Don't Be Evil - Google

Image: Courtesy of Charlesc - Flickr

How many times have you heard the phrase “content is king”? Before we talk about this, I have a few questions.

  1. Is Joe Blogg who runs a local locksmith business a locksmith or a content creator?
  2. Should Joe Blogg invest his valuable time feeding the beast (Google) with “good content” or should he concentrate on what he knows best, being a locksmith, opening locks etc.?
  3. If Joe Blogg does not have the time or resources to produce “good content”, does that mean that he is a bad locksmith and therefore doesn’t deserve to get found on the first page of Google?

Think about it, what is the prerequisite of being a good locksmith or a mechanic or a painter decorator? Is the prerequisite being “good content” creators? I don’t think so.

Let’s face it, if you are a SEO consultant and you are reading this, you are probably fuming right now because you really do believe that “content is king” because good content is a link magnet and so on. If you are not a SEO consultant, you are probably wondering what “content is king” means. Here is what Wikipedia says about “content is king”:

“The phrase can be interpreted to mean that – without original and desirable content, or consideration for the rights and commercial interests of content creators – any media venture is likely to fail through lack of appealing content, regardless of other design factors.”

I know it is only a Wikipedia entry, but is your average local locksmith a “media venture”?

No it is not!

So why should it produce “good content” to operate as a locksmith? It shouldn’t have to, but thanks to Google’s market dominance and content focussed bias it is forced to do so. If Joe Bloggs, the honest & hard working locksmith does not create heaps of “good content” and then further “fresh content”, it will be lost in Google’s bottomless pit. On the contrary, his competitors, the click fraud savvy locksmiths who have got websites with ten thousand pages of content (thanks to some “Delhi-NCR” article spinners) and a blog that too is purely geared for Google (again thanks to some “Delhi-NCR” article spinners) appear on the first page and as a result are winning business all day long.

You are probably thinking that I might have a solution for this issue, I am sorry to disappoint you but I don’t have a solution. All I know is that Google is hurting a lot of small businesses, in fact killing many of them. These businesses have many other issues, dilemmas and challenges to deal with and this whole “content is king” is becoming a burden, a rather painstakingly frustrating burden.

Now I know that I have gone on and on about locksmiths, but bear in mind I am only using locksmiths to present my case. There are many other types of small local businesses that are facing hardship because of Google’s bias towards “good content”, exact match domains and so on.

Google is becoming a beast, a serial killer – the whole “don’t be evil” mantra is a smoke screen, in other words, it is nothing more than PR speak that can only fool the gullible. Google right now is fulfilling its obligation to its shareholders without fulfilling its obligations towards the business community especially small local businesses.

Something has to change, I don’t know what, how and where but what I do know is that local queries should be dealt with totally differently; “blended results” is not the answer.

Here is how Jeremy Stoppelman presented his case against Google in the latest senate antitrust hearing:

Google is no longer in the business of sending people to the best sources of information on the web. It now hopes to be a destination site itself for one vertical market after another, including news, shopping, travel, and now, local business reviews. It would be one thing if these efforts were conducted on a level playing field, but the reality is they are not.”

“The experience in my industry is telling: Google forces review websites to provide their content for free to benefit Google’s own competing product – not consumers. Google then gives its own product preferential treatment in Google search results.”

“Google favors its own Google Local product in web search results, too. Rather than favouring them algorithmically, however, Google simply favors them as a matter of design.

For example, when users search for a barber in Madison, Wisconsin, Google will always present links to its own consumer review website in the most prominent position regardless of whether the algorithm has actually determined that it has the most relevant content. Put differently, it is impossible for any of Google’s competitors to be displayed as prominently as Google itself, even if Google’s own algorithm rates them higher. In some instances, Google simply excludes competitor results as a matter of design, not as a matter of objective, algorithmically-driven analysis.”

It is about time Google revised its strategy, they are becoming a monopoly, in fact a very dangerous one. Google wants a piece of every pie on the table, in fact every piece of every pie on the table. They are abusing their position as market leaders, be it by serving biased search results (see, screenshot below), “handing out” patents to other companies to create obstacles for their competitors so on and so forth.

Following screenshot demonstrates how Google takes over 50% of results in some cases.

Image courtesy of Aaron Wall

Going back to the whole “content is king” issue and just to clear things up – I hate the fact that local businesses have to create “good content” and “fresh content” to get found, but as it stands that is the only way to win on Google. I am hoping that we will hear more from local businesses in the current senate hearing instead of hearing from Silicon Valley firms such as NextTag or Yelp. The local businesses who don’t have a voice are the real victims, Google Places is a wreck, latest example being Closed, Says Google, but Shops’ Signs Say Open.