Is Google Too Big To Fail?

Nov 2nd

Too big to fail.

We are better off if we ignore what Google is saying and follow one thing: Google wants more money for Google. When we make this assumption, everything Google does makes sense. Deception and doublespeak are logical and expected rather than shocking and upsetting.

When it comes to scale, as pointed out with Groupon, all of these rules go out the window. If you look at the biggest advertisers, replace their account with one with no history and the brand "Geico" with "SEOBook auto insurance" and the campaign will simply not run. You are spam. In some cases larger advertisers are able to run ads which are clearly deceptive and go against guidelines which they actively enforce on smaller advertisers. I have a strong suspicion now that this is in fact institutionalized in Google's rating process rather than any employee going out of their way to overturn some sort of penalty.

Google will not disrupt a site or advertiser that will negatively impact their own quarterly earnings. When Google does disrupt one, it is because they have a backup in place. That backup may be their own internal project or a competitor of yours who sends 95% of their advertising through Google's ad platforms. When Google claimed they were going after content farms, and Demand Media's properties (which are explicitly spam) were spared, the reason was obvious, because it would have visibly impacted their bottom line.

Brand is a deceptive concept. A hairy, smelly drug addict that compulsively molests women is not a sex offender but rather a globally famous rock star. Much the same holds true to many of the biggest brands. As long as a brand spams, that spam is opaque to Google's customer base and their customers do not bring a negative association with Google's brand. However, when that same hairy, smelly drug addict is anonymous he is a nuisance which destroys your reputation when you publicly associate yourself with him.

Google is like an oil company which not only dictates the price of oil but also chooses where an oil field will exist. Google is now "too big to fail" as indicated by the recent DOJ investigation which could have resulted in a felony charge for their co-founder, and most certainly would have for a smaller firm without $500m of liquid cash. We should be thankful that visitors are still directed to our websites when they could simply receive excerpts of what they are searching for.

My conclusion: first, I monetize my existing sites with Google's own products as much as possible. Second: I no longer invest my time or money in new businesses that require Google's traffic. Google should expect more walled content gardens in their future. Google's biggest challengers such as Facebook and Apple recognize this, and their platforms are very much walled gardens. That is too bad for the web as we know it today.

As a consumer I want Google to have the best, most trustworthy experience possible. They can fight SEOs and affiliates all day long and it doesn't bother me. I fully expected the innovative waves that helped the web destroy old media do the same again to itself. But, when Google lies, and do things that in fact damage that consumers experience no longer can I defend Google (when eHow first started popping up in 50% of the searches I did I was shocked; I am absolutely appalled they still show up on page 1 for anything, the articles are obviously written by authors that re-hashed another article in 10 minutes and often factually incorrect on top of it.)

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Andrew Johnson submitted the above (less the image) as a comment here, but we thought it deserved to be its own post on the blog so more people get to see it.

Published: November 2, 2011

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Comments

November 3, 2011 - 2:45am

Google is big, no doubt, but I don't think they are too big to fail. It's just that their demise might take longer. While Bing is still WAY behind Google in terms of users, I thought it was very interesting that they are boasting that their users are 23% more likely to make an online purchase (per SEOmoz's Whiteboard Friday Interview with Duane Forrester here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/pump-up-the-bing-whiteboard-friday). I couldn't help but wonder to myself if this is, at least in part, because Bing doesn't seem to have quite the hatred for people trying to monetize websites as Google does and thus shows more sites that optimized for the sale. I would further guess that their searchers get used to seeing ads and affiliate links and even find them helpful.

Personally, I think Google has started down a slope that may end up costing them big time in the end. But even if they don't, I agree that innovation will eventually win out. I'm sure us marketers will only take so many slaps before we pack our bags and leave town with our advertising dollars, running into the arms of whoever can deliver us what we want.

November 4, 2011 - 3:02pm

As much garbage as there is on eHow (and there is a TON), there is some good stuff there too. Before I ever got into SEO or online marketing, my wife found the site. We were both contributors and wrote a combined 50 unique articles. They were actually very useful how tos (how to install subwoofers, how to measure bra size correctly, how to install multiple car audio amps, were among some of them).

I wouldn't necessarily bank on monetizing using mostly Google products. Also for local search, are unpredictable as it is, business owners still MUST consider Google. Most of my clients rank better in Bing than Google, but get more than 90% of their traffic from Google.

If you're looking to make money online, I totally agree that banking on Google is risky business. John Chow managed to make a very healthy six figures while being banned from Google. For MMO, Google should be a bonus, not bread and butter.

November 7, 2011 - 9:25am

we may see a Google freshness update coming so small and new companies will have a chance to generate some cool traffic from big G.

November 11, 2011 - 11:41am

Yes, Google is really big company. But, if they don't follow customers and everything is possible. What was Yahoo before Google comes? On the other hand, maybe some "new Google" is already here and working. Great words on the end of article. I know many people who are banned from G without explanation - even they invest years of work and tons of money in improvement of money making techniques with Google.

November 13, 2011 - 4:52am

In my opinion! A tale of two blogs. One I put passionate research and original writing into, creating many articles since 2007. The other was a domain name I purchased in 2010 for my niece and she decided she didn't want to use it - so I just put up a heap of RSS feeds for content rather than not use the domain at all. The first blog was not affected at all by Google's update earlier this year, nor was the second. However, with the update on October, 14 blog number one (with the passionate original content) was devastated and blog number two (with just RSS feeds) is still untouched.

I simply can't understand the logic. Blog number one was making me some money, blog number two was not. Was that the difference?

November 15, 2011 - 4:57pm

When we are advised to optimize our sites for the search engines, what we are really being told is to optimize it for Google.

This is the Google that we have to jump through hoops for to get on the front page, but if your wallet is big enough you can get on the front page of Google, whatever the state and structure of your site.

In essence, Google runs two systems, one for the haves, and one for the havenots.

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