We warned recently about Google’s upcoming changes to its algorithm and we forecast that these changes would make all previous changes look like a bit of light tinkering. Well, it looks like they have started. Far from being the panacea to all ills and removing spam from the index this latest update is simply hitting SME sites up and down the country.
We’ve seen perfectly decent websites with well optimised pages which provide a great resource for end users being demoted, in one case from page one to position 150, and what has replaced them has surprised us all.
The expectation was that even if spammy sites were removed it would simply mean that the top ten results would be better populated by sites which clearly answered the search query and offered better results to the end user. Sadly this doesn’t seem to be the case and across a range of search terms we have investigated there are three clear winners.
Winner number one is the ‘big boys’. We’re talking blue chip, UK PLC companies with massive authority websites. OK, so you could argue that this authority means that they should be in these top positions but sadly when we’ve followed the links the pages that are displaying are not as good as those they are replacing; in many cases they are worse and in some simply irrelevant. Whilst they are authority sites they simply lack authority when it comes to the long tail searches.
The second big winner is the intermediaries, those that insert themselves in the process between buyer and seller. Included in this are directory sites which, when you follow the links, have a page dedicated to that subject but virtually no content on it. Of course if everyone paid to go in those directories then this would be legitimate but this is not 1998 any more… Arguably these are the same as category one, the winners are once again the big boys.
The final winner surprised even us; it is sites which have cheated their way to the top. It takes less than five minutes to find sites in the top positions with site wide footer from affiliate sites, spammy forum footer links and heavily optimised anchor text dominating. Come on Google, these algorithm changes were supposed to sort this out, not make those of us following your guidelines look like liars.
The upshot of all this is that perfectly legitimate businesses all across the UK are waking up to the fact that their principal source of enquiries and therefore income has simply disappeared.
If there were alternatives then this wouldn’t be such a problem but Google has successfully removed virtually all competition in UK advertising, carving massive swathes through the revenues of newspapers, TV, directories and magazines and adding it all to the coffers whilst claiming that it does little or no business in the UK therefore is not liable to pay tax on those activities.
If changing the algorithm in this way was supposed to deter the bad guys then sorry Google, you failed. You’ve reshaped the digital landscape once again and delivered poorer choice, worse search results and frustration to end users. To UK SME’s you’ve simply delivered a slap in the face. To the big companies and cheats you’ve handed them more business on a plate. You should never lose sight of the fact that SME’s in the UK deliver millions of pounds every day into your business simply because you deliver enquiries. Of course, if you stop delivering enquiries then the door will be open for alternatives to your search functionality. Just this week someone we know observed that not only did Bing look a lot nicer than Google but the search results were more relevant and when we checked Analytics we could see a slight rise in enquiries.
If you kick UK businesses then you need to remember that they have very long memories and they vote with their feet. Based on these current changes we would suggest that Google would do well to prepare themselves for the backlash which will inevitably come their way.