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How Google Can Make or Break A Small Business 352

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the something-to-think-about dept.
securitas writes "USA Today's Jefferson Graham reports on how Google affects small business through its rankings and text ads. The feature describes how the fortunes of small companies turned when their Google ranking rose or dropped, as well as the effects of Google's paid search text advertising model. Search Engine Watch says that Google now performs an estimated 80% of the searches (200 million) on the Internet every day. The result is that Google has become a critical part of any online marketing strategy and has spawned a whole Google-optimization industry where consultants can charge $5,000 per site for tweaking. The feature is light on technical details but the stories of those who prospered and suffered due to Google make a good read."
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How Google Can Make or Break A Small Business

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  • Google Adwords (Score:5, Interesting)

    by glinden (56181) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:18PM (#8191727) Homepage Journal
    Google's AdWords [google.com] program is remarkable in that truly anyone can buy ads. Small businesses with tiny marketing budgets can buy ads easily. Individuals can buy ads. The interface is simple and easy to use. Google even has a bunch of small business friendly features like limiting your cost per ad and total daily ad spend.

    I've bought a bunch of ads on Google, most recently for my startup, Findory News [findory.com]. Most web advertising is expensive, difficult to set up, and performs poorly. But, because you can pick such specific keywords with Google Adwords and the advertising engine refuses to show ads that don't perform well, you can easily get in front of people that might be interested in them.
    • Re:Google Adwords (Score:5, Interesting)

      by filesiteguy (695431) <kai@perfectreign.com> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8191765) Homepage
      And from the webmaster side, the adwords is fabulous. I have been getting referral emails from companies who have generated actual sales from ads displayed on my sites. The nice thing is that my sites are all niche and usually wouln't see much ad revenue. However, with the targeted ads, we're all winning.
    • How much success have you been getting out of them (repeat visitors)?
    • by zippity8 (446412) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:23PM (#8191807)
      Or, alternatively, you could advertise on /. by snagging the first post! =P
    • Those ads depend on people clicking on them. If the percentage drops below a certain level, the ads disappear.

      Now I may not be an advertising expert, but how can advertising be designed to depend on what other people do?
    • Re:Google Adwords (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goalive (729667) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:26PM (#8191863)
      I agree, Google Adwords are an excellent resource for any business whose goal is to sell something. In addition to that however, the Adwords are also useful to Webmasters particularly because they are always context-sensitive when they appear on a web page.

      In other words, if your webpage text contains a discussion about "intrusion detection systems" it is highly likely that your Google ad banner will have up to four different companies that sell such devices or software. The advantage is that the Webmaster can offer valid commercial links to his free discussion and often make 25-cents per click; the advantage to the retailer is that they have higher exposure and a greater chance of selling their product. The disadvantage to all of us, unfortunately, is that we're still stuck with banner ads long into the forseeable future.

      Regards,

      • Re:Google Adwords (Score:5, Interesting)

        by captain_craptacular (580116) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @03:01PM (#8192303)
        But are non-intrusive, relevant banner ads such a bad thing? I hate to say it but I've actually been glad to have my attention snagged by relevant ads a few times. The other 90% of the time I have no trouble absolutely ignoring the banners...

        I guess it's a matter of perspective, but I see it as a win for the consumer as well when they are brought together with a merchant who supplies them with something they really wanted or needed. The problem with banner ads in general is that they are usually huge spammy catch alls pimping products that no-one gives a shit about. Googles adwords go a long way towards fixing this problem, at least their ads are somewhat relevant to the subject at hand, whatever that may be....
    • I am sure that people advertizing anywhere need to be most careful about the presentation techniques. I do believe that the real issue here is access to this information. It is probable that we need some legislation that regulates the way that this information is made available so that anyone can obtain the strategy data for Search Engine Listings and buy accordingly. This is not intended to regulate how but to regulate that it be told how to do this. Otherwise the selling of space on a search engine is

    • have a very relevant website that lots of people visit and link to.

      I run a health related website that is #2 for a single keyword and I've not spent a penny, but I have spent years being a valuable resource to the people who have an interest in the subject matter.

      The key, I'll say it again, is relevance.
    • Re:Google Adwords (Score:3, Interesting)

      by The_K4 (627653)
      If you read the artice you would see like one case where a competitor spent time clicking on the ad. This can blow though the daily $ limit and in a short period and keep most searchers from ever seeing that ad.
    • Re:Google Adwords (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hendridm (302246) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @04:46PM (#8193875) Homepage

      > Small businesses with tiny marketing budgets can buy ads easily.

      I've had different results with AdWords. I wanted to test the waters with it so I set a budget of $1.00/day and 5 cents per click. I was quickly disabled for having "too few clicks" so I increased it to 25 cents per click and had the ad re-enabled. Again, it was disabled because of too few clicks. Finally, I tried raising it to $1.00 per click and again had the same results. I'm not sure what you consider cheap, but paying more than $1.00 per click to get decent placement is not my idea of cheap. I can find better click-throughs elswehere for around 35 cents per click and not be charged $5 to re-enable my ad if it does too poorly. For a small business getting started, it's tough to pay than a dollar or two CPM. A thousand impressions with .5% CT rate doesn't add up to much business, and the money for those ads doesn't grow on trees.

      I've had better click-throughs with Market Banker [marketbanker.com] or ads on Kuro5hin.

      • Re:Google Adwords (Score:3, Interesting)

        by holmesIV (618639)
        You seem to be assuming how much you spend per click is the reason you are being disabled. This isn't true. You are disabled if no one clicks on your ad. You need to change your ad until it starts getting clicked on.

        This methodology on Google's part is a win/win. You don't end up with a useless ad that no one is clicking on and they don't end up serving ads people don't want to see.

      • Re:Google Adwords (Score:4, Informative)

        by cheesyfru (99893) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:20PM (#8195040) Homepage
        Sounds like you had some crappy ad copy. They don't ban you for "too few clicks", they ban you for "too low of a clickthrough percentage". They'd rather show an ad with more people clicking it, rather than waste their ad space on something that nobody ever clicks. Write something more relevant and you'll get a whole lot better than 0.5% (some of mine are in the 10% CTR neighborhood).
  • by Xpilot (117961) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#8191733) Homepage
    ...to cyberspace. So go ahead businesses, pay tribute to your new Google overlords.

    • ...So go ahead businesses, pay tribute to your new Google overlords.

      I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords!
    • by billstewart (78916) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @03:34PM (#8192831) Journal
      There are a few people, including Search Engine Watch, who go ranting about how they don't like Google's policies, and they want the government or somebody to Do Something About Them. Well, this is the Internet - rather than forcing Google to use your Politically Correct Search Order, you can just as well start politically-correct-search.com (or politically-correct-search.gov, more to the point), and if people agree with you, they'll use your site.

      For those of you too young to remember the days before Google, there were other search engines, such as Altavista (the first big one) and Yahoo. The reason Google became the most popular is that they do a very good job of ranking the interesting items first, which is important when there are 39000 hits for your query. The Search Engine Promotion business, when it's not just a scam sold by spammers, is mainly about doing artificial things to make Google's robots think your page would be interesting to humans; it's much better to _actually_ make your page interesting to actual humans, and hope Google's robots pick up on that.

    • by rodgerd (402) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @04:20PM (#8193507) Homepage
      If your business model is predicated on being a top ranked site on a search engine, fold tents and go home now, before you waste any more money.

      It's almost as crappy a model as the one based on having a domain name you think everyone will type in.
  • No... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#8191737)
    Why blame google when you can blame yourself? If you can't compete, start looking for other jobs.
    • Re:No... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nial-in-a-box (588883) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:27PM (#8191877) Homepage
      This AC raises a good point, as it is not really Google that is impacting businesses but rather individuals' choices. Google might increase or decrease your exposure, but it's just one of many advertising options (even though it is rather unique in this sense), and that's just one part of what makes a business successful. Google has become quite powerful as a tool because it can find most anything, however, it is not without its flaws. Ads create a small bias in the system, but that's how Google makes money. In any event, I'd take Google over anything else out there simply because it looks and works the best. And if anybody thinks anything is questionable about Google, just look at the others.
  • $5,000 per site (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thedillybar (677116) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#8191740)
    This isn't that expensive. If someone could move my site to #1 for relevant searches, I could easily generate much more than $5,000 in revenue as a result.

    Go Google!

    • Re:$5,000 per site (Score:3, Insightful)

      by relrelrel (737051)
      then why don't you pay the $5k and make a profit? oh wait, you don't really believe what you're saying do you? no..
      • then why don't you pay the $5k and make a profit?

        I'd guess it is probably because most, if not all, of those consultants that will take $5k to get you a high spot on Google are just guessing or are even scammers.

        $5k to get a number one spot would indeed be cheap. $5k to get told to make a bunch of annoying changes to your site that end up not doing anything other than waste your time is expensive.

        Google's business model depends on them being a really good search engine, and being a really good search

    • Re:$5,000 per site (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dtfinch (661405) * on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:28PM (#8191884) Journal
      Always be cautious when hiring an "expert" to optimize your site. A lot of "experts" recommend tactics that used to work but can now get you banned on Google.
      • "Always be cautious when hiring an "expert" to optimize your site. A lot of "experts" recommend tactics that used to work but can now get you banned on Google."

        It's probably stuff you already know, like filling pages up with keywords, generating link-farms, and such like. Thousands of domain names doesn't hurt either. Basically it's all junk, as you're selling access to someone else's resource, and any clients will end up pissed if google decides to change their algorithm and you've taken their money for
      • Re:$5,000 per site (Score:5, Interesting)

        by dubiousmike (558126) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @04:09PM (#8193364) Homepage Journal
        As someone who subscribes to quite a few web marketing/desing/PR/SEO (search engine optimization) newsletters, I have NEVER heard so much bitching as I do from those who are weathering "Florida" which is the nickname they are giving to Google's recent re-ranking.

        Frankly, these small companies who are putting all of their eggs in one basket by relying so heavily upon Google are destined to fail.

        Google did the re-ranking to encourage folks to both pay for Adwords AND to make a push for Froogle (which is free as in you don't have to pay for listings!!)

        Its amazing how people who are getting something for nothing can bitch when that something turns into what they generally have to put into it - nothing.

        SEO isn't rocket science and those who would pay $5000 for it have too much money in their budget. I have achieved #1 rankings without implementing half of what I could to boost them otherwise....

  • It's simple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:19PM (#8191746)
    If you rely on another business so much that it can make or break you, it's time to find a new business model. It's not Google's responsibility to send traffic to your site, and I'm sick of people complaining about Google being unfair as if there's some magic entitlement to good rankings.

  • Co-owners Ken and Tom Carlton spent $200 a month to get an ad for their
    business to pop up when someone searched for "roll forming," a process that
    turns metal into different shapes.


    I bet an article on "roll forming" would have worked just as well. If someone wants to find a SOAP client for GForge [gforge.org],
    typing "gforge soap client" into Google puts you where it should - right here [infoether.com].

    Seems like this is being made a bit more complicated than necessary....
    • I just checked Google, and got 39000 hits on "roll forming". Probably the bottom 30000 of these were various articles saying "We built our airplane parts using roll forming" or whatever. But yes, Google tries to rank interesting articles first, without actually using humans to determine interestingness, so writing an article that's not only interesting but gets other people's web sites to link to it _because_ it's interesting is a good start.
  • by digitalsushi (137809) * <slashdot@digitalsushi.com> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8191758) Journal
    it's true and i can prove it -- we dont use google adwords, and we're going absolutely horrible! XD
  • by Narcissus (310552) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:21PM (#8191770) Homepage
    I'm sure it'll be said here more than once this discussion but the fact of the matter is that if the life of your business depends on your Google ranking I would say "Don't be annoyed when it drops and breaks you: be thankful that it was up there in the first place, giving a chance to a business that obviously has no other hope".
  • Google Alert (Score:5, Informative)

    by airjrdn (681898) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:23PM (#8191808) Homepage
    Helpful Tip:
    I use Google Alert [googlealert.com] for my personal site. I use it to track when other pages link to my site.

    Per their About page:

    With Google Alert, you can automatically keep track of anything on the web! Google Alert is the web's leading automated search and web intelligence solution. It runs daily Google searches for you and emails you when new results appear. Many people use Google Alert to keep track of what the web is saying about them, their interests or projects they are involved in. You can use Google Alert to keep track of any time someone mentions your name on the web. You can also track mentions of your website, your place of work, or your favorite hobby or celebrity -- the uses are limited only by your imagination. Click here for some great search ideas and some useful tips. The Frequently Asked Questions provide more detailed information about Google Alert. Selected as BBC's Website of the Day and USA Today's Hot Site, the free Google Alert service enables people in over 120 countries to stay up to date with their interests. Users include journalists, marketers, IT professionals, lawyers, doctors, salespeople, educators, researchers, and government employees. Click to start using Google Alert right away - it's easy and free!
  • Diversification (Score:4, Insightful)

    by zensufi (743379) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:23PM (#8191813)

    Here we have another example of the danger of focusing on one entity to provide a product or service. Microsoft has the same issue. One security hole in IE can create all sorts of problems for the majority of the population.

    Similarly, people have focused on Google as a search engine (for similar reasons - it is "user-friendly") and as a a result we are beginning to see the problems inherent in this approach.
    • Re:Diversification (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SilentT (742071)
      Similarly, people have focused on Google as a search engine (for similar reasons - it is "user-friendly")

      Yes, google is user-friendly, but (unlike windows) it's also the best of its kind. I don't think that google's dominance is a bad thing. I can't see any disadvantages in google being much more popular than the other search engines that are out there.

    • Re:Diversification (Score:5, Insightful)

      by savagedome (742194) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:38PM (#8192031)
      You are missing a key point. When MSFT products have a problem (not the social engineering problems like MyDoom), its largely due to defects within their own.

      The problem with Google searches comes up because of people intentionally taking a crack at them. Litigious Bastards anyone? [scom.com].
      Even miserable failure [google.com] still works.

  • Ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sir Pallas (696783) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:24PM (#8191823) Homepage
    ..that the add that came up (for me) on this article was an add for Google AdWords. After what happened to the fractal website recently, maybe this is the start of a war: Slashdot now knows that Google too has the power to slashdot. That would truly be the war of the Two (server) Towers: Google googling Slashdot; Slashdot slashdotting Google. Oh, the humanity!
    • Erm... Google has 10,000+ servers. Slashdot has what, a dozen or two?

      Maybe Micronesia will invade the US while Slashdot is slashdotting Google...
  • There's been a number of interesting attempts [bbc.co.uk] to manipulate Google results. Google is always struggling to determine which links into documents represent real interest in that document and which are merely shills. It's a never ending war between the search engines and those who try to manipulate them. Google has even been sued [msn.com] by companies who have seen a decline in their page rankings.
  • by The Bungi (221687) <thebungi@gmail.com> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:26PM (#8191853) Homepage
    Lately I've been noticing that the first five or so hits on searches like

    "Compaq iPaq battery"

    are URLs that look like this:

    http://www.suppabiz.ws/search/results/compaq_ipaq_ battery.html

    Of course said page contains ads for something else or is just a redirect/popup trap.

    Google really needs to use their mad skillz to counteract this. Their algorithm is being screwed by the same type of people who brought us BonziBuddy and all that other worthless shit on the web.

    They came up with the best search engine - I'm sure they can stay on top. But I wonder if they've even noticed, given the massive amount of data they must deal with.

    • "Compaq iPaq battery"

      are URLs that look like this:

      http://www.suppabiz.ws/search/results/compaq_ipaq _ battery.html


      I was commenting the other day that the internet was ruined. I couldn't for the life of me find a review on a computer monitor. It was always stuff like:

      (using the example above)

      "Looking for information on Compaq iPaq battery? We are the leading Compaq iPaq battery site on internet. We plan on more Compaq iPaq battery related articles later, but we're just getting started on
    • by graveyhead (210996) <`ten.scinorthctelf' `ta' `hctelf'> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:56PM (#8192246)
      Agreed, I noticed the same thing just yesterday. My search was for "ProStar memory installation", and I get dozens of sites which are on the face different, but all point to the same memory dealer.

      It was very difficult to find any actual information about this laptop (other than the marketing crap on the ProStar site) on which I had to perform maintenance. In the end, I gave up the search entirely and just relied on my instincts (which turned out just fine, thanks).

      Is this the $5000 consultants trick? Buy up dozens of semi-related domain names, use a bit of XSLT to make them slightly different, and then tweak the content for your clients? Not only is this very shady, it is going to reduce the effectiveness of Google dramatically :(
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:59PM (#8192272)
      You see that link at the bottom of each search?

      "Help us improve"

      Click it. Then paste that URL in there (NOT as one that you were looking for, but in the comment box) and mention how it's just irrelevant crap.

      PhD's vs. spammers. The spammers aren't be *that* bright, even if they are persistant.
  • by weave (48069) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:26PM (#8191859) Journal
    Google is providing a service. If you don't like it, you can buy up adwords. Paying some sleeze bag to trick google into ranking you higher is risky and could fail as Google constantly works to try to make their rankings as fair as possible and defeat these tricks.

    If you want to spend money on better placement, send it to the people who are providing the service -- Google -- and buy up ads.

    • Who to blame (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CKW (409971) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:35PM (#8191981) Journal

      In the information age with transportation systems as they are, ideally there should be increased "economies of scale" and business should move to those who provide the best value (whatever combination of cheap, service, support, quality and product is optimal), and the huge massive amount of duplication of effort will be eliminated.

      Unfortunately that *entirely* rests on consumers making educated choices and migrating to a small subset of "best of breed" service/product providers.

      The fact that they aren't, and that Google rankings and adwords has this effect - is entirely due to the fact that consumers are stupid.

      Don't blame Google. Blame stupid consumers.

    • Exactly. Or even better, do the one thing that is almost garenteed to get you better placement:
      provide meaningfull content [wolfram.org] which deserves to be ranked highly in a search. If your site is the best source of information about foo, then more people will know that you sell foo, and will trust that you know what you are doing.
    • If you are reffering with 'sleeze bags' to the 'consultants' mentioned in the post I disagree.
      You can consult buisnesses to do some adjustements that makes it easier for google spiders to spider your site.
      For instance : dropping frames, change your 'get'-url's to 'normal' urls, providing metadata, making sure your site gets linked a lot, providing text alternatives for grafic buttons etc...
      Stuff that a good webdeveloper should implement, but there are a lot of bad webdevelopers/sites out there.
      • Your points are all valid and the advice is available in any decent $50 book. I'm talking about the guys charging $5,000 to tell people how to load up pages with unreadable meta-garbage for example.
    • Google should have some sort of penalizing system. Like they should lower the rankings (or perhaps remove links altogether) of companies tha try to abuse their system. I think that would be fair; punish those that try to beat the system.
  • Google does it right (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dark Paladin (116525) * <<jhummel> <at> <johnhummel.net>> on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:26PM (#8191862) Homepage
    I've paid for ads on google to try it out, and was pretty damned pleased.

    The process was simple - you tell it what words to bring up your ad, how specific like "games" versus "pc games" versus "first person shooter pc games". The more generic, the greather the chance of getting clicked, but the greater the cost. The ad is unobtrusive - just a text link (not a gigantic banner that will offend everybody else).

    You can specify how many ads to pay for in advance. So if you only have enough money for 1000 clicks, it stops at 1000 - and you can either renew, or just leave it be.

    Overall, it's just simple. The article mentions the bed and breakfast "Honeymoon Haven" or whatever that was worried about the service - I'd tell her not to be worried at all.

    And I think that's why Google is doing the best so far: it's simple. No huge Yahoo like directories that make little sense, or extra ads cluttering the way. It gives me what I want, and if I want more, I click on it.

    Perfect? No - some sites are optimizing themselvers to annoyance, like entering "'resident evil' walkthrough" and getting in the top 10 links annoying search engines or porn sites adding words and linking to each other to build up their Google score. But for 90% of the time, it's "good enough".
  • break yourself (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:29PM (#8191893) Homepage Journal
    This study documents how Google can make a small business. And obviously a large business needs Google placement, to handle its scale of commerce. But how does a lackluster Google result break a small business? If your bizplan requires high Google placement, given the inherent, unmitigable risk in being ranked by another company. you've got a really risky bizplan. That is what is breaking your small business, not Google itself.
    • Ugh, I just posted that exact same comment. :]

      I think the thing that people (especially business owners) should keep in mind is that Google is in no obligation to anybody. They are simply a search engine.
  • I have seen this first hand.... but to blame google is wrong.

    The problem is these businesses chose to depend on google and only google for their web hits...all their marketing eggs in one basket, so to speak.

  • This effect is temporary. With Yahoo! and MSN entering the search business in a serious way, internet search is well on its way to becoming a commodity and it will again begin to look like those with the big bucks can get their ads where they want: at the top of the results. How is this really different from sponsored links or "pay for placement"? The only difference is who's getting paid for what.

    It seems that Google is also less concerned with search quality then before -- just compare their quailty

  • I love google... It is my home page in my browser. I use it 100 times a day. But sometimes the results don't cut it, or seem to be in a different direction than what I am looking for.

    Does anyone have recommendations to some good alternative engines? I used to use altavista, askjeeves, hotbot... but I don't remember the last time I got really useful results from them (maybe cuz I haven't used them for a couple years). What about those apps that you can download that search numerous engines?

    It is interestin
  • This is what's changing the world. Everyone remembers those old IBM ads about global e-business or some other buzzword. Now we're seeing the reality: a relatively small business can greatly increase the scope of its market and compete with big boys. The trick has always been to overcome the power law effect [backspaces.net] and move up the curve. Google is a phenomenal equalizer in this respect: write a good ad, put a good site online, and (most importantly) have a well-run business that does its job well, and you can go so

  • No wonder my google search results are getting worse and worse. Take for example a search for a new Sony 34XBR910 [google.com]. The first few pages of results are filled with 'pricing and reviews' most of which are set up to funnell you to a vendor. Used to be a person could plug in a search term and get *real* reviews, consumer experiences, writeups, forums, etc. Now it's all commercial junk...

    Makes me very sad, as I love Google. Hate to see it get gamed so easily!

    • Re:Ughh... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by workindev (607574)
      Yeah. Somebody wrote a script that uses Mod-rewrite to use the Amazon Web services product feed and create an individual html page for every item that Amazon sells. So anybody can throw up the amazon script and mod-rewrite hack on a web server and they instantly have thousands of "pages" that Google indexes, which are nothing more than associate comission links to Amazon pages. I've noticed these kinds of pages nudging their way into the top 10 for a while now.
  • Being on a couple 'adult webmaster' boards, I can tell you, whenever google does a shift, EVERYONE freaks out.
    There are always the people its good for, but it seems to screw with a lot of people over too. But hey...that's the business
  • If your business has anything to do with Gaston Julia or julia fractal, then Google's traffic [slashdot.org] can certainly break your business.
  • by bludstone (103539) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:36PM (#8191998)
    I love google. I use it every day. It is an oracle and a home for all of human knowledge. The greatest archive in history. Period.

    However, all of this is only owned by one company.

    Does anyone else see the danger here? 80% of the internet uses google for searches. Think about this. 80% of people use the same service owned by the same people.

    I am wary.

    Luckily, google has a track history of being a fantastic and fairly honest company. But how long until someone that works there becomes too greedy.

    There is a serious danger in having so much power centralized to one service. I commend google for creating the greatest source of knowledge in human history.

    I just worry that, maybe, we'd be better off if we had some more options, in case google turned sour.

    Surly SOMEONE can compete with google.
    • The internet is a very fickle place. You can guarantee that as soon as Google was to start treating its userbase second to its advertisers, people will begin to walk.
      • by billstewart (78916) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:00PM (#8194822) Journal
        Google doesn't have concentrated power. Google has popularity, and they have popularity because they're good. If people didn't like them as much as Yahoo or Teoma or politically-correct-search-engine.gov, they'd use those instead.

        Saying Google is too powerful and should be forced to carry politically correct content is somewhat like saying CNN is too powerful and should be forced to carry politically correct news, except that the Internet has far fewer limitations on capacity than cable TV and has a much lower cost for getting into the business. It's not only Wrong, but it would degrade the quality of the site, and people would go leave. By contrast, if you offer a competing channel (like Fox News or PBS or politically-correct-search-engine.gov), then people can make a choice between your favorite site and their current one.

        Also, while the Search Engine Watch site says 80% of searches are Google, I've recently seen some discussion that Google is about 30-40% of the market, Yahoo's pretty close, and there are some others out there with non-trivial readership levels.

    • Anyone can switch to another search engine at any time, Google does not tie you in, does not force you to use their site, the have no business connection to you, you do not license their software or have to reconfigure your PC to use them, you do not need any special software to use Google or any search engine, you do not have to purchase something different, re train users to use something else etc..

      Anyone can switch to any search engine at any time. If in a users mind, Google quality starts to slip, the
  • I think the ideal type of business that is made for online sales is the type of business that meets a niche market. This fits in nicely with many niche communities (e.g. hobby sites, slashdot, etc) that exist online. If you depend on Google to bring people in, then your store is either too generic, or not advertising correctly.

    For example, what do you think would be the most effective advertising for ThinkGeek.com:

    1. A google addword for "xyz geek term" or

    2. A banner add on slashdot
  • "Companies pay because about 80% of Internet searches are performed with Google technology, says online newsletter Search Engine Watch. That's 200 million searches a day, whether on Google or on affiliates such as America Online, Yahoo, CNN.com and USATODAY.com."

    I think everyone, anyone and especially EFF and Groklaw need to remember what was stated in that report.
    80% is a huge portion of any market and all related market research to determining this number should be held onto by interested parties. It m

  • One of our framed sites where I work mysteriously dropped from page 1 to page 20 or so in the Google rankings, though we can't think of anything that we've done that can be considered search engine spamming. We've fixed all the minor possibilities we can find though, and will just have to wait for the next re-index.

    We're thinking of buying into Google ad-words. A large percentage of the people who go to our site buy our products.
    • by Tenfish (748408)
      Why are you just thinking about it? Adwords are so cheap that for a business dropping $300 or whatever into an advertising test should reveal very quickly how successful it will be. $300 is nothing to risk compared to the money you could make if it works. And if it's true that people who visit your site become customers, you could make a bunch of money even with $300 in ads on Google.

      Forgive me, but everyone loves a winner. You can't be a winner unless you're going to take a chance with a minor amount of m
  • Trust in Google? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by QAPete (717838)
    People need to be careful when making conclusions over what they get from a Google search. One example: Google won't even correctly spider my site (which gets approximately 275,000 page views per day) and list results, although I have given the green light to Googlebot in our robots.txt file. Google News, in particular, rejected our application to be spidered at all. The semi-automated reply said that our content needed to be on separate pages, not in a 'digest'. Strange, we have it as both...

    I would

  • Scripted Sites (Score:2, Insightful)

    It seems hard for a small buisness to fight for a good page rank with all those scripted sites flooding Google with irrelevant Linkexchange or other sites that get you nowhere near your desired information. This is especially true since Google gives those pages a higher rank that contain the keyword in the url (hence all the blabla?cheap+shoe+store) links).

    Judging from my personal impression Google has become less useful lately...

    just my 2cents
  • by bfields (66644) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:42PM (#8192077) Homepage

    There's obviously been an arms race developing for a long time between the people running queries and the people with sites that might be returned by queries. Has anyone thought about what the likely endgame is? To me it seems possible that good impartial search engines are just doomed. How can you write algorithms that automatically read pages and determine their relevance to particular subjects in the face of web-page creators who will do anything to get ranked highly?

    And it's not enough for your ranking method to be a little bit obscure or hard-to-understand; any search engine now has to face the prospect that the economy is capable of supporting smart poeple to work full time on figuring out how to break your ranking algorithm.

    It's not hard to imagine a future where any search engine is either manually maintained (like the various web directories) or completely advertiser-run.

    --Bruce Fields

  • by nuggz (69912) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:43PM (#8192087) Homepage
    Google is popular because it works.
    It seems to give good results, and seems reasonably fair.
    The paid links are clearly identified.

    If google started being unethical, or giving bad hits it would be less valuable.

    Their only competative advantage is accurate results, they must keep it.
  • Adwords -Clickbots (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Camel Pilot (78781) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:46PM (#8192131) Homepage Journal
    I have been investigating what kind of protection or filtering Google and Overture provide against clickbots and competitor clicking. I am still evaulating Google but Overture (now Yahoo) does very little and will only take action against click fraud if you push them on the issue.

    Here is a paper [perlworks.com] describing my exchange with Overture on this issue. Summary of paper:

    Overture claims to provide "Click Protection" for their pay-per-click advertising service. In reality they fail to prevent the most basic and easiest to detect non-authentic clicks - that is competitors clicking on competitors. They do not even filter out a customer clicking on their own links from within the Overture manager. Nor do they provide a method for an advertiser to test their own ad rendered URL's - a necessary function as a means to test the validity of an entered URL.

    Since filtering out such clicks would be simple and straight forward using established cookies or session id's - I can only speculate the reasons for not patching this obvious flaw and question the "sophistication of Overtures "Click Protection".


    Since then I have determined by researching one of my own pay-per-click keywords is that Overture will filter out a client that has a cookie if it clicks more than once every 30 minutes.
  • by orthogonal (588627) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:48PM (#8192154) Journal
    The feature describes how the fortunes of small companies turned when their Google ranking rose or dropped.... [which has] spawned a whole Google-optimization industry where consultants can charge $5,000 per site for tweaking....

    Fungible is defined as "[r]eturnable or negotiable in kind or by substitution, as a quantity of grain for an equal amount of the same kind of grain". In other words, it means "interchangeable".

    Apparently the information on these web sites is fungible: Google can substitute one business for another, and as far as Google is concerned, the result is the same.

    This is not to say that the businesses necessarily offer products that are fungible; but apparently, for certain obvious searches about those products, the sites return essentially the same information. And it's that information -- not the products -- that Google "sells".

    So each competing business offers essentially the same information as far as Google is concerned. These businesses then hire consultants to multiply the number of other sites linking to their version of that fungible information, in hopes that Google will see the links and consider their web site the more authoritative and thus higher paged-ranked source for the fungible information.

    The problem is that the information is fungible. rather than try to multiply the links to the same old information, differentiate your site by offering different information.

    One easy way to offer different information is to offer a different (and presumably but not necessarily lower) price. Or --egads! -- differentiate your site by offering a better product. Or a bundle product.

    Or even better, give Google what it wants: diverse information. Write an article about your product or service that addresses a need your customers have. Offer it for free, and attract people to your site. If Ace Hardware offers free e-books on hoe to make home repairs, Google will index it, and I'll, end up there. and maybe I'll stay and buy, rather than go back to Google and find competitor Home depot.

    Or give away free instructions for making paper models of your product, like Yamaha does with its motorcycles. That got Yamaha featured on Slashdot -- and for free. Put up a whitepaper -- not the usual crap whitepapers that come down to "the only solution is our product, and by god it's a vague solution" -- but a real whitepaper of real use to professionals in your industry.

    Sponsor an open-source project that use or features or facilitates the use of, your product. and then sponsor that project's web space, on your server next to your site.

    We could come up with example after example, but the take home point is this: if the information you offer is fungible, expect sooner or later someone else will win the page rank lottery and outrank you. So make sure you offer something unique and uniquely useful.

    That'll be $5000.00, please.
  • Make or break? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:50PM (#8192175)
    I know it's just an idiom but I think it's fair to say a Google can help a business "make" it but it doesn't "break" it. The article is all about how fortunate you can be if you have top rank in Google but Google in no way is obligated to help anyone nor does it actually break anybody.
    • Re:Make or break? (Score:3, Informative)

      by LinuxXPHybrid (648686)
      If you are just talking about small businesses that have survived for the last 20 years, yes, Google does not break these small businesses, but if you are talking about small businesses that were established after ... mid-90s, then yes, Google can break these small businesses.

      Internet is THE media today; a lot of businesses utilize media to market their business. Sometime it's essential to their survival. So these new small businesses reply on the internet to market their business. Today, it can mean th
  • ...who think the slashbots are overreacting when they say Microsoft is about to start targetting Google for destruction as if it's priority number one...
  • by Awptimus Prime (695459) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @02:57PM (#8192262)
    Aside from shopping sites and very random, hard to find things, I don't see where Google is so important when it comes to being broken.

    Most businesses seem to use the web as an extension of their brick and mortar business. It's a place you visit when you need extended information on a company or a quick way to communicate with a corporate office.

    Simply putting your site on your next batch of business cards will probably produce more relevant visits to your site than having every person who typed a word that happens to match with your advertising scheme with Google.

    For instance, if I am going to do research on window curtains, I will probably hit up a few big brick and mortar store's websites, then go check out the products in person. Since the big corporations seem to be the only people running stores these days, it would seem that most people would know what is in their area without the assistance of the web (except for driving directions). Most folks would know Linens 'n Things, Bed Bath 'n Beyond, Riches, Target, Walmart, etc have such items and would not need to do a blanket search on Google for 'window curtains'.

    Personally, when I do a search and see where a company obviously paid for their search location, I will rarely visit. I tend to assume they are just concerned about getting a bunch of hits for banners and redirection to sites I would have already visited on my own.

    I know it's important to some web-only, small companies without a well-known name. But this is not something I would consider 'make or break' on a wide scale. It sounds more like a case of a small minority making a majority of noise over something they do not think is fair.
  • by jetkust (596906) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @03:00PM (#8192285)
    Joe Computer #1: Hey, how do i get to my search engine?
    Joe Computer #2: Just look it up on google.
  • by 1000101 (584896) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @03:39PM (#8192900)
    I must be one of the few people who rarely click on the paid advertising links on the right side of the search results. When I do click on them, I have found they often lead to questionable type web sites who I wouldn't want to give my credit card number to.
  • by FreshFunk510 (526493) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @03:43PM (#8192963)
    An interesting point being brought up by responses on this thread is the informational Google versus the business/products Google. We have 2 scenarios:

    - Searching for "Apple" while looking for information about the company, who is on the board, company history.
    - Searching for "Apple" while looking for an iPod.

    This is an extremely bad example, but the point is I think the problem that Google is running into is that the line between information or selling products is becoming too fuzzy. But I would say that both searches are "legitimate". In the least, the blurring of this line only serves to dilute the search results.

    Maybe a solution would be to move all product/purchase type searches to Froogle and have Google return ONLY informational sites instead of sites that sell products (which seems inline with their original intent).
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @04:24PM (#8193553) Journal
    It is funny that Google has a near monopoly based on a superior product and the ppl who are complaining typically use MS which is a company that has aquire a monopoly through illegal means. MS has actually destroyed far more companies just with a single update than Google has.
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Thursday February 05, 2004 @06:11PM (#8194946) Homepage
    And I'm ranked just above WinDrivers.com on the first page.

    I didn't pay for that. I just have a massive collection of drivers. My site consumes an 80GB harddrive and about 50% of that is drivers.

    WinDrivers.com used to charge $50 a year for access to their collection which I remember because I thought it was so outragous. Now they charge $29.95 a year. Which is 5 cents less than I charge. However they still charge $5 for a day pass where I charge $1.

    If you're looking for a specific file that Windows told you're missing and you type it in Google, my site will be top ranked if I have it. Sites like WinDrivers.com tend to ZIP up their files. I let them all hang out.

    I'm also highly ranked on DirectX related things because I have practically every version of the SDK. And likewise, all the files are available indiviually. So looking for a specific file will result in my site comming up.

    It's content that gets a site ranked high as well as the domain name, file name, and directory name.

    I'm currently in the process of revamping the site which will probably kill me on Google for a bit as it reindexes everything but that doesn't take long.

    You don't need to pay $5000 to get highly ranked. You just need some sense and a well designed web-site with stuff people would be looking for.

    Slashdot isn't bad advertising either. Recycled Russian Brides was probably the most effective sig ad. I had a front page story once and a number of times I've written articles which have been posted on a major game development web-site. Free advertising in exchange for making something useful.

    Ben

Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves. -- Lazarus Long

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