Sun 9 Jan 2011
Funny thing about search engines and the way we as Internet Marketers look at them in terms of their ability to generate targeted traffic to our websites from which we make our income, via affiliate commissions or PPC or whatever other monetization methods we use. For the last decade or so, Google has been the main engine in that it provides the bulk of all search traffic. It’s the Big I Am of search engines and we do what we have to do (using SEO) to get our sites to figure as high in their index as we can to take our slice of that traffic pie.
Google are the biggest mainly because regular surfers prefer it and that’s because it is unfussy and free of all those annoying ads that other search engines seem to plaster everywhere to confuse your search experience. At least that’s how it used to be. Not so these days as more and more advertising is creeping onto that first page of the index. Some are in the form of paid text ads, which have always been there to some degree or other, but lately more of the shopping type of ads that take a slot in the actual website index. For affiliate marketers, these are the kiss of death because regular surfers will click these if they are searching for a product to buy in preference to our websites that also promote the same products.
Was a time when all we had to do was compete with other affiliate websites doing the same thing. Now we have to compete with Google itself. And we a all losing.
But don’t despair, because historically, we can see where their very success will also be their downfall.
Back in the 1990s, when the world wide web was still in its infancy and e-commerce was only just getting going in a big way, Yahoo used to be the Big I Am search engine. They’re above fold search page looked more like an advertiser’s paradise. Nevertheless, the owners of Yahoo made truckloads of money from all this advertising and all was well in their garden.
Internet marketers were few and far between and of course there were no affiliate programs or PPC to make money from in those days at least until Amazon appeared, so marketers made money from selling real stuff to consumers. They soon learned that you could game Yahoo’s index using on-site SEO tactics like spamming your keyword meta tags (amongst other tricks) and your site would rise to the top of the pile. All was well in the e-commerce garden too.
At the end of the decade, Google came along with their simple, almost ad-less engine and everybody started using it cause they liked NOT seeing all those ads. Yahoo’s happy harmonious garden died a slow and painful death as Google’s garden grew. Internet marketers had to learn new tricks to feature their sites high in Google’s index, but they soon figured out how to do that and made truckloads of money, especially the new breed of IMer who was making use of the new affiliate sales technique that Amazon started off. Of course, in order to maintain their supremacy, Google now had to wage war on spammers who were deluging their index with crap sites full of affiliate and other ad links and no content. The “algo”, Google’s search indexing algorithm was born and it has been a constant battle between the algo programmers and the spammers (and also the Internet marketers who don’t use spamming tactics) to keep the index as clean as possible of all the dross. lately, Google’s algo is winning and thin sites are losing the battle to big, authority sites.
Of course, we all know most of this and this was just a little history lesson for those marketers who thing the world is flat and there has only ever been Google. But wait, because there is a new twist to this saga.
Google is fast becoming the New Yahoo.
Why do I say that? Because Google is adding ever more complicating extras to its once simple search index pages. It is also adding more advertising. There has always been the few text ads down the right column, but more recently the top area of the page has contained paid text ads that look similar to the search results. they are designed that way o entice would be surfers to click these ads thinking they are clicking on real websites that have been placed at the top of the search results because they are the most relevant to their keyword search.
In other words, Google is doing exactly the thing it’s algo programmers are trying to stamp out from SEO savvy website owners. Google are gaming their own index by placing paid ads above real websites for surfers to click thinking they are going to go to the most relevant sites, when in fact they are going to sites that have “bought” they way to the very top of the SERPs. A bit like the sites in the big competitive niches that buy links to get to the top, which is a practice frowned upon by Google. Does this sound just a little like the pot calling the kettle black?
But it gets worse. In the last year or so, Google have also been placing “shopping ads” in amongst the top 3 or 4 places in their index. These are accompanied by thumbnail images of the products searched for by the keywords entered by surfers. Again, Google is gaming its own index by allowing these paid shopping ads to outshine real websites in the index, with the result that a lot of affiliate sales are lost to legitimate websites would otherwise garner from their place of trust as the top most relevant sites in the index. But where is all this going to end?
Google is becoming the New Yahoo. I already said that, I know. This is why:
The next unfussy and ad-less search engine to rise to the task will do to Google what Google did to Yahoo. It will happen if there is another company out there with the balls to take the bull by the horns.
And so it goes around and around. Probably.
In the mean-time those of us IM mavericks who the rest of the world will never understand will keep doing this stuff no matter who the Big Dog Engine is or where he cocks his metaphoric leg. We pit our wits against the system and try to make as honest a buck as we can.
If you’re a Brit, then you’ll get this next bit (Google “Swiss Toni” and you’ll get some YouTube vids if you don’t know who he is). Here is what Swiss Toni would probably say on the subject:
Gaming a search engine is much like making love to a beautiful woman. You work out what makes her tick, point your backlinks to the right spot and then SEO her brains out.