Google is now not the only monopolist on many search markets including the UK, but the mega-corporation is overtaking new markets, crushing the competition with more or less ruthless tactics.
Some SEO industry pundits such as Aaron Wall already advise you to prepare for a time after SEO when Google will finally keep most clicks for itself.
The tendency is already there, as some search engine result pages (SERPs) are already dominated by ads and Google-owned paid services.
I like the way a Google Panda victim has put it:
“Google Panda is the result of many years of struggle, with Google trying to eliminate go-between services like news aggregators and specialised search engines,” explains Chappaz. “Why? Because Google’s revenues for the broad search platform are slowing down. Google needs to eat in its own ecosystem to keep its revenues flowing.
What can you do about Google entering your market and making everybody go out of business quickly?
It’s not just content farms. It’s everybody. Just consider a few of them:
- News organisations
- Book publishers
- Shopping search engines
- Review sites
- Specialised portals (such as finance or travel)
- Map services
They all fight for their lives. Many of them are doomed. They try to survive by going to court but they soon won’t be able to pay their lawyers anymore. Google is getting more and more aggressive in its attempts to grab market share in profitable industries. So what can you do about it? Just give up? Join Google and work for them as wage slave?
I want to show you some of the tactics Google uses to overwhelm their competitors.
- Look out for successful business models by start-ups. Buy them or copy them. Google tried it with Groupon to later launch Google Offers.
- Give your services away free until your paid competitors’ market share dwindles, and once you dominate, launch your paid version – as Google did with Google Analytics.
- Give away your services in exchange for customer data. I get mails from Google advertising Adwords all the time.
- Buy your competitors and dismantle them, as Google did with many start-ups. In case you can’t afford to buy the company lure away the people behind it.
- Offer products for your services and services for your products, as Google does with Google search and Google Chrome. By bundling, you create demand.
- Make your employees your spokespeople in their private blogs and on their social profiles, as Google does with Matt Cutts and many others. Nobody can sue them for their personal opinions.
- Grant access to new products to your cheerleaders first, so that you get only good press immediately after the launch. Google succeeded with Google+ that way.
- Declare your products Open Source or your content Creative Commons so that other people spread them for you and do your work free. Android is the best example here.
- Pay your taxes where they’re the lowest not where you make most of your money. Google Europe is registered in Ireland, while most of the money is made in larger countries such as Germany, France or Italy.
- Corporations don’t have to obey the law as long as they earn more money than they have to spend on the penalties. Just consider Google’s earnings by ads for medications illegal in the US and the broken privacy laws in around 50 countries with Google Streetview.
- Pretend that you’re not a profit-oriented business but instead you just want to contribute to the public good, as Google did with Google book search.
- Abandon non-profitable products and services as quickly as you can. Google does all the time.
- Go after the critical mass of users for free products and services. Once you have it, they will become profitable eventually.
- Always explain that your services are beta so that when they are broken nobody can complain.
- Hide the ugly truth in small type in the TOS. For example, Google Docs and other services own the copyright for your documents.
- Use your own products to provide actual use cases for them, as Google does on Google+, Blogger or others.
- Make people work for you to correct your mistakes. Google lets the whole SEO industry fix the search results for them because they can’t rank websites correctly by themselves.
- Convince people to create the raw materials for your products and services for free. Google insists on everybody creating lots of great content so that they can put ads around it.
- Share your revenue with others to have a broad base of supporters, as Google does with its ads.
- Cooperate with your biggest competitors to set industry standards everybody has to abide by, as Google did with other search engines on nofollow or Schema.org
- Catch up your smaller and faster competitors by stealing their ideas and presenting them as your own, as Google did with the content farms issue Blekko acted upon first.
- Explore new markets geographically and vertically, as Google did by establishing localised search engines in most countries and also specialised search verticals such as video, image or news search.
- Let your users copy other people’s content and spread it using your tools and services, as Google does with Google Reader or Buzz. This way it’s the user’s fault not yours.
- Always aim for market domination. The smaller fish can compete against each other for the leftovers. Just think Google search and Microsoft vs Yahoo plus YouTube market share.
- Do not react when facing criticism, unless the source is akin to the New York Times. Google only listens when the bad publicity is really big.
- You do not have to abide by your own rules as long as you make them. When people complain, let them – they are powerless. When Google.de paid for links nobody cared.
- Automate wherever you can. Paying people to do work is the most expensive part of business. You can also hire ”permanent temps” that can get fired any time.
- Ensure that your users disclose their real names for your services so that you can use their data for other services, as they do with Google+. This way they can use these social signals for improving search results.
- Work together with authorities when it comes to censorship or private data. This way you’ll get protected in the future. Google works together with US intelligence agencies even when it comes out that they break laws from other countries.
- Make your workplace a colourful playground for grown-up kids so they don’t feel like they really work, and everybody will wish to work with you. Google is known as the best workplace in the world and images of its facilities are spread widely to support this impression.
Some of these business practices are quite common, but nonetheless they are ethically questionable. Others make Google stand out in a positive manner. You have to choose the ones that fit your business model best, but when you compete with Google you have to be as ruthless as they are. Otherwise your market, and I don’t solely talk about SEO, might get dominated by Google in the near future. Whatever market Google enters, it ultimately forms a monopoly there. So it’s about the survival of your business.
* CC image by walknboston.