There seems to be no stopping the growth of Google. On the contrary: the tech giant keeps coming up with new services, ambitious collaborations and surprising developments. One of those developments looks very surprising: it seems that Google is increasingly acting as a publisher. And that can have major consequences for the internet as we know it today.
Of course, I don’t have to tell you that Google has been one of the largest companies in the world for years. Recently I was at a friend’s house and I received a free command to set up another number. I get up, it turned out to be against Google. Of course. I will get used to it.
What I cannot yet get used to is that a number of developments are currently taking place in the search engine country that may be labeled as remarkable. Various sources confirm that Google is slowly becoming more and more a publisher.
In this article I will explain what that means, how that is possible and what the dangers are. But let me start by sketching the current situation.
You have a pressing question, difficult issue, or pressing pain in your groin . What are you doing then? Right. You google the question and let the search engine guide you to the right website. Can’t find the answer? Then reformulate the question, if necessary with different keywords, and try again. Google will take you there.
Everybody’s a winner
The search results often look something like the image below. If that is the case, then the website owners, Google and you win. All of them.
That’s how you want to see it
The reason that all three parties win is as follows: if you click on one of the websites, the owner benefits from this in the form of advertising revenue and possible leads.
And if the content on the website is good, a positive impression. At least that’s how I experience it. For Google itself, it may not be the most lucrative business, but you use their service. And that is also a profit. The profit for you as an ignorant is that you finally have your long-awaited answer.
Now, with an informative search query like this, you will not see advertisements that quickly, but with many searches this is the case today. For example, if you need to google ‘Alpacas’ – which I understand very well – the advertisers will find you. Just look at the image below. Someone still looking for a cool alpaca shirt?
Advertisers know where to find you
A scenario with losers
But it may also be that a search does not only have winners. Does the layout below look familiar to you? (Note also not on the search term, the dessert game is not my cup of tea-an I’m more pizza and red wine..) Or it might?
I’m sure you know your surfing behavior. Handy, right? You don’t even have to click on a website anymore to get the answer to your pressing question. Because Google ‘understands’ your search query, it can help by immediately showing the correct answer. This is called a featured snippet .
This is such a story that not only knows winners: the website owners (or content creators) lose. And not just a little bit too. The point is that it is only beautiful for you and Google, such a featured snippet. The profit for Google remains the same and you as a user are helped faster (you no longer have to click on one of the search results).
But because almost every question asked to Google is already answered in the featured snippet, it is no longer necessary for you as a user to surf to the website with the correct answer.
In short: the website owner loses advertising revenue, possible leads and that positive impression. Or perhaps even worse: the creator of the content on the website in question actually wrote content for Google – since Google shows the content.
A small asset is that Google does provide such a featured snippet with a link. So there is a chance that you will click through. (But if you already know the answer, why would you click through?)
Unfortunately, Google is not always that philanthropic. There are also direct answers . These are a kind of featured snippets, but different. With a direct answer, Google adds no link at all to the answer. This is actually even more harmful for the website owners, because the questioner does not even know anymore which website the information comes from. An example of such a direct answer is shown below.
Google publishes content without mentioning the creator
Google publishes content from others, without mentioning a source. That is quite a remarkable way of doing business, right?
Oh Google, what are you doing now?
Various studies, including one very extensive from Jumpshot and SparkToro , have shown that Google has been showing more and more of those direct answers in the last two and a half years, which means that the user has to surf to a website much less often.
The data show that the number of mobile zero click results has increased by 11 percent in the last two and a half years, whereas for desktop results this is an increase of 9.5 percent. And it seems that there is much more to come. But more about that later.
The unusual aspect of this whole story is that the Google Webmaster Guidelines This form of republication, known as scraping , discourage . The penalty for ‘scraping’ other websites a lot is a lower ranking for your website. But yes, who punishes the king if he does not comply with the rules?
In the image below you see the striking development of search results for mobile and desktop data respectively. The data are from SparkToro and Jumpshot.
Mobile data search results Q1 2016 – Q3 2018
Search results desktop data Q1 2016 – Q3 2018
If you look at an overview of the number of mobile organic clicks, paid clicks and zero clicks, you see an increase in the number of paid and zero clicks, but a decrease in the number of organic clicks. (And that organic decline makes sense, because the two rising components must be compensated.)The same applies to clicks via a desktop, but things are not going so fast here.
But it is clear that there is a transition going on. A possible reason for this ‘delay’ is the massive switch from desktop to mobile, you would say. But nothing could be further from the truth: a glance at the absolute figures tells us that the use via desktop hardly decreases and that the change in the relationships between desktop and mobile is mainly caused by a huge increase in mobile use. This is not necessarily at the expense of use via desktop.
So it seems clear to me that Google is publishing more and more content from others – sometimes with credits, but sometimes without. Another piece of evidence that bears witness to the fact that Google is increasingly serving as a publisher, is an update of the algorithm that Google has been testing with for a while.
This update is called the ‘zero search results update’ and meant that Google merely provided the questioner with an answer. No organic search results, no sponsored links. Only an option to show all results. (But you already have the answer, so why click on it.)
With this option I have to mention that, as far as I know, it only concerned questions that had to do with calculations, locations, times and comparable matters. A direct answer to a request such as ‘provide me with a complete and detailed timeline of the fall of the Roman Empire’ seems stiff to me. But that aside. It remains strange, a search engine without search results.
Zero search results
Based on the above information, I dare to conclude that Google will increasingly serve as a publisher. Or at least the possibilities are testing. A publisher without its own content, that is unique. Yet? Or could you compare it to superpowers like Airbnb, Uber and all those other services without their own goods? A hotel service without its own rooms and apartments, a taxi service without its own taxis and a publisher without its own content. It sounds pretty logical.
What do the SEOs think of it?
It is therefore clear that Google is continuing a certain increase in the number of paid, free and zero clicks. And that has not escaped a number of SEO experts in America. (Fortunately, I’m not crazy.) Take a look at the tweets below. Big tip: try not to think of the American accent. That saves you a headache.
Google My Business
Several people notice that Google distributes content from others, without giving the corresponding credits. But that is not the only thing. It may also be that Google makes it quite difficult for you to visit another website. This is (occasionally) the case in Google My Business, which I earlier already wrote about a blog. Take a look at the gif below.
You will eventually succeed in visiting that website – I hope – but placing the LinkedIn page in front of the website is a bit of resistance, doesn’t it? That is what Tom Waddington , creator of the above poison, thought so. But if Google really tries to stop you from visiting the website in question, I don’t dare say that with certainty. What I dare say for sure is that Google My Business has been growing enormously lately. And to be honest, it has become very simple for Google My Business to learn more about a business and to contact you. All without visiting the website.
However, if it gives you a lot of new business as a website owner, who cares that your website will be visited a little less. (Unless, of course, you get your income from advertisements, but that is another story. Read on.)
All in all, it seems a bit that Google is trying to keep you away from the click-through options to other websites. Some answers in the search engine are displayed without source and via Google My Business a website is (sometimes) the last choice. Also via Google Assistant, which has been talked about a lot lately, the requested answers are mentioned without source.
Example: one of our customers, a news website, has to do with this. The company is affiliated with Google News and gets a lot of its revenue from advertisements on the website. If news is requested via the Google Assistant, it is therefore possible that certain news items from this news website are ‘read out’.
Very handy, because you are immediately up to date with the latest news. The result is that you no longer surf to the news website, so that our customer can whistle at the advertising revenue. (And now that won’t happen that fast, but it is developments that need to be monitored.)
By the way, I see you thinking: what an information Imgerd, I have to process this. Would you perhaps just briefly and briefly state what you have just said?
Google therefore gives all sorts of signals that it will increasingly act as a publisher.
In two and a half years more and more featured snippets and direct answers have appeared. Google therefore (re) publishes content from others, often without mentioning a source. And the unusual thing is that Google punishes other websites when they do this.
Distributing content without stating a source is also done through Google Assistant, but I know too little about the laws and regulations regarding voice-driven searches that I don’t dare to draw any conclusions about that.
In addition, Google has been testing with ‘zero search results’, probably with the aim of tracking how many visitors click on the ‘Show all results’ function. It was also concluded that it is not always easy to find a website via Google My Business.
In many places, including various articles by Gordon Donnelly , I read that Google, like Facebook, is slowly turning into a treacherous place where a monopoly is created over the content that we see online. It may seem that you as a consumer are in control, after all, you perform the search. But this is unfortunately not the case.
Even though you have the search, Google determines how that search is interpreted and what you see. And the direct answers are a very good example.Incidentally, understand well that I did not write this article to force a boycott or to take a position. (A boycott would be cool, but that is probably a bit too silly.) What I am particularly curious about is how you think about this development. Are there other proofs, have I forgotten things or is the end near? Share it with me.