It was a silent pact that happened over 20 years ago between digital creators and a technology company that changed the world. No contracts were exchanged, and it was a mutual partnership that worked for both sides.
At first, the tech was clunky and rough around the edges. But over time, it became polished, fast and accurate. And the mission of one party was clear and far-reaching. “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
The rules and algorithms for achieving this were never shared but just suggested. The riches were distributed at first so that everyone was happy, singing and holding hands. But slowly, over time, things changed and the partnership became strained. It was a slow creeping takeover.
Google’s first mission statement and tagline was, “Don’t Be Evil”. For some reason, that tagline has been deleted.
Since then, Google’s capitalistic motivation and greed to make more money have pushed it into a less benign mission statement. It’s along the lines of “let’s take the creators top quality content and make it look like we created it”
This evolution of search is shown in snippets that appear at the top of most search queries on Google. And if you click on the question in the small text below, they reveal the website and link that created the content. The reason this happened is that Google, in effect, has become a monopoly with very little regulatory oversight up till now. They could write their own rules.
Where are we now?
When I search for the term “Should you optimize your website for search engines?” you see below the four ads that take the top position.
Google summarizes and metastasizes the content for its own revenue purposes and provides the scraped answers from the websites. The great rip-off? Almost nobody clicks through to those links. The original content creators receive little traffic that sustains their business models in a digital universe.
Now Google’s tagline reads “Do the Right Thing“. But their mission seems to be “Rip off the best content on the web, make it look like ours, and steal ideas from content creators to maximize advertising revenue“. This strategy is disguised behind the sneering altruistic mantra of “great user experience”.
There was a small win…
Companies, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, have been complaining for years about Google and Facebook publishing their news without compensation while making billions of dollars from advertising. While the media companies advertising revenue dropped like a stone, causing them to lose money from the content they had invested in, with journalists and newsrooms they created and paid for.
In Australia in 2021, the more prominent media companies struck a deal with Google and Facebook for the media giants to pay for the news and content from the major Australian news and media companies.
This deal was driven by the Australian Government’s ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission), which brought the international search and social media companies kicking and screaming to the negotiating table. Google so far has paid $60m to two local media companies and an undisclosed amount to New Corporation. That’s pennies!
Google Australia also rakes in $7 billion in revenue while paying a paltry $85 million in taxes. The tax rate on revenue comes in at less than 1%. I would rather like that rate! And I am pretty sure that some offshore transfer pricing is happening here (entirely legal but maybe not ethical) that moves the profit elsewhere.
But what about the small guys?
The reality is that the smaller media companies don’t receive a cent. The reason? They don’t have the bargaining power or clout to take on the likes of Facebook and Google. Google continues to optimize its home page to keep the readers there. It is all in the name of user experience. The net result is that the websites that create the content are seeing less and less traffic.
Is SEO dead?
The short answer. No, it’s not.
Because Google will continue to use the algorithms they created to identify great content, they make sure that they minimize the traffic views or traffic to the creators to keep you on their homepage.
So…they are doing no evil except that the content creators are knee-capped and money capped. While Google continues to make billions of dollars.
The advent of the age of search and social media seemed to promise to democratize media and remove the powerful media moguls as the gatekeepers to the creators at first. And it did for a few years, but we are now heading down the path where the big guys make more and the creators become starving artists.
The answer to the question “Is Google stealing your content?” is not a straightforward answer.
But do they want to minimize traffic to your site while maximizing traffic to their home page? The answer to that is “yes”.
And if you are a small media player (or content creator), then your revenue from affiliate traffic will be reduced. And don’t expect them to pay you any time soon! The collusion between the big media players and Google is there for all to see.
The new media moguls are now the new kings of the universe. They are the new gatekeepers to your content.
About the author: Jeff is the owner of jeffbullas.com. Forbes calls him a top influencer of Chief Marketing Officers and the world’s top social marketing talent. Entrepreneur lists him among 50 online marketing influencers to watch. Inc.com has him on the list of 20 digital marketing experts to follow on Twitter. Oanalytica named him #1 Global Content Marketing Influencer. BizHUMM ranks him as the world’s #1 business blogger.
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Author: Jeff Bullas
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