and if it was given a worldwide launch, it could be a seismic level event ... right through Googleplex.
And the founders are dumping shares and have an escape plan in place. How convenient...
TheMadScientist - the piece left out of your analysis is G's stranglehold on the revenue side of the equation.
Why lock the content behind a paywall? Ads have historically generated revenue for site owners. But, where does one find ads these days?
Yes, it is possible to beat the streets and find a paying clientel. It requires work and skills that many in webland lack or are not interested in.
It is a three legged stool - content, traffic and revenue. Google has all but locked up traffic and revenue, and now they are scraping the content they need, leaving them with firm control of all three legs.
|who is going to replace them? |
I think we overestimate the solidity of Google's position. It costs nothing for users to switch search engines; they simply enter a different URL when it's time to search. Contrast this to the barriers held by companies that have had monopolies in the past. Google's situation could change on a dime; all it would take is one significant development -- a better way to search, a generation that prefers to search in a different way, etc. If Google were unable to buy its way in fast enough, it could be sunk within a few years.
I am eying social media for the potential game changer.
|Why lock the content behind a paywall? Ads have historically generated revenue for site owners. But, where does one find ads these days? |
You're answering your first question with the, 'Where does one find ads these days?', question... I think finding other creative ways to develop traffic and/or generate revenue are critical to Internet survival now, and working to find traffic and paying advertisers is going to be required.
It's looking like the Internet is turning into more of a job than many are used to if they want to keep making a living, and IMO there are many sites which are unnecessary, and Google is negating the necessity of others it seems, so as a site owner you have a couple of choices:
Quit or Find a Way to Survive...
If you decide to find a way to survive, then throwing up your hands and yelling 'not fair' doesn't seem to be the answer. Sitting down, taking stock of the situation and coming up with a plan to make money without free search engine traffic sounds like a much better use of time to me. It means you need to rethink EVERYTHING you are doing, then finding new and innovative answers, and if you say you can't then IMO the Internet might not be the right place for you, because you're already defeated.
There's one site I have I plan to sell advertising on in the not-too-distant future, but it won't be AdWords. It will be through other avenues, most likely direct... (It's work to do.)
The advantage I have is as the site owner, programmer, designer, and 'chief coffee getter' I can charge less than Google does and more than they pay out from AdWords to still make a living.
The problem I see most people having is lack of expertise and lack of necessary skills to actually make a living from free traffic for too much longer (or at least a living at the standard they've grown accustomed to), mainly because the traffic is becoming not-so-free, but IMO that's no one's fault except their own, and IMO they should be thankful for the run they've had rather than complaining about things being unfair, because they could easily have done something to improve their position and knowledge rather than thinking the freebies were going to continued or were owed to them somehow, or no one would come along and do what they do better, even if it's Google out doing them...
I'm sure I'm sounding harsh, but I hope what I'm doing is giving a wake-up-call more than anything, because we're not there yet, so there's still time to adjust if you're reading and depending on free traffic to maintain your standard of living, but with every site built and every customer Google, Bing and others retain it get's tougher to maintain, and IMO someday there's going to be a big squeeze.
Businesses that survive online and otherwise will have to find ways to compete. The Internet is moving away from being the playground for everyone to becoming a much more serious business... Search Engines have worked for years to eliminate spam... What happens if they get it right? Or, even more likely, adjust the filters too tight and throw out a bunch of good sites with the others? Just because you're not a spammer doesn't mean you can't get stuck if they clean house and you don't have an alternate source of traffic.
It's actually good for some of us if things are uncluttered a bit, but IMO most people are going to be left behind and looking for work at some point in time.
Here, let me see if I can narrow the questions I think you should ask yourself down a bit:
1.) If you don't have a site businesses (Not AdBlahs) want to advertise on, don't want to 'pound-the-pavement' to generate advertising, and don't have your own product(s) to sell, then how are you going to make money?
It's a question you would have to ask before starting any business and getting a single investor, why should the Internet be any different?
2.) If you don't have a site people talk about and want to visit where you can promote the name and concept in some non-free way to make money, then what's the value of your site?
Location, Location, Location...
It's everything in Brick & Mortar AND, IMO, Online...
Have you ever seen a McDonald's or Starbucks in a bad location?
(Not in a bad area of town, but in a bad location for access and visibility.)
3.) If you don't have a memorable, promotable location and solid concept to go with it, what value is your business (website)?
Take search engines out of the equation for a minute and answer some business questions to yourself, and if you get stuck, IMO it's time to start rethinking and re-planning.
IMO These types of questions are the ones people should be asking and answering before they start in an online business, because if you can't figure out the answer to those questions (and a few more) then IMO your site (business) has very little value, so whatever you make off it should probably be thought of as a bonus... If you've already been here a while and are making money, but have a tough time answering the preceding questions then IMO you should rethink your strategy.
Very fine analysis MadScientist. This thread has (at least) 2 themes going it seems to me -- one is "what will replace the traffic that is lost due to the recent changes at Google" (with, no doubt, more changes to come); the second is just the general sense of indignation that Google is generating a ton of money by displaying content from websites that may no longer benefit from that very display. Google is not a charity so there is no real reason for any of us to be satisfied that they will benefit at our expense, and is apparently willing to pursue a strategy that will push webmasters down in the SERPs so that they can rise up. That's not complaining -- it is just fundamentally wrong.
If they were paying us for that content it would be different, but that ain't happening so it is a valid criticism. Unfortunately, our acknowledging that fact will not change anything OTHER than to make it abundantly clear that to survive on tomorrow's internet, we cannot use yesterday's as a model.
Though having said that, nothing would make me happier than to see a new SE come along with a killer algo and a killer interface -- it would buy us all some time so that, knowing what we know now, we can explore some of the paths you describe. This has truly been a wake up call, but without adequate time to adjust, the road is going to be littered with broken webmasters.
The general assumption hereabouts seems to be making money FROM the internet. What about using the internet merely to PUBLICISE your B&M business?
Of the many sites I visit in the course of a week, almost none have adverts (apart from minimal adverts on forums such as WebmasterWorld and several on zdnet blogs) and I can't recall the last time I came across adsense on a site (or maybe I just don't notice them...).
Most small businesses HAVE to be on the web to survive nowadays. Yellow Pages, whence most people previously got business within the local community, are virtually useless because few people use them for much more than plumbers if that. The internet has driven this demise.
Many small businesses CANNOT afford the high advertising cost required by (eg) adwords. It is no use saying, "if you can't afford to advertise then get out of the business" - some businesses are on very small profit margins and need to remain in business to avoid begging on the streets (that ghastly phrase: mom 'n' pop). They are often essential businesses without which a community itself could perish - or at least be far worse off.
Most web site owners would not be able to create and manage adwords or adsense and most would not want adsense on their sites if they even knew what it is and I doubt most would want to commercialize and deface their sites in this way. They have built their sites on the assurance (now mis-placed) that search engines would see them through. They may have spent a lot of money on those sites. They certainly can't affor to pay someone lots of money to keep the site visible and profitable: that isn't their business model at all.
Until recently I had a large advert in Yellow Pages which brought me as much work as I got from the (free) internet. I can't do that now because YP is virtually unused even if not quite dead. Not having anything from YP in the past two years (and never anything beyond spam from their web directory) I have now dropped the ad. If I can't get work through free services or for a reasonable cost (ie the YP advert cost) through a GOOD directory or SE (NOT google!) then theoretically I'm out of business. My advert was reasonably large; most people in small businesses paid far less (and certainly less than an adwords campaign) but still got enough return from it.
The internet is NOT about making money from web sites. It's about publicising your business, passing on information (often for free because the kind of information is not marketable - vast amounts aren't!) and perhaps INCIDENTALLY making money from the site IF you attract the kind of person who clicks on adverts (how many don't? Me and how many million others?). If you don't monetise your web site then you still need to be visible: google (via penalties and adwords) appears to be pushing us towards very high advertising rates. If your business relies on (eg) adsense and its ilk then your business model could well be in trouble.
I agree with the central theme of this thread: find another way of getting noticed. It would be nice if this were possible.
|Many small businesses CANNOT afford the high advertising cost required by (eg) adwords. It is no use saying, "if you can't afford to advertise then get out of the business" - some businesses are on very small profit margins and need to remain in business to avoid begging on the streets (that ghastly phrase: mom 'n' pop). They are often essential businesses without which a community itself could perish - or at least be far worse off. |
You'll have to work on customer retention methods and figuring out ways to get your customers to spread the word about your business. And figure out some low-cost guerrilla marketing methods. There are options, but opening a business with a website to match and then expecting the internet to funnel targeted traffic to that business (for free) is not gonna happen, at least not for long (so it seems). You can open free facebook, twitter and blogging accounts that can then be used to promote your website (for free) but the same problem remains: how to get targeted people to find you, subscribe and follow you? I'd rather make the effort to promote my own domain than some free social accounts that may/may not be around in 5 years.
A few things to remember...
When/if Google and the others cut webmasters out of the serps, there'll be a no-holds-barred internet. Link exchanges? Traffic schemes? Traffic networks? Paid links? Go hard, it's all good.
The "conditioning" and "behavior modification" that webmasters have been experiencing the past couple years can be tossed out the window and stomped on.
When the best you can hope for is the top of page two (or ten), because the first page(s) are all google/yahoo/bing/youtube/big brands/demand/wikipedia/m--lo, and the best you could possibly hope for is scrap traffic, if that, YOU WILL BE FREE to pursue all types of traffic generation methods you deem worthy:
--Openly bribe your visitors to link to you (who better to evangelize your site than current followers?) Every link to my homepage is a contest entry for a $250 eBay certificate!
--Openly buy paid links that will generate traffic to your site
--Openly & freely link within your network of sites to push traffic
--Have a party and participate in as many traffic generating link exchanges as you can--there will be NO repercussions to pay!
There will be a huge drop in traffic when D-DAY arrives from 90% of non-corporate/brand site owners who didn't prepare ahead of time by building relationships with visitors and with webmasters in comparable niches (not competitors). *IF* you can sustain the fallout, and retain and continue to generate a decent amount of traffic without search engine traffic...Ad space will be sought after at a premium price. Your traffic cut in half from the search engines cut off? Who cares! You will make 10x CPM and ad rates than you do today when the fallout trickles down, advertisers will be slitting throats to find display space where their ads will actually be seen. And you can sell links at a monthly premium within highly targeted content and have.no.fear of being punished. Two thousand pages of good content, with traffic counts that matter * a monthly premium / link / page = payday.
When D-Day comes, have ready all the thin, money-making affiliate sites that you can manage, and use your networks to push targeted traffic to them. Link to them freely, there will be no one to "penalize" you.
The secret to securing your prime spot on the web:
--Learn how to retain today's visitors, make them want to subscribe or join your email list. Make them want to stay subscribed. Make them want to link to you and bookmark and share your site. Give to them over and above what they experience elsewhere, wow them. Give them free tools that are good enough that they'll talk about them with others.
--Don't waste your time with link scrooges, look for bloggers and websites with healthy traffic counts that are happy linkers, nurture link relationships with them, figure out what they like to link to and give it to them. Don't be greedy, be generous to them and you.will.be.well.rewarded. If you're a link scrooge yourself (for pagerank or seo reasons), better do some re-thinking if you want to benefit from what's out there, right now. Build relationships now before the panic sets in and everyone's rushing around trying to make things happen.
And when D-DAY comes, you'll have your army in place and you will survive and thrive.
Something to think about: When the buyers start circling your site and making offers, and there will be when you have reached a certain level of traffic and an obvious community or subscriber base built around it, consider where the internet will be in 5 years and how hard it will be to have a traffic generating machine that you can use to push eyeballs back and forth between your network. And question whether or not it's smart to sell when the value is based on today's earnings/visitor (so low) vs. what it will be in the future.
The revolution...it's coming.
==Corny I know :P, but I just had to say it! lol
|When/if Google and the others cut webmasters out of the serps, there'll be a no-holds-barred internet. Link exchanges? Traffic schemes? Traffic networks? Paid links? Go hard, it's all good. |
Good Bleeping Point!
I'm actually in the middle of building one site that is completely noindexed, because I think Google, Bing, FaceBook, Twitter, and my new site can all co-exist very happily. I'm most likely not going to take a visitor from them and they're probably not going to take mine either, because it's a 'niche thing' and not being found in search engines is part of the theme... Anyway, one of the coolest things I've noticed while building it is the incredible amount of freedom I have from thinking about what the links say, or who I'm going to link to, or what the page should rank for, or what keywords people search for, or where I'm going to get links, or anything else that has to do with SEs... Most of the text on the page is displayed using JS and fades one sentence at a time, so there's not too much for SEs as far as content goes, but people seem to be watching it based on page view length.
Seriously I worked on the site all afternoon and added some graphics to it and didn't think about the alt text or the names of the graphics or the text to graphic percentage or anything else... I sat down with the person working with me on it and just had fun designing some cool graphics. It was really refreshing! I think I can honestly say building this site is probably the most fun I've had working online and I've been doing it about 6 years.
I'm actually almost done as an SEO...
Time for me to move a different direction.
|Anyway, one of the coolest things I've noticed while building it is the incredible amount of freedom I have from thinking about what the links say, or who I'm going to link to, or what the page should rank for, or what keywords people search for, or where I'm going to get links, or anything else that has to do with SEs... Most of the text on the page is displayed using JS fades one sentence at a time, so there's not too much for SEs as far as content goes. |
I'm mapping out a new subscriber-only site that will have no content whatsoever for search traffic (other than a homepage) and am finding the same thing you are, I'm thinking in different directions than I was previously: hey wait a minute, I *can* do this now as a traffic generation technique...I *don't* have to follow anyone's rules other than my own for this site...instead of keyword-rich anchor text--what's good CLICKABLE anchor text...I *don't* need a bunch of filler pages for spider food--I can K-I-S-S and direct that time to more productive things...yada yada yada...on and on it goes.
IT IS very freeing. And very satisfying.
Tallon - excellent post. Another eye opener, especially:
|Link exchanges? Traffic schemes? Traffic networks? Paid links? Go hard, it's all good. The "conditioning" and "behavior modification" that webmasters have been experiencing the past couple years can be tossed out the window and stomped on. |
I always found Google's demand to highlight paid links plain weird and thus did not implement this.
When I look at it, I think that Google has turned itself into the biggest scraper around. Why? They take our content, monetize it, and return little traffic, if at all. That's that classical behaviour of a scraper. Some here, by the way, warned about that years ago and had been laughed off. Many webmasters will wake up and act now. Your ideas are a good starting point to build traffic free of the (self-inflicted) mental barriers we have set up.
Let's see what's brewing here:
1) Professional webmasters seem to be willing to reorganize their sites to become less Google-friendly (see above).
2) Consequently, their sites will probably drop in rankings.
3) But if something drops, something else rises. That "something else" is blogs, amateur sites and of course, spam spam spam.
4) The first few results will always go to a couple of "trusted partners" (think Wikipedia) and Google's own sites. Especially Google's own sites.
Is it me or is Google circa 2010 coming to resemble Yahoo circa 1998 with its "verticals", useless search results and favoritism? The only thing missing is Google directory, with a $300 submission fee. (Forgive me if my memory is failing me... perhaps these things were prominent at different times. You get my point, though).
|I always found Google's demand to highlight paid links plain weird |
Here's what irks me -- when we started with our sites on the web in 1996, it was generally emphasized by all the experts at the time to trade links with other relevant sites. Reciprocal linkage was a bedrock philosophy. Along comes Google in 2000 and external links pointing back to you seemed more important than ever. So far so good.
But then the philosophy shifted, and it appeared (correctly or incorrectly) that Google would no longer give any extra PR "points" for one-to-one link trading. AND, as you said, they wanted us to identify paid links with the rel="nofollow" tag.
Now fast forward to 2010, after a few years when many if not most people lost much of their enthusiasm for link trading (see above for the reason), and now we find Google pushing regular websites DOWN on their SERPs (because their own sites are moving up, or their "answer highlighting" is in place, or their Twitter results are now prominent, or news/YouTube listings are there, etc etc). So, given all that stuff, we must now once again try to rebuild our link building efforts to compensate for these new developments.
A lot of people are starting to feel like they're being played with, and in the process, have lost a couple/three years where perhaps we could have established some decent link partners, had that balloon not been popped by the very company that stands to benefit by the drop in traffic trading (which THEY discouraged from a PR POV!).
Damned if we do / damned if we don't.
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