Because of its broad implications on the economy, the FTC has hired outside legal counsel to head the FTC antitrust probe of Google. Announced just a couple of hours ago, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz noted that the case was both complex and Google’s actions could have a dramatic impact on consumers both now and in the years ahead. Of the many complaints against Google, it is alleged that Google is using its search monopoly to crush competitors as they steamroll into new ventures.
Hearing such news on a day when the Penguin algorithm update has been confirmed is a small taste of justice by those that have seen their ranks drop out of Google’s SERPS. Many of these people, which own small businesses, have been complaining for a week or more that they no longer have any search engine visibility in Google. These same people also allege that corporate interests were delivered in the Penguin algorithm which pushed small businesses aside.
Unfortunately, case studies are already being presented where individual websites are targeted and damaged by offsite optimization techniques. In one case study I witnessed, a website ranking on the first page for a somewhat competitive keyword was thrown into oblivion with just five thousand artificial backlinks pointing to their website. Such case studies highlight the threat that all website owners must prepare for. Sadly, there is absolutely no defense against such tactics. We could be entering a new era where link popularity becomes widely used to destroy many legitimate businesses.
Hopefully the FTC investigation into Google will look at the bigger picture. Global e-commerce is expected to hit one trillion dollars annually in 2014. Google controls 67% of the search market, and that gives them supreme control over an industry that continues to expand at rates of approximately 19% per year. Google, which may deindex any websites it so chooses, is essentially a death sentence to any business in this digital age. And the control that Google has over the fate of each and every website is apparent in each zoo animal algorithm update they release.
Considering we are still recovering from a recession in which too few banks held all the money, the FTC is wise to seek the outside assistance of Beth Wilkinson. The experience she brings to the table should serve consumers well. And as Google continues to expand into new areas, it is time that everyone gives some consideration to how much control one business should have over an industry where a trillion dollars exchange hands each and every year.
Further information on Beth Wilkinsons’s role in the FTC antitrust probe of Google is available here.