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May 19, 2014

Seismic Shifts In Search: Google’s ‘Land-Grab’ for Online Revenues

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Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

Website copywriting is something I’ve been doing for over ten years. During that time, changes have been many and far-reaching. The techniques that drive and define online ‘success’ today are vastly different to what they were, even two or three years ago.

Anyone who follows this industry will know that Google has been exercising its SEO muscle. They’ve been hard at work driving out the ‘black hat’ SEO merchants who’ve used every trick in the book to help their clients achieve top search engine rankings for the most lucrative keywords in their industry.

To be fair to Google, I’d say their actions are long overdue. On the other hand, a major flaw in the search engine’s modus operandi has always been that the companies which achieve top rankings on search page listings (SERPs) are not necessarily the best at what they do. They are top of the pile because their SEO is better than the next man’s.

An attempt to change that came with Google’s Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates to the many criteria that go into creating what they call their ‘algorithms’. Unfortunately, in driving out the ‘black hat’ SEO people, Google has also made it difficult for those who play by the rules to implement workable techniques.

Rich Promise

One by one, Google has all but trashed the techniques which have hitherto delivered on their promise of higher rankings. Examples include keyword placement in meta tags and on-page copy; link building; online PR – and many others.

Aspects of these criteria are still valid of course. Keywords will always have a degree of significance (or how else can Google match searches with the web pages at their disposal?). Likewise, link building will always be important in identifying ‘popular’ (and therefore ‘valuable’) web pages. Social sharing via Twitter et al is a direct descendant of this.

At its heart, SEO reflects the dynamic and organic nature of the web. Social media is a mega presence nowadays – so much so that world leaders are regularly to be found tweeting about the latest outrage, policy or political rivals’ responses!

The challenge for millions of businesses of course is how do they win the brownie points that accrue from visible social sharing? Assuming that smaller companies have the time and resources to build a social presence, how do they boost their profiles without recourse to what may be seen as ‘spamming’?

The solution may lie in part with ‘content marketing’. From the earliest days of SEO (and Google’s pronouncements on the topic), quality content has always been heralded as being king of the castle.

In reality – and practical achievability terms – this translates into nothing more complex than using multiple channels and techniques to apply or re-purpose whatever news, resources or opinions a company may have.

No doubt Google’s Matt Cutts would claim that the search engine’s SEO mantra has always been focused, ultimately, on providing web pages that best answer someone’s search query. Without quality content that’s relevant to these queries, search engines would wither and die.

Too Many Questions

The fact that there’s a demonic drive within Google to forever fine-tune its search algorithms – whilst also driving out those who seek to manipulate the criteria for success – may lead some to believe that they’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water.

Who says Google’s criteria/algorithms deliver the best possible search results? Is this easy to prove – or is there an inevitable element of subjectivity in identifying which content is ‘relevant’? Such is the power of Google, few people (outside of the company itself) are in a position to influence these outcomes.

Should we be concerned about this? Did the transparent SEO techniques of recent years act as checks and balances on the criteria applied to achieve ranking success? Has Google made a ‘land-grab’ of the domain that was previously within the reach of anyone with a modicum of appreciation as to how SEO works? Is there a sinister alternative agenda that is purposely driving marketers to resort to Google’s expensive Pay-Per-Click online advertising?

If no-one can figure out how best to achieve high rankings on search pages, the only reasonable (and cost-effective) alternative is to combine Pay-Per-Click with a range of other marketing techniques – online and offline.

There has been a tangible shift in mindsets (and budgets) in this direction. SEO is no longer the route to riches it once was. Google has seen to that. Websites are now (ideally) receptacles of quality content to be accessed by multi-channel marketing activities – and via SEO.

This is a massive yet subtle shift in the way online marketing works. It’s probably too early for most companies to recognise and articulate what is going on. As a website (online and SEO) copywriter with a finger firmly on the pulse of change, I would rank these changes as seismic in both their proportions and effects.


Mike Beeson is a highly experienced UK journalist, financial copywriter and PR consultant. Mike's company, Buzzwords Limited, was established over 20 years ago and is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester).

26 Responses to “Seismic Shifts In Search: Google’s ‘Land-Grab’ for Online Revenues

    avatar vandana says:

    this information is informative & true thanks for sharing.

    avatar CandleFOREX says:

    Perhaps the whole point:

    If no-one can figure out how best to achieve high rankings on search pages, the only reasonable (and cost-effective) alternative is to combine Pay-Per-Click with a range of other marketing techniques – online and offline.

    Perhaps, it is high time Google gets branded a monopoly and forced to breakup so it doesn’t corner the market like the Hunt Brothers, and so have a level playing field again?

    Indeed, these cyber Robber Barons need to be checked.

    avatar Anon says:

    “Is there a sinister alternative agenda that is purposely driving marketers to resort to Google’s expensive Pay-Per-Click online advertising?”

    This is what it comes down to.

    Google is a corporation, not a fluffy and friendly company wanting to do right by the world. The very definition of a corporation is continued growth at all cost.

    The notion that a corporation will not abuse its position and power to increase its position and power (and, by extension, wealth) is anathema to the very concept of the corporation.

    Google is all about money (just like EVERY CORPORATION ON EARTH), it doesn’t care about the webmaster, nor the searcher, it cares about increasing its control, thereby increasing its profits.

    This is why I now use Bing, and why I gave up on Google a long time ago. It’s time to mix up the market share and pick anyone but Google for your search needs and webmaster tools. Time to break up the monopoly and make the web a little more diverse than Google is allowing it to be.

    We cannot afford to continue to allow one massive corporation to control so much of the internet, this is absolutely no better than the recent FCC rulings damaging Net Neutrality.

    avatar Albert says:

    Google’s algorithms are getting users to put more effort into what they do, but that ultimately good. Links take more effort and Black hat techniques aren’t getting people as far as they did.

    True, True and True …
    I’m 63 now, and on the Net since 1993.
    One of the ways one can identify the main players on the Net could be: They who use it mainly For Profit generating purposes and then the others who use the Net mainly Not for Profit purposes.
    Many if not all website owners want to have at least one of their website pages displayed as many as possible, in the idea that “Traffic is King”. Maybe, seen the fast changes in search engine behavior, 24/7/365 SEO becomes not even sufficient to keep a web page somewhere near the previous SERP …
    I think the advanced features of search engines are not used enough and that SEO is far too often done for global SERP while local SERP could be sufficient. Also, I think search engines should put again more weight upon domain’s SLD. That is what Second Level Domains should be for: The service or product type or the name to look for in a telephone or other directory! Keywords or sentences, naming or describing a web page rather for it’s name, location and activities. I think the more TLD’s are being added, the more advanced SEO should be used by people looking for something on the Internet. The fact that somebody lands hours long on a website that has nothing to do with what is desired, is for a major part because of entering wrong items in a search query. Another phenomenon is the raise of numerous TLD’s that describe locations and activities creating a niche TLD System similar to niche SLD’s under .com and other older Top Level Domains. Perhaps, a number of people don’t find what they are looking just for because they don’t want to learn about search engines. The kind of people that hate to read user manuals etc. This is May 19th 2014 and I think most people using the Internet could be considered educated enough to know that there is an instruction set for almost any product or service, including the Internet cfr. et all. Possibly a number of same people without money who try to make a living from Internet activity. Often ending up as spammers and scammers. Ah well …

    It seems to be increasingly easy if lengthy to list what not to do to carry out SEO for a business but less easy to see what to do safely. Good content that sells of course. But after that it gets woolly…. Google is of course quids (dollars) in with more emphasis on PPC. Don’t do evil? Mmmmmmm, self interest winning out again at least?

    avatar azeem uddin says:

    I am using white hat SEO techniques and never used black hat for my website When I checked my site recently on webmaster tools there were hundreds of backlinks discarded by Google because of its new algorithm ! We will struggle hard to create new backlinks with more care !

    avatar Ian Myers says:

    After being kicked out of google’s rankings recently for no reason whatsoever – we are now concentrating on the old fashioned advertising techniques and guess what? The Return on Investment is way better and business is better than ever!

    I’m going to share this comment with all of our clients. Thank you for the insight, Ian.

    Google has been trying to force people into AdWords for years now. It used to be that you could optimize for certain terms and locations and have it show up on Google’s search engines. Now it’s so localized that unless you have a location in each city (and not a P.O. Box number – but a physical location), the only answer is either Google Maps or AdWords. And I’ve reached the point where I’m no longer offering AdWords setup and maintenance. It used to be that good SEO would win the day, but now the only ones who win are those with the deepest pockets. AdWords is far too out of reach except for the richest companies. And it’s far too unpredictable for anyone to know just how much they wind up spending. The whole pay-per-click platform has been flawed from the beginning. Most of my clients want to know how much they’re paying per week, month, year. That’s the kind of certainty they want so they can form a solid advertising budget. AdWords won’t let them.

    avatar Scriptor says:

    Good SEO does win the day so don’t lose heart. No matter what new thing comes out, pure organic white hat wins hands down always. I’m able to get my clients top ranking on Google maps, Organic maps and their website on page one organic results using just pure organic white hat. It never fails.

    avatar ecommerce web development says:

    Hi Mike,
    Interesting article, google algorithm is constanly changes and we need to actively keep making changes to stay on top SERPs.


    avatar Ferry says:

    Talking about SEO is no end … but clever in using the tips and knowledge of SEO will make your website more traffic will be organic from the search engine.
    Quality content is one of the contributing factors of SEO anyway in my opinion

    avatar Susan says:

    Great article. I am new to SEO and just when I think I start to understand it everything changes

    avatar Amod says:

    Like it or not, Google is the king of online marketing media/platforms. All of us have yelled at them, cursed them, tried to bypass them or just drop them from our strategy at times.

    As it stands, they are growing stronger and online marketers are compelled to include Google as a key strategy platform to deliver results for their customers!

    avatar Jennifer says:

    What I would like to know is if there is any early indication that buying AdWords helps with organic searches as well. ie, if I buy AdWords for a certain few keywords/phrases, will Google look more favorable on me as a whole on other searches as well or am I still in the weeds? I know Cutts isn’t going to admit they give extra credit to people who buy the cow, but is there an indication that they do?

    avatar Chris London says:

    Nice article Mike. At Pixel we’ve definitely made a push to market websites with a bigger emphasis on traditional media to drive traffic to client websites. The ROI has definitely improved when compared to the uncertainty of driving traffic through rankings and PPC. Though we do still use PPC and online media for exposure.

    avatar Adesh says:

    my opinion is that Google has to keep its organic search truly relevant, I don’t think Google has any sinister motive, simply because the organic search effectiveness will ultimately increase Google’s share. certainly all those Panda, penguin and Hummingbird changes have made it more difficult to rank, but that is why we get better results on the first page. How many people ever go to second page. That says it all… That is what i want from Google.

    avatar Wohllab Promo says:

    Great Article. This is Really Nice and Helpful Post. I Learned Many thing From This Post. Thanks for Sharing with me.

    avatar Buka Info says:

    seo is endless discussion until whenever. all it is a game of search engines, how to adjust it, that’s the next thought would happen

    I’m starting to see a lot more emphasis on inbound-outbound marketing these days in the form of SEO, use of e-books and other ways to capture people’s contact info, and subsequent e-mail marketing. While it’s nice to be ranked in the search engines, there is no substitute for posting your web site address on all your literature (business cards, brochures, fliers, etc,) and on your radio and TV spots. I’ve just lost faith in anything that has an unpredictable price tag which Pay-per-click has amounted to, as applied by Google. They make it look so easy to just turn on and off, but what people don’t realize, much to my frustration, is that Google also accrues over time, regardless of whether you turn AdWords off. I believe it is 30 days or $50, whichever comes first. Isn’t any wonder a lot of smaller businesses can’t plan for this in their budgets? I believe the current AdWords model is a money grab and could amount to a failed business model.

    avatar Kfrustratedwithgoogle says:

    I’d just like to say that Google Adwords is a pain in the b___t. Ads show up for negative keywords that have nothing to do with what the search is about, So, when you do a search for something, you get all these ads that are for other areas(not relevant to the search). How do they figure that makes for a good results for what someone is looking for?

    avatar Ritesh Reet says:

    Informative Article! Seems Google wants everyone to choose PPC rather than organic SEO.

    Thanks for this highly informative write up. It is an X-ray into what can be termed Google’s fair play and changes into world of SEO.

    Thanks for making my morning a little bit better with this great article!!

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