How Google is Damaging the Business of Every-day Webmasters and Bloggers

12 years ago, when I first got into marketing online, getting regular search traffic from Google was reliable, as long as you played by their rules.

I played by their rules because, at the time, their rules made a lot of sense and did result in a good user experience.

And I got traffic.

In the search results at that time, advertisements were placed on the right and the natural search results on the left.

First position in the natural search results meant exactly that: top of the page.

Today you can be in the first position in the ‘natural’ search results but not even be visible above the fold on a computer screen – see my screenshot further down.

Even when you do get to the natural search results, you will find a liberal sprinkling of Google-owned sites in the first several places.

Google no longer provides unbiased, objective search results, based on quality information. Not only has Google increasingly suppressed specific sectors (for example herbal or natural medicines), but it is becoming increasingly politically biased.

It’s not for nothing that between 2017 and 2019 the EU fined Google a total of 7.8 Billion Euros in 3 different anti-trust rulings:

  1. For manipulating its search results (here’s a current example)
  2. For unreasonable requirements in its AdSense terms and conditions
  3. For prioritising its services on Android devices to the exclusion of competitors

Google’s presentation of search results

The way Google presents search results today clearly favours its advertisers, featured snippets and Google’s own answer box, in which it scrapes information from other sites and presents it as an ‘answer’.

In the screenshot below, which is Google’s response to a query ‘How to improve SEO’, you can see that the first 4 results are advertisements, followed by a featured snippet and then Google’s answer box.

The first ‘natural’ search result was not even visible above the fold on my monitor – and it has a 23-inch screen.

Screenshot of a Google search results page

Even if you exclude the Featured snippet, which is there because the webmaster has made use of Google’s tool, the first natural result would still not show up above the fold on most laptop screens.

As for those searching on a mobile device. . . Well, that first natural search result would probably never be seen.

This is in no way presenting a listing of relevant, unbiased results to searchers.

The answers box reduces the volume of traffic going to the originating sites because, in many cases, the searchers get the information they searched for without ever leaving the results page – to the detriment of those webmasters’ business.

Given that this is how search results are being presented now, day-to-day webmasters who are producing good information don’t get a look in, unless the searcher scrolls through to the second page of results – and not many people do that on mobile.

In my view this is a gross mis-use of Google’s near monopolistic position in the search industry.

Given its position in the industry, Google should be going out of its way to ensure that it is impartial, objective and focused on returning well-written, well-researched content.

My search engine of choice now is DuckDuckGo – as much because they do not track my searches as for any other reason. None of my devices has Google as the default search engine.

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Webmasters and bloggers wanting to get exposure for their articles are mostly left with options that require payment:

  1. Pay for Ads on Google (after all, the 4th placed ad in the image above was the 4th listing on that page)
  2. Pay for ads on Bing
  3. Turn up your social media efforts – if your normal social media activities are not bringing you traffic they all (the mainstream social media platforms) offer paid ads

Of course, there are other methods of attracting traffic, but this article is about Google – not marketing online!

And so. . .

I am clearly biased, but when I look at articles that are returned for the same query as one of my articles, but well above mine (often by a page or more) in the search results, I am at once angry, frustrated and disappointed.

Many times those articles are less well written, contain less detail and appear to have been less well researched.

And yet mine are suppressed in the search results for no reason that I can work out.

This is why I no longer pay attention to Google, and I certainly don’t look to it for reliable traffic.

Yes, I still follow their guidelines, the ones that make sense to me, anyway.

But when you remember how they present search results, and the increased dialling up or down of web pages based on politics, religion or money, you realise that the playing field is in no way level any longer.

Cheers,

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
Owner – WealthyDragon

What do you think?

4 comments… add one
  • Kiara Oct 19, 2019 @ 12:30

    Wow, this is such an insightful post. Thank-you for taking the time to explain all of this Martin. For someone who is just starting out online, it is so disheartening to hear how Google REALLY does things… how disappointing! I feel like now I have a way better understanding on how I am likely to do with Google and will most likely pay more attention to other search engines and social media moving forward.

    Thanks for the informative advice!

    • Martin Malden Oct 19, 2019 @ 13:54

      Hi Kiara,

      You’re welcome!

      Don’t let the fact that Google can no longer be relied on for regular visitors divert you from creating well-written, well-structured articles. Following Google’s guidelines does result in a good user experience.

      But you need to use the widest possible range of techniques to promote your articles – online, of course, but don’t forget off-line channels.

      Best of luck with your online endeavours 🙂

      Cheers,

      Martin.

  • Matt Lin May 26, 2020 @ 15:50

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the analysis of Google’s unfair competition, but it seems so hard to compete with those articles promoted by paid traffic. Although Google has changed a lot due to politics, religion, or money, many affiliate marketers still pay money to make their business going further by throwing money at Google.

    I will have more interest for DuckDuckGo since it feels like the old Google back in the 2000s. How do you find the research results while you compare it to Google and Bing? Are there vast differences between these three search engines? Or the results are simply the same?

    I will love to hear more from you on this.

    Thanks,
    Matt

    • Martin Malden May 27, 2020 @ 6:40

      Hi Matt,

      Yes – as you probably gathered from the post, I’m not a fan of Google. They have developed a near monopoly position, which they abuse in many cases, and which allows them to act almost as a regulator while getting the benefits of being a commercial enterprise.

      However, the solution, at least for me, is not to spend lots of money promoting affiliate products. Since we only get a percentage of the sale value as commission, you can only spend money promoting affiliate products if the channel you’re using is incredibly cost-effective.

      At the end of the day, it’s not the number of sales or the revenue that you earn from affiliate sales, it’s the profit that defines your success (or not).

      And most online advertising channels are now very expensive compared to when I started in 2003.

      So yes it’s hard to compete with articles promoted through paid channels, but the question is ‘How much did those payers have to pay to get their views/revenue/sales?’. And what was their profit?

      I’ve used DuckDuckGo as my default search engine on all my devices for some time now, and while the search results are different from Google’s they are not massively so – at least in my experience. I’ve never had a problem finding anything, but if I can’t find what I’m looking for on DuckDuckGo I just flip over to Google.

      The big advantage to me, of DuckDuckGo, is that I’m not giving Google information about my search activity..!

      Cheers,

      Martin.

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