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Will Google’s Changes Hurt Your Website (and Google)?

March 25th, 2012 by Shawn Kerr

Internet Marketing Weekly: Google is Changing – Not Always for the Better for Your Website

Of the recent and rumored changes at Google, many have one thing in common: they are designed to entice Google users to remain on Google sites rather than click through to non-Google sites.

The reason is straightforward enough: Google is in the business of promoting Google products in addition to being the leading search engine (and online advertising seller).

Let’s break it down:

Google Direct Answers

Ask a question and get a direct answer from Google.

Google acquired this technology from the Squared software of its own Google Labs and from an acquisition of Metaweb Technologies, both in 2010, and have slowly rolled out these direct responses to questions entered into Google search.

Google search result for age of Barack Obama

The direct answer from Google to the query for "age of Barack Obama" appears above the organic results and is only superseded by an ad purchased by the official website.

Direct answers  to questions appear below the ad row (if applicable) and above the organic results.  They cite their sources, but they don’t link to them directly in the answer, you have to click to reveal the sources.

Sure, direct answers don’t apply to a whole heck of a lot of queries related to bed & breakfast inns and other small businesses right now, but some queries for events in specific areas do get direct answers, so it may already impact chambers of commerce and visitors bureaus.

The acquisition of Metaweb’s Freebase was made specifically to get software that will increase the sophistication of analysis of questions and supply of answers, so the burning question is this: How will Google evolve their direct answers to keep users on Google?  Google is playing this close to the vest, so stay tuned.

"Let's see...Google personal results, Google Ads, Google map markers, YouTube videos...where the heck are the website links?!"

Google-owned Products in Their “Everything” Search Results (or “Search Plus Who’s World?”)

Google Maps, YouTube (owned by Google) videos, Google+ posts via Search Plus Your World, Picasa photos, and other Google products are increasingly showing up in the “Everything” results for queries.  This makes it more and more difficult to get first page placement for terms and less and less likely for users to ever leave Google by clicking through to “non-Google” results.

The Danger of Google Dominating Google Search Results

Google users spending more time on Google sites mean they are likely to spend less time on your own website.  If Google takes an aggressive approach with the above, than can mean a moderate to dramatic decrease in traffic via Google search in a very short time.

The Dangers to Google

Google is coming under fire from several directions for giving preferential treatment to their own products in search results.  Should they continue to grab an increasing percentage of search results, they run the risk of lawsuits and closer scrutiny and possible legal action by government agencies.  Worse, this endless chasing of money might turn off its user base.  Google+, for instance, might be ad-free now, but how long will that last?

How to Deal with Changes at Google

Google is promising to provide tools such as specific tags, etc., to help websites stay viable in organic search.  

Participate in Google products to keep grow your presence there.  We’ve recommended in this blog that businesses create and maintain an active Google+ profile, a Google Places listing and start marketing via YouTube.  If the competition for first page placement for terms you want is high enough, you will want to consider Google AdWords.  You might find it distasteful to play the game under Google’s terms, but the reality is that they still own the lion’s share of search queries.

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