30-second summary:

  • Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next.
  • Understanding Google’s considerations as a business, provide context to many of its recent decisions and provides a sense of what is coming lanugo the road.
  • Global digital organ Croud’s Organic Strategy Director discusses the later on of Google, right from Google’s antitrust lawsuit to Apple as a later on rival, and more.

It occurs to me that I am part of a cult.

Or at least, something that displays the hallmarks of one. An unchallenged sundowner leadership, prophets and oracles who deign to share only select information from a mysterious entity, who engage in coercive behaviors, who punish for non-compliance, and followership who are indoctrinated into special teachings and practices and whom parrot when the mantras and sayings of the leaders. Yes, I of undertow refer to the SEO industry and yes, you may take a small pause here to go through the whilom statement to see if it works. It does.

Something that all of us in the search industry are guilty of is our over-reliance on Google telling us what is coming next. Whether through announcing prescriptive updates on Google Search Central or retrospectively announcing algorithm updates on Twitter – we rely too heavily on the limited information Google shares with us and, as such, only get a very short-sighted view on the later on of our industry.

This needs to change, and in order for that to happen, we need to stop thinking of Google as a search engine.

Google is first and foremost a business, and as such has a responsibility to its shareholders to protract to defend and grow its market capitalization. Understanding Google’s considerations as a merchantry provides context to many of its recent decisions and gives a sense of what is coming lanugo the road.

Section 230 in the spotlight – Google to factor truth in determining search results

The Storming of the US Capitol came as the culmination of a five-year disinformation wayfarers that went unchallenged and unadulterated by big tech. They cited concerns over the First Amendment, self-rule of speech, and public interest as the reasons for a lack of intervention on plane the most palpable mistruths, but the events at the Capitol prompted a shift change. Twitter and Facebook de-platformed Donald Trump, Google removed dangerous channels that tabbed for violence from YouTube, and Apple, Google, and Amazon joined forces to take lanugo Parler.

Though the events at the Capitol provoked big tech into action, the shadow of the incoming Biden-Harris wardship had once moved them into whoopee (Twitter flagging Trump’s tweets, for instance). As part of the ongoing swathe of antitrust cases versus big-tech, protections currently misogynist for platforms under Section 230 will be thrust into the spotlight for review. The crux of it is whether or not platforms are treated as the publisher of third-party content. Currently, platforms are not treated as the publisher and therefore resign any responsibility for the content that appears on their platforms.

Biden, during his referendum campaign, said,

“The idea that it’s a tech visitor is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms.” He added, “It should be revoked considering it is not merely an internet company. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false.”

His recent appointee, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, has told lawmakers that she will pursue changes to Section 230.

If – and it seems likely – Section 230 is at least amended, this sensibly raises issues for big tech. It is unlikely that it will be completely revoked – such a visualization would likely have a net negative effect. It is increasingly likely that Google will need to demonstrate efforts to moderate content at scale, and have a mechanism by which content flagged by users or other parties. Such mechanisms once exist – such as the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (in the EU) or DMCA takedown requests for copyright infringements. In these cases, individual URLs can be flagged by users and organizations. Though a much worthier undertaking, in this case, it is likely that such a process will be used to deal with issues of veracity, libel, incitement to violence, and so on. The difficulties here will be firstly manpower to deal with these requests, and secondly the criteria by which these complaints are assessed.

What does this midpoint for search?

Websites that produce editorial and opinion-based content will need to be confident that what they produce will not contravene guidelines well-set by big tech and governments. Individual infringements might see de-indexing of individual URLs, but unfurled and flagrant non-conformity could see full domains removed from search results entirely (as is the specimen with DMCA takedowns).

Antitrust – Google loses market share in search

There are numerous antitrust lawsuits currently filed versus Google, which examine its monopoly status in the search market. Google has an estimated scrutinizingly 90% share of the search market in the US, and this is the foundation upon which its gargantuan online razzmatazz merchantry rests. Its path to monopoly may have seemed organic to most, but the tactics the visitor used to secure such dominance are now under scrutiny. The purchase of DoubleClick in 2007 gave Google end-to-end ownership of the process of matching advertisers to users, which many at the time raised as a concern, in that it would requite Google too much power in this space. The purchase of the Android operating system moreover unliable Google to push its apps, such as Google Search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, and increasingly onto nine out of 10 mobile devices sold globally each year.

All of the above, and more, will be considered in the DoJ’s specimen versus Google. The precedent for such a specimen was set by the EU Commission where it unswayable that Google had wrenched antitrust laws by abusing its market dominance with Android and had to pay a fine of five billion dollars. Included within the decision, was a ruling that for all new Android devices, Google must offer users a nomination in their default search engine. Google created an vendition system for rival search engines to towards in the “choice screen”, leading many to once then snivel it of abusing its market dominance for profit, and placing barriers to entry for smaller players that cannot compete. DuckDuckGo wrote a blog post that stated, “This EU antitrust remedy is only serving to remoter strengthen Google’s dominance in mobile search by boxing out volitional search engines that consumers want to use and, for those search engines that remain, taking most of their profits from the preference menu.”

There is precedent for such an tideway to introduce competition, with a similar specimen launched by Russia’s competition watchdog, and Yandex growing market share by 20% in the years post its introduction. However, it seems to have had little impact in the EU thus far, with smaller search engines either unable to sire to compete in the vendition or, plane when doing so, getting little traction from it. This could be considering the nomination screen is only displayed on new Android devices, and, equal to the rather cumbersomely named Executive Vice President of the European Commission for A Europe Fit for the Digital Age, Margrethe Vestager,

“very few Android phones have been shipped due to the Covid crisis.”

In this case, it may be too early to make a strong conclusion as to the effectiveness of measures.

Watching this all from wideness the Atlantic, the DoJ has slowly placid and built vestige to take on Google. There are a number of variegated cases, some looking over the same issues and some looking at new potential avenues to introduce competition to the search industry. The Justice Department has tint its net wide and spoken to third parties within the razzmatazz industry, as well as search competitors as to their thoughts on how to reduce Google’s market share. One such line of enquiry was virtually which parts of Google’s vast ecosystem it could be forced to sell off. One leading suggestion; Chrome.

Now, they didn’t ask me but had they, I would have said why not gravity them to spin off the second biggest search engine – YouTube.

Apple – A later on rival to Google Search?

Another big investigation point is Google’s unfurled payments to Apple to remain the default search engine on its devices. It pays $12 billion to do so and has said that if this were overly challenged, it would value to a lawmaking red scenario for the business. However, as an zippy part of the antitrust lawsuits, this could be something that becomes a reality for Google. In such a scenario, would Apple unshut up a prompting war for the opportunity, or would it do something fairly shocking… create its own search engine.

Apple has once begun to tantalize the market with a couple of nods in this direction. First, in 2018 it hired the former Head of Search from Google, John Giannandrea. Second, it is hiring a huge value of search engineers. Third, Applebot has significantly increased its psoriasis worriedness recently. Fourth, in the iOS 14 update, Apple has started showing its own search results when a search is made from the home screen. Fifth, it updated its Applebot guidelines last year in a way that is remarkably similar to guidelines in Google’s Developer Blog. Included are guidance for webmasters virtually the robots.txt and noindex tags and plane what it takes into worth for ‘Search Rankings’.

If Apple were to enter the space, it would be the first true contender for Google from a search perspective. Although Google’s years of minutiae and investment into its search ecosystem would certainly be a upper windbreak to entry, Apple’s massive user wiring and transferral to privacy would certainly capture a significant portion of market share. In such an event, how would this impact the web? If Google and Apple deviated from each other in search ranking factors – could SEOs be in the position where we have to flit variegated dances for variegated masters. Plane if Apple does not enter the market, constructive antitrust legislation would unshut up the market for new compelling offerings such as Neeva, You, and Mojeek, as well as existing search engines – such as DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Baidu, and Bing – attracting increasingly market share. Many of these offer Privacy as a major selling point – and as these issues wilt increasingly evident in the public consciousness, there will likely be a gradual ebb of users to these other engines. There is a greater risk, however, that in the very public antitrust case, if any major news breaks virtually how Google uses data placid in search engines, that it could see a max exodus of its user base, as happened recently with WhatsApp and the flocking to Telegram and Signal

What does this midpoint for search?

  • If Google loses dominance in search, SEOs will need to be fluent in multiple search engines’ weightier practices. Though likely to be similar in some regards, other search engines may not use, or weight, ranking factors in the same way. They might moreover have variegated features in their search results. Consider how variegated Google and Baidu search results are for instance.
  • Adoption of variegated search engines could vary wideness markets, demographics and audiences, and therefore explicit verticals may uncurl their websites increasingly to the weightier practices of one rather than another.
  • Reporting and wringer of the ‘Organic’ waterworks will wilt increasingly ramified and have a higher forfeit base.

The wrestle for ecommerce heats up

Covid has created many new trends and behaviors but has just as importantly served as a impetus for many pre-existing trends. The penetration of ecommerce as a percentage of total retail sales skyrocketed during the early stages of the global pandemic and has remained upper overly since. Amazon was the largest payee of this trend, with its share of ecommerce sales in the US at a whopping 47%. This statistic, and the fact that more product searches uncork on Amazon than any other platform, spurred Google into action.

In 2019, Google made well-spoken its intent to recapture market share in this space, with a somewhat understated relaunch of its Shopping platform. It seemed the plan was to slowly capture market share with a gradual introduction of new features wideness its platform. With the inrush of Covid, however, it began to release features rapidly. Free organic shopping listings came out of nowhere, and the new Google Pay app, which allows retailers to offer targeted coupons and deals to users, is a unvigilant offering.

One of Google’s increasingly unique offerings in this space is enabling and facilitating ROPO (research online, purchase offline) behavior. Its acquisition of Pointy, a software permitting local retailers to list their inventory online and towards in local results, will profoundly increase the importance of listing optimization for products and services. Product searches once have a filter for nearby – which will certainly rabble-rouse impulsive purchases.

Additionally, local has once slowly been towers up its integration services with booking engines to indulge users to typesetting or buy directly through local listings. 

Google will protract this process of “ecommercification” of its ecosystem. With the likes of Instagram and Pinterest looking to commercialize their content by permitting people to buy products directly from their platform, Google has been fairly transparent well-nigh its intentions to do the same with YouTube in the near future. The role of video has largely been seen as an sensation medium up until now, but changes here could very quickly see the video platform having a much increasingly firsthand relationship to conversion.

What does this midpoint for search?

  • Local search becomes far increasingly important as both an sensation and conversion waterworks – expressly for brands that invest in joined-up experiences wideness online and offline.
  • The value of video and YouTube content is made clearer, playing an increasingly important role in both sensation and conversion for brands. Image search too.
  • Augmented Reality features may be integrated into search results. This has once been tested with Dogs and Dinosaurs, but the early adopters’ program documentation demonstrates this is unmistakably to be used for ecommerce.
  • Expect remoter opportunities for brands listing their product inventory on Google and a increasingly wide version of the fairly rudimentary analytics product currently on offer. 

An ever-changing landscape

The whilom outlines just a few examples of the challenges facing Google as a business, which will likely have a tangible impact on search.  Here are a few other areas we’ll be keeping a tropical eye on in the coming months:

  • Google’s vanquishment of Fitbit and how this might be used in its Google Health arm
  • Drone wordage legislation, which could enable Alphabet’s drone wordage visitor Wing to enter the fulfillment space
  • Australia’s new law forcing Google to pay news publishers for the right to link to their content, and the way News might towards in search results
  • Android stuff installed as a leading main operating system in driverless cars, and the potential impact on search

Pete Eckersley is an Organic Strategy Director at global digital organ Croud, where he oversees organic strategy wideness the brands within the IWG group.