Yet Another Woe No More Analytics Post
So, Google decided to take the gloves off and twist the screw that little bit harder down on organic search. Caution, I suspect I might curse and swear and rant a little but hey, you can always hit the back button 🙂
I’m not going to rant about the outrageousness of it all as that’s been said by all and sundry. If you’ve landed here and don’t know what I’m talking about then, the short explanation is that Google have made a move in the name of privacy but have added a pretty hefty “by the way clause” that’s sending shock waves through the online marketing community.
Put shortly, if you are one of these people who enjoys crunching numbers and delivering actionable insights derived from user queries to a domain then, that’s all about to change as you will no longer be able to determine the query part of the journey. All you’ll know is that they arrived on your site from Google. If it’s a paid click then no worries there, Google will allow that to stay as it’s valuable to the advertiser and useful to Google.
Valuable in the sense that advertisers need to know how their adspend on Google converts. (No point spending money if you don’t know how well it performs) and useful to Google as if people don’t spend money their whole house falls. Google isn’t interested in how your organic campaigns perform or convert. There’s no money in it for them.
Privacy – We Care About Your Boss Snooping On Your Search Behaviours
Senior Google folks have played the privacy card saying lots of things around how currently, people can spy on what you are searching for and that’s all a bit terrible.
It isn’t for me to say that that’s a big pile of horse shit other than many people don’t really buy it and are choosing to use language that’s a whole lot more culturally base. What I would say is that I’m far from convinced and somewhat disappointed by it all as to be honest, perhaps foolishly, I didn’t think that they’d ever encroach on this ground and that they’d be happy with existing levels of cash flow and profit, which if memory serves for Q3 were around the 10 billion dollar mark.
I’m not going to point to lots of examples, you can take my opinion or leave it, but in my view Google isn’t a fan of SEO at all. They know precisely how much commerce is generated through their platform and perhaps understandably would like more of the actual marketing spend to find its way to their bottom line. Put simply, if SEO is too easily measured, too easily demonstrated that X spend on SEO channel equals X ROI then quite rightly marketing budgets are going to be adjusted to reflect this. This of course means less of such spend for Google.
Sure, Google have produced 100’s of videos, run webmaster forums designed to support webmasters, there’s WMT and a host of other initiatives designed to deliver help and insight in to creating better websites. Yet for me, like most things Google does these days, the impact of these are always two fold. Owning the message for me is an important part of controlling or influencing what it is you want people to believe. There’s no point in saying you’re a plumber if you are dressed in a Dr’s outfit holding a chainsaw. If you want to be the authority, the go to guy, then you’ve got to walk the walk and make sense to those who care about what it is you purport to deliver for them. Who you going to trust? That brand new shiny SEO agency who give you lots of probables and perhaps’s or that nice authoritative search engine who sends you buckets and buckets of free traffic daily, giving you tools that allow you to query their data and take actions that’ll improve your bottom line.
SERPs Should Be Diverse Ever Changing Places that Reflect the Interwebz
For an age and then some, Google have come up with all sorts of double edged swords that have been presented as being user focused tweaks designed to improve the user experience.
Whilst a sizeable number of these have, a side benefit (for Google) has often been that SEO as a channel has often been marginalised. Let’s have a quick looksy at just three that are fresh to mind (i’m sure there are lots of others).
Universal Search is Lovely and For You, You Lovely Users
Take Universal Search – User gets to see pretty pictures and youtube videos and news items related to the query. Great, just what most people need, right? We all need pictures, news from time to time and videos too. Google saves us the time of typing the extra words like news, or pictures or videos to our search term and just shows them regardless. It’s no accident that they all appear above the fold too right? Right where we need them, distracting our attention and pushing down those other pesky organic results that little bit further down the page.
Net impact for organic site owners in positions 4, 5 or beyond? SEO became that little bit more difficult. Difficult meaning, costing them more of their marketing budget to get where they need to be.
Google Instant – Giving Users What They Need Instantly, Coz Percolated Takes Forever to Brew
Take the whole Google instant thing – great bit of UI, see results change before your very eyes as you type out your stuff. The really cool part is that Google can even show you related terms with high adwords publisher interest and funnel you to where they’d like you to be.
Net impact on organic is that long tail searches with low CPC’s tail off as people are steered to head terms with more value to Google. Why show you stuff that’s obscure or that advertisers aren’t aware of? Google doesn’t earn on those.
Pandas – Big Fluffy Lovely Bears You Want to Hug
Then there’s the so called Panda update(s). Designed to remove crap from the search results for terms important to searchers. Stories abound of how all sorts of crappy content farms have been hit and pushed down the SERPs. Great! Yay! But wait, there’s also lots of stories too that suggest that quality publications have also been hit and the affect on search generally has been to cause flux and disruption across lots of otherwise relatively stable verticals.
Net impact on organic is that yet again the message to site owners is subtle yet clear. Organic search marketing is a risky use of your marketing budget. Be too successful or too aggressive then you might fall foul of the many hundreds of vagueries that pepper the Google guidelines. Far better to spend you marketing budget on something safe and measurable, something like adwords perhaps.
Facebook is Evil and Doesn’t Respect Your Stuff – Come to Google – We are Lovely and Do No Evil and Give you Your Data
Google+ is that new social network where you can do a lot of what you already do on Facebook but just find that your main friends and family aren’t there or if they are, then they aren’t really doing very much. My weird friends and family aside, the fact remains that a reported 40 million people are now on it. Google has been a little guarded around how people are using it and probably have a plan around how it all ties up and binds their multiple properties in to one little happy Google web where we all spend our time using the 100’s of Google products to satisfy our busy lives because that’s exactly what facebook is doing and it scares the pants off of Google stockholders!
If you aren’t sticky then you’ll end up getting stucky
The Google of old was a place where most user activity was downstream – People came, searched, found and went on their merry way.
Today the web’s changed, technology and the barriers to entry have changed. Web properties with huge user bases have the ability to change and adapt at a frightening pace.
Facebook could for examples sake, release an amazing new way of finding content, delivered on their platform. The access to billions of ‘likes’ and user metrics from embedded code is providing them with terrabytes of user behaviour which, make no doubt will be used to develop products and tools that will be monetised and value added. Google knows this and would be foolish to ignore the threat to its model and product. Removing the ability of landing pages on visited websites to read the query string is a big step in insulating itself from further encroachment on what it considers to be its own intellectual property. In one fell swoop it can deny such properties the ability to glean this. The fact that it’s presented as a progressive privacy move would be near on genius, if it weren’t for the fact that they are stuck between in a rock and hard place and have no choice other than to make an exception for its advertisers.
So ok, a lot of what I’m saying could easily be shot down as conspiratorial – the subtleties of Google are such that they seldom do anything without a back up plan or reasonable point of view for doing so. I’m merely reflecting my gut and echoing the sentiment of a lot of what I’ve read either publicly, or to an increasing extent discussed privately behind closed doors. There’s a 1001 other conspiracies around Google, its algo, its penalty systems, its quality raters and more. There’s no surprise there, it’s a consequence of secretive mysterious organisations that people will add 2 and 2 and often get 5.
Google isn’t evil, don’t be farking ridiculous
To say Google is evil is of course ridiculous. I have many fine friends who are lovely decent people who work for them, impassioned clever people with dedication and a love of the web. I don’t doubt that the majority of the employees within it are of similar mind, striving to deliver and iterate and incrementally improve upon what it is they work with. But let’s not pull punches on what the wider impact and actions of more senior decision makers are here either.
A Message to you Googly
Just because you’ve built a product that’s changed the world, generated massive wealth for millions via a product that has the most buy in known to modern man, does not mean that you can just rampage unchallenged and change base fundaments at will! Come on, guys, you know this already – stop making out that you’re this infallible piece of humane perfection that is putting us all first all of the time with no thought for personal profit! We don’t believe it, we aren’t idiots! If anything you have a whole lot more responsibility to do things for the right reasons; half cocked excuses that purport to be one thing whilst being another cannot be hidden in the depths of a secret sauce, they are transparent for all to see, as this case quite clearly reveals.
Please stop trying to be everything, stop trying to control the world’s information, that’s fucking dangerous and leads to tyranny! Just be happy with what you have, what you’ve created and continue to enjoy the billions that you’ll continue to make YoY. We don’t fucking want you to be Facebook, or Twitter, or Apple or Amazon or insert long list of others… Just focus on what you do well. We aren’t dummies, you know that. Just stop, please? Thanks.