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Google the Monopoly

January 05, 2006

Google is the search king. But you already knew that. You know that when you want to find information on the Internet, you type in www.google.com (if it's not already your home page) and type in whatever you're looking for. If you don't get satisfactory results you go back to Google and try again. This is the standard process almost every time anyone wants to find something on the Internet.

That's great, and Google is a great search engine. Most of the time I get relevant results and I can usually find what I'm looking for. In the past I've seen too many "directory" type websites come up at the top of the results, but that is a topic for a different entry. The point is that EVERYONE uses Google (except perhaps those that work for the other search engines...).

In addition to end-users performing searches, Google has a hold on the entire search engine optimization field. I devote some time every day going through my RSS headlines, mostly from search engine optimization/online marketing sites, and probably 90% of the stories have to do with Google...ranking higher on Google, how Google changed algorithms, how to outsmart Google, and just about any other topic about Google.

Based on the fact that most end-users use Google to perform searches, the entire search engine optimization community worships Google, and (the not so small fact that) in order to have decent search engine traffic you need to rank on the first page of Google (VITAL to ecommerce sites), I think it's safe to say that Google has a monopoly over the Internet.

This is bad! Does anyone else realize this? Let's look at all three "categories", or types of users, that I noted above and see how Google basically "runs the show":

The end-user
End-users are the source of Google's power. Without end-users performing searches and using Google, it would have no audience. End-users don't necessarily care about how much an ad costs on Google, or what the latest algorithms are, they simply want relevant results. As I noted above, I believe there are some pretty crappy results sometimes when I perform a search (again, all those "directory-type" sites are very annoying), but in all Google delivers. But, just like in any other industry, when a company that has a monopoly over the product/industry you are using, you are forced to view THEIR results and THEIR opinions. That's great, but what if I don't agree with Google's algorithms? What if Google forms an alliance with certain companies and all of a sudden those companies' websites start moving to the top of the results page? Probably unlikely but a possibility nonetheless.

The Search Engine Optimizers
Everyone and their dog has become an "SEO" expert. Search engine optimization has been around since the advent of the search engines and is nothing short of the biggest sector of online marketing. You can have links to your site all over the Internet, but if you aren't listed at the top of the search engines you are missing out. It is the main focus of search engine optimizers to get websites to rank as high as possible on the search engines. As a result of Google's popularity (partly driven by the SEO experts), search engine optimizers have one main goal: getting a site to rank #1 on Google. Every online marketing blog you visit will undoubtedly be filled with entries about Google. Google has a strong-hold on the SEO industry and a search engine optimizer has no choice but to abide by Google's algorithms and wait for the next announcement about changes in their ranking algorithms.

Online Businesses - Ecommerce Websites
Ecommerce websites depend on the Internet to make money. These businesses make all their revenue online and are at the hands (motherboards?) of Google's computers. A sudden shift in algorithm, even a tiny one, can send a site off the first page. Again we find ecommerce sites at the mercy of Google and their ranking algorithms.

It becomes obvious where I'm going with this. We cannot rely on Google for all aspects of Internet searches/online marketing. End-users should not have to rely on Google for good search results, search engine optimizers should not have to worry about optimizing websites "just for Google", and ecommerce sites should not be at the mercy of Google's algorithms to ensure they stay at the top of search results.

Obviously the easy solution is to use a different search engine. All indications point to the fact that results on Google vs. the other search engines (check Google vs. Yahoo! here), are pretty consistent. But I do not believe people are about to abandon Google (just look at Microsoft...) and so the Google monopoly remains.

I predict it will take a Custom Search Engine to uproot Google. A search engine where the end-user dictates how to rank websites. Now that I think of it, why hasn't anyone thought of this before? I better go check Google to see if anything like this exists...

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