Am I the only one who is starting to think Google might have it in for SEOs? I’ve never been one of the tin foil hat brigade who thought the posse up at mountain-view have always been out to get the search industry, but these five recent events have lead me to start to think otherwise.
1. Matt Cutts Video Says SEO isn’t Spam
Chances are by now you will have come across Matt Cutts’ YouTube video stating that they don’t think SEO is spam. Seeing this video it immediately reminded me of a situation in football, when a chairman claims he has full confidence in the manager. If you’re not familiar with Football in the UK, when a team have had a string of bad results it’s normally the manager who loses his job; so as soon as a manager has a couple of bad results he comes under pressure from the press. Now in this situation two things can happen, the chairman either says nothing or gives the manager his full support. Giving him his full support is effectively a kiss of death, and with Matt’s video I certainly feel a similar vibe.
2. The https Debacle
In this world filled with pointless infographics and stats on PowerPoint slides which say nothing at all, I’ve become cynical of pie charts, but one that’s really stuck in my mind is one below from SEOmoz. It really effectively illustrates how, despite the majority of search traffic clicking on natural search results, the majority of the spend is on PPC. As soon as I saw this graph a few years ago, a shift of spend away from paid search towards SEO seemed inevitable.
Now for those of us in the search industry this seemed like pretty good news: more money on SEO retainers and less money passing through your hands to Google on paid search. However, Google don’t feel the same way. Paid search is where they want businesses spending their money—not on SEO.
They can’t go out and advise companies not to invest in paid search, but they can gently undermine the credibility of the data used by SEO companies to report their success while reinforcing the transparency of paid search. A subtle but very clever move.
3. Google+ Direct Connect
One of the features connected with the very recently announced addition of business pages on Google+ was Direct Connect, which, based on the video released by Google, is intended to make it very easy to get from a Google search box to a Google+ profile. Now, this is unlikely to make a huge amount of difference to the search traffic to you or your clients , but it’s yet another signal that Google want to keep searchers on Google longer, where they can sell adverts rather than getting them moved on to a brands site.
4. Structure Your Data To Make Our Life Easier and Cut You Out Of Deal
Initially Google helping veterans find jobs online seems entirely altruistic; they’ve made use of the schema.org structured mark up to create a listing of jobs across dozens of websites. But this sort of underlines one of the concerns many people have about structuring their mark up. Suddenly all the useful information on your site can be displayed on another site, perhaps on a SERP. If you sell adverts based on people visiting your site and now much of that process happens away from your site it’s much harder to make money. This seems like another situation where it’s easy to see Google stealing people’s lunch. Now as search marketers we have a dilemma: work to add microformats and potentially generate more exposure but also open ourselves up to being cut out of the deal.
5.Google Aren’t Afraid to Make Enemies No Matter How Powerful
One of the reasons I thought SEOs wouldn’t ever really have too many problems with Google is that a lot of the time we were doing their bidding. When it was getting too expensive to crawl the web, Google claimed load speed is a ranking issue, and suddenly they have a team of thousands helping webmasters save Google bandwith and money. Want more structured data? Introduce rich snippets and every search marketer will fall over themselves to grab a few more pixels of SERP real estate.
I thought that since we are doing them these favours they’d cut us some slack. I thought that was how Google saw their relationship with Apple too. Apple were getting more people online with their various devices, and the more people spending more time online, the more people who click on Google adverts. But then I read this quote from the Steve Jobs biography:
“I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong,” Jobs told Isaacson. “I’m going to destroy Android because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go to thermonuclear war on this. They are scared to death because they know they are guilty.”
Google aren’t afraid to step all over a company responsible for doing more than almost anyone else to increase the amount of time spent online—suddenly I don’t feel so confident.
Maybe I’m just getting more paranoid, or maybe they are out to get us.