Over the course of 2012, many webmasters have been forced to deal with a fury of algorithm changes unleashed by Google. Just as in the past, Google has stated these updates were needed to improve their search product. Looking back, over the updates that Google released, it is becoming much clearer that Google is trying to improve their search product by eliminating organic listings. This is a process I would refer to as “digital cleansing” since it is happening on such a large scale.
Of the different keywords I monitor, many organic listings have been pushed beneath the fold. The most recent occurrence of this was just a day ago. Dead smack at the top of the screen are Adwords ads and to the right are Google products. Ironically, Amazon has a paid listing at the top and the number two organic position as well. What is hypocritical about this is that Google has released a penalty of sorts that demotes websites which have too many ads above the fold, yet in many keyword searches Google has nothing but paid ads above the fold.
Mixed into the organic listings are of course many YouTube videos. Some people have reported up to eight YouTube videos displayed in a row, further restricting any opportunities for consumers to see something other than a Google owned product or business. And yes, Google does own many businesses as noted here and products which nearly anyone that goes online comes into contact with quite often.
If panda and penguin were not enough to drive many websites out of the SERPS, and leaving major problems with domain crowding, Google recently launched an algorithm change with the goal of demoting low-quality exact match domains (EMD). As many have noted, websites not using an exact match domain were also impacted. The impacts range from slight demotions to a major drops in ranks that would indicate a full-force penalty was applied.
The SERPS, which once had a diverse set of listings, are now starting to look like nothing other than paid ads and a corporate yellow page directory. Besides Amazon, Wikipedia, eBay and YouTube have prominent exposure. Many small businesses, which once appeared to have an equal opportunity of receiving exposure in Google Search, are now scattered throughout the breaks in domain crowding occurring on pages two and beyond in the SERPS.
What Google is doing is surely a bold move while being under a formal FTC probe. Just looking at the SERPS today, they surely look far more favorable to Google then to any others. Quality content, such as Wikipedia, is appearing at the top of many buyer keyword search queries. This is odd since most people looking to buy a product already know what it is and do not need a definition. Some speculate Google is doing this to further dilute the ability of those performing searches to purchase products anywhere other than through Google.
An additional worry to some is Google’s participation in a Washington D.C. based lobbying group named the The Internet Association. This group not only consists of Google, but also has members that include Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and many other corporate giants in the world of eCommerce. This group, which can legally meet behind closed doors to develop lobbying strategies to benefit their collective causes, claims to represent the “unified voice of the internet economy.” Yet no small businesses are permitted membership!
In light of everything that is transpiring, it is clear that Google is now treating ordinary webmasters as the competition. Apparently Google believes that they now have enough paying advertisers to fill up a good portion of the first page of the SERPS with paid ads that they no longer need to be bothered by issues involving organic search. To ordinary users this may go unnoticed. But to the small businesses which have lost visibility in Google Search, they are left struggling to recover from what appears to be a large scale digital cleansing process.