To answer that question it is first important to point out that Google’s whole ethos (at the start) was to provide the best possible search results without commercial bias.
This is why search experts are worried that this change in policy (albeit only for product searches) heralds the dawning of a new commercialized Google.
Is this a slippery slope to paid everything search? If so, where does it end and what will its effect be on you and me?
Google’s paid product search results
Before we all panic about what will happen to the painstaking SEO and social marketing efforts we’ve invested in our blogs, sites and content, let’s quickly look at what the changes entail:
- Free product placements in Google search results are out
- Merchants will have to bid to display their products
- Paid product placement ad space will be bid upon by merchants vying for position
- Premium adwords space will be reduced to make way for a sponsored product images box at the top of the page
That’s the gist of the changes – not too bad. Google has come up with the usual corporate spin you would expect – i.e. having a paid relationship encourages merchants to offer better product content, etc.
Should Google be allowed to commercialize search?
Europe’s antitrust chief has a problem with Google, which holds sway over about 90% of all search traffic in Europe.
The issue raised by many is not that it is unfair for Google to have a monopoly on search traffic, but that it should not be allowed to leverage this monopoly to the detriment of other businesses.
If Google decides to use its position as a search provider to extract “tithes” from businesses wishing to sell products, is that fair on smaller businesses who may offer high quality products but don’t have the budget to compete with larger corporations online?
Up until now, the Internet was a great leveler. Small companies could gain wide exposure online for providing high quality content, services and products. Now they can be outbid by a conglomerate in a different country.
The effect of Google’s paid search on SEO and social media marketing
The introduction of Google’s paid search might seem like a minor change that everyone is blowing out of proportion, but consider the following points:
- SEO and Internet marketing, by definition, are commercial enterprises designed to drive business and revenue
- Paid search obviates the need for quality content in lieu of an advertising budget and high converting landing pages
- Google may decide to extend paid product changes to paid service changes
- Where do we draw the line between what is a product and what isn’t?
Let’s quickly explore the ramifications of these points in more detail…
SEO and Internet marketing “is” paid product placement on Google search
The only reason we use SEO and Internet marketing (and to a large extent social media marketing) is to drive traffic so that we can convert it in one way or another to make money.
Who’s to say what qualifies as a product in Google’s paid search?
The line between product and service on the Internet is quite blurry. Is a downloadable software tool with a monthly subscription payment a product or a service?
Now that Google has made the leap into commercially biased search results, what’s next? Products and services are already more or less the same as far as Internet marketing and online retail go.
Google paid search allows sellers to bypass affiliate marketing
Let’s say your business relies on creating high quality content, and derives revenue from affiliate links that sell related products and services (which many businesses do). How will it affect you that the retailer can circumvent your content and pay commission directly to Google to appear at the top of search results without needing high quality affiliate content?
Affiliate marketing is a huge industry that may be seriously damaged by this change.
How big will the effect be on non-paid content that sells products and services?
I think the effect is going to be huge. Already, search results that are towards the bottom of page 1 get only a fraction of the traffic that search results at the top of page 1 get.
This effect will only be enhanced by having a row of images splashed across the top of the screen. Why would anyone looking for a telescope search deeper through content results when Google’s shopping comparison results are displayed right in front of their eyes?
What do you think they effect of the changes will be on SEO and Internet marketing? Have you already been affected by this? Are you already bidding on paid search product placements? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below or join the conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter.