When did it happen? Panda? Google+? Facebook? SeoBooks' holy crusade on Google (here, here, here, here and here, to name a few). Did Matt Cutts do anything wrong? I am not 100% sure. But I realized it today during a coffee with friend. We agreed that personalized results were not what we were hoping to get. And so we talked...
Money, Spammers and AdSense
Admit it, you had at least one AdSense money-making site, right? And in that golden days when Google was getting market share, you got your paycheck. And some of us scaled some sites and created another and another and another. Then spammers came. And spammers created a whole ecosystem of sites. And I never loved Mahalo or eHow and their content factory (but sure loved SeoBooks' posts about them). But in those days search results were quite good looking, rather clean and you could find easily what you wanted. Even on the second or third page.
Spammers changed that by creating rubbish content, getting links and their websites SEO'd to the extreme. And it was fine by Google in some way because these sites served AdSense. But what were advertisers looking for was not content network advertising. I remember that I would almost always remove the content network because it wasn't converting as much as search network (Google made a big effort to improve content network). Google knew that and wanted to push search ads above the fold. To maximize the profits of course (they were not evil still).
Panda to the Rescue
Caffeine came first. Infrastructure change enabled Google to push Panda and so we now have search engine result pages crawling with brands. I am not looking for brands, don't you get it? I want something new and not on the page 689. Quote from Eric Schmidt:
The internet is fast becoming a "cesspool" where false information thrives, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said yesterday. Speaking with an audience of magazine executives visiting the Google campus here as part of their annual industry conference, he said their brands were increasingly important signals that content can be trusted.
"Brands are the solution, not the problem," Mr. Schmidt said. "Brands are how you sort out the cesspool."
"Brand affinity is clearly hard wired," he said. "It is so fundamental to human existence that it's not going away. It must have a genetic component."
This is completely wrong. What is a brand? Someone with enough money to populate pages with content? It's an easy way out for Google thinking that a brand automatically creates great content. Yes, brand is needed, but come on! Google became evil. And it became evil just because it favors the brands and not the small person. It's the logic of capitalism: the winner takes it all.
But where is the user?
Focus on the user and all else will come. (from About Google page)
Well, Google focuses on the user. This video shows it pretty good:
AdWords and Big Profits
It's not fair. It never was. AdWords is a bidding engine. But ok, who wins the bidding wars? You know the answer. Google always wins. It's not the user. It's Google.
I did notice a dramatic change in CPC over the past 3 years in various clients' accounts. To raise CPC by 2 times is not so uncommon. And there's a secret ingredient called "The Quality Score" - in short, it enables better ads and pages to pay less on AdWords. It's an algo that combines some known and many "unknown" factors to determine how will your ads behave in AdWords.
Image Source via Unbounce
So Google, what are "various relevance factors"? Is it brand? How can I compete with, for example, Booking.com? Hmmm... And historical performance? I cannot even enter the arena without outbidding the top players. All this makes new advertisers bid higher - who wins?
Hey! Let's Kill Your Conversion!
Focus on the user! Great stuff Google. How can I focus on my users when you hide keywords they used to get to my site? How can I optimize landing pages, bounce rate, time on site, goals, ecommerce tracking and everything else when I can't get that data? Nice move, you just won a golden medal for being evil.
This reminds me of one hosting company I used to use which automatically added a WordPress plugin that would insert links into your new installations. I immediately went to chat with support and they said: "It was managers decision". Can you guess the outcome? Well, after a few days, this plugin mysteriously dissapeared (I guess too many people complained and manager was fired).
Facebook has its Own Movie
I think ego plays a role here too. Google is not as cool as before. Apple is cool (they even don't pretend to be good). Facebook is Über-Cool. They even got their own movie! And Twitter is cool.
Is Google+ cool? Well, it is for us geeks. For everyone else? No. Even I hate when I get these "social" results.
Sean Parker: You don't even know what the thing is yet. How big it can get, how far it can go. This is no time to take your chips down. A million dollars isn't cool, you know what's cool?
Eduardo Saverin: [Sarcastically] You?
Eduardo Saverin: [the scene shifts back to the deposition room] A billion dollars.
Well, maybe Google is cool, some 200 Billion dollars cool (Google Finance link)
Will Google ever love us again? Will we love Google back?
Why I don't love you anymore Google? Because you don't love us back by:
- Pushing Google+ search results to everything
- Killing the small advertiser in AdWords
- Removing the keywords in Analytics so I don't know what to optimize for conversion
- Destroying my overall user experience
- Favoring the brands. I want something new! You are a search engine, not a brand engine!
- Being so jealous of Facebook like a rich spoiled kid
- Overpromoting your channels
- Forcing your descriptions on search results
In the end, Google relied heavily on their users, early promoters, geeks, SEOs, webmasters to promote their product. Will their failing come from the same source?
Feel free to post comments and your opinion on this. Thanks!