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Are Google Going Ga-Ga?

3 April 2012 BY

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This is my first blog post for State of Search so I thought I’d write about something I feel strongly about, you know, something I can really get my teeth stuck into. For this reason, I’ve decided to write about Google. We talk about it, we read about it, we write about it, we love it, we hate it, we need it, but it seems that things are changing.

First there was Jeeves

It wasn’t that long ago that the internet was brand-spanking-new. I remember trying to find websites by simply typing in a guestimate of a web URL into Internet Explorer. I would try things like “www.surfboardsforsale.com” or www.thingstodowhenyourebored.com”.  Then somebody told me that I should try using a search engine. Wow! It sounded so amazing and sophisticated. Now I wouldn’t have to guess random URL’s any more, which is a shame really, I had a lot of fun doing that.

Google Monopoly

All of a sudden, the likes of Altavista, Lycos, Yahoo and Google changed my world. I could find anything I wanted, whenever I wanted. At least that was the idea. In reality, what actually happened was that I found more and more rubbish. I asked Jeeves every question under the sun but he never gave me a decent answer, he couldn’t even tell me how to cheat in my maths exam!

Getting Hooked

For various reasons, Google began to attract the largest percentage of “searches”. Apparently, it was the easiest search engine to use, and it gave the most relevant results. The real beauty of Google was that it was idiot proof. It was so simple to use, even your 90 year old Granddad could use it. More and more people “made the switch” and all of a sudden Google had by far the biggest slice of the pie. And that’s the way things have remained for a relatively long time. At least until now.

Every time you look at the Google SERPS, something has changed. Update after update has moved us further away from what we all fell in love with in the first place; Google’s simplicity. Anyone that works in SEO will have had those typical conversations.

“We can’t find the login details for the Google local account, or was that a Google business listing account, no, wasn’t it a Google+ page we set up for that client? No, it was a Google products account, but which Gmail address is that linked with? – let’s just set up a new account and start again!”

Admittedly, Google have come a long way and it’s not all been bad. Spammers now have to work harder for their bread and I’d like to think that Google has made massive contributions to the online universe. But have they really done it all for free? All of a sudden, the first page of Google is a window display for all the different Google services. You can get your name and face next to your work, as long as you attach it to your Google+ profile using rel=”author”, you can get beautiful images of your products shown in the SERPS, as long as you use Google products, and of course, you can buy your way to the top with quality Google PPC campaigns.

But it’s OK, their tools have always been superior and at zero cost, so we’ve all been happy to remain loyal. Yesterday, however, I logged into Google Analytics, which I’ve always loved because it offers comprehensive data for free. I was astonished to see Google pushing their premium Google analytics package. Hmmmm, interesting. What Digital Marketer wouldn’t want premium analytics and the chance to get one up on the competition?

A Glimpse of Google’s Future

I think what I found could be a glimpse of Google’s future. Premium Google Analytics comes with a premium price tag! This is exceptionally un-characteristic of Google, especially when you realise that most of the information offered in the premium package used to be offered for free.

Was this Google’s master plan? Are they simply giant “drug dealers”, giving us the “good stuff” for free, then when we are well and truly “hooked”, SLAM “show me the money”.

That’s what it looks like with the “Premium” Analytics package. It’s as if they thought of every little detail in advance. Maybe the privacy settings weren’t initiated to “protect” users privacy after all? Just saying.  What do you say? Surely “hiding” all the search terms done when logged in to a Google Account couldn’t have been beneficial for Google could it? Also by “hiding” these search terms behind https doesn’t that mean NO OTHER analytics package can access this data either, oh wait, except from Google Premium Analytics. Weird that.

Privacy Laws and Monopolies 

The truth is, Google’s dominance, or monopoly depending on your stand point, hasn’t gone un-noticed. The Financial Times covered the formal US Government investigation after complaints were made that Google were putting its own services ahead of other companies, “robbing rivals of internet traffic”. Google responded with confidence quoting that;

“It’s still unclear exactly what the FTC’s concerns are, but we’re clear about where we stand. Since the beginning, we have been guided by the idea that if we focus on the user, all else will follow.”

I think the question that seems most obvious is; which user? Google seem to be confused about the differences between Internet users and Google users. Surely, they shouldn’t be viewed as one and the same.

The Best Time to Compete?

Maybe this is the time for the likes of Yahoo and Bing to fill the original role of Google, being a search engine not a self-engine!

People, especially in Britain, don’t like to feel that they are being controlled, or watched and the way Google are going, people are going to be looking for a simple service that they can trust and feel comfortable using. Have we trusted Google too much?

Whatever we think or say about Google and the Digital world, one thing we cannot ignore is that times are changing – for better or worse is debateable, and debate, I’m certain we will continue to do.

“Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere.”
Marissa Mayer

“Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
Google

AUTHORED BY:
h

Ben Holbrook is Head of Content at Verve Search and has a particular interest in content marketing and developing sustainable link development strategies.
  • Ben Greenwood

    Interesting article. I happen to agree with you on the reason for hiding search terms. Privacy? No. Premium Analytics? Yes. Otherwise they wouldn’t be available in AdWords OR Premium.

    However…I’m still a staunch Google supporter in so much as I do trust them with my data, my searches and to provide me with the information I want when I ask for it. I also trust them to throw up ads they are desperate for me to click on alongside that. It’s what they’ve been reliably doing to / for me for years.

    I LIKE Google+, I LIKE Search+, I LIKE all those services integrating with one another and I am perfectly happy to submit to a “Google Is Internet” future. That’s me as a user (whether you want to call me a Google user or an internet user).

    As an SEO, however…well, let’s just say Google are giving me headache after headache after headache and it’s only getting worse. :)

  • http://www.barryadams.co.uk/ Barry Adams

    Let’s not forget the classic quote, written by none other than Google’s founders back in 1998 in their original ‘backrub’ paper: “we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.”http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html 

  • http://richardfergie.com/ Richard Fergie

    Are you sure that Google Analytics Premium has access to (not provided) organic search data?

    • Ben

      Hi Rich, maybe not “yet”. I’m just asking the question. 

      • http://twitter.com/tysonkirksey Tyson Kirksey

        Ben, I think you need to be careful with these speculations. I work with Google Analytics (product and team) on a daily basis, and my company also is a Google Analytics Premium Reseller. GA Premium customers DO NOT get access to organic search keywords. In my opinion, they never will. 

        Google has much more to lose in terms of their reputation regarding privacy than they stand to gain by adding a few more GA Premium customers. Even though I don’t agree with the change to encrypted search, I think it was purely a PR move and not about trying to upsell 0.0005% of its user to GA Premium.  

        • http://twitter.com/LisaDMyers Lisa Myers

          If you work with Google product and analytics team AND can afford GA Premium, you are on the fortunate side of the fence. I don’t think Ben needs to be careful speculating, In fact I think he is pretty spot on and the likelyhood of this becoming a part of the Analytics Premium is pretty high. Totally you’re right to disagree but this is a blog, Ben can speculate if he wants.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaDMyers Lisa Myers

    Great first State of Search blogpost Ben! Fab work :)

  • http://twitter.com/chris_mortimer Chris Mortimer

    Hi Ben,
    Great post and you’re bang on the money. Now there are opportunities opening up for other providers to offer a cleaner search experience not just in terms of interface, but also in terms of trust and results. When supposedly objective search results are sometimes prioritising results related to or owned by the search provider then you can’t sell your objectivity or relevancy anymore. They’re sitll biggest though, so far. 
    That combined with the centralisation of Google services and therefore their pooling of data on individual users don’t signal that in the future, in my opinion, we will feel safe letting Google know what we’re doing or in their search results.  

  • Pingback: Are Google Going Ga-Ga? – Featured, Google « sociaalmedianieuws()

  • http://www.scottcowley.com/ Scott Cowley

    Good post.

    “Google should be like a Swiss Army knife: clean, simple, the tool you want to take everywhere.”

    I think this is the big problem with Google’s mentality – an inability to understand that not everybody wants a Swiss Army knife. Also, the time arrives where you’ve added more to the tool and sacrificed simplicity. I think Google has already passed that point.

  • Brian Clifton

    Interesting comments Ben – and I feel your frustration with the “not provided” issue. However I would argue that user’s want this i.e. privacy over an open network, so if its a disadvantage to you and me as analysts, then its tough. We have to live with it. What I do find odd from G, is that search terms are provided to the site marketer if the click to your website is via an ad. I posted my thoughts here: 
    http://www.advanced-web-metrics.com/blog/2011/10/19/organic-search-terms-blocked-by-google/

    A Clarification about GA Premium
    —————————————————
    Premium users (or *any* other analytics tool) do NOT see the “not provided” search terms. They are not available, period.

    Brian Clifton
    Author, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

  • Gareth A. Boyd

    Great post Ben.

    “Google’s mission is to organize the world‘s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

    Now, that’s interesting! Google has put the users experience in the closet and cashing the cheques for advertising. The truth is, Google doesn’t give a shit anymore what your experience is like, granted there isn’t “spam” sites ranking, but there is definitely sites that are ranking that don’t deserve to be there in the first place!

    I for one, believe Google will be their own death and I hope it’s bloody soon. On another note, I need it for my business…

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