ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Google soared quickly to the top of search engine food chain by delivering an algorithm that we the users found to be superior. In addition to being more relevant than other engines, such as Yahoo! or MSN, Google also used creative and effective branding techniques that made it a household name. Google now owns a vast percentage of what could be described as the “content discovery” market.
Over the last two years, Google has worked to expand its operations into the other side of the Internet — content creation. Currently, Google’s most popular content site is YouTube, acquired in 2006. YouTube was one of the first sites to give average Internet users the ability to create Web content. Google also owns Knol, an encyclopedia site that competes with Google-partner about.com.
Google putting significant muscle behind content creation on Google-owned and Google-controlled Web sites theoretically threatens the objectivity of Google’s search results because Google sites are now competing with non-Google sites for higher rankings. Naturally, Google strongly argues that it does not grant any priority to Google-owned sites.
“Biased results? No way. Providing great search is the core of what we do. Business partnerships will never compromise the integrity or objectivity of our search results. If a partner’s page ranks high, it’s because they have a good answer to your search, not because of their business relationship with us,” wrote Google on its official blog following their partnership with AOL.
Google’s assurances notwithstanding, many of Google’s content network partners believe Google could be a potential threat to their sites. For example, the New York Times reported that Google-partner Martha Stewart’s pancake recipe ranks lower than the pancake recipe on Knol for the keyword “buttermilk pancakes.” Despite their concerns, these companies are likely to continue their partnerships with Google because the Google network offers the advantage of a very wide reach.
This may also pose a problem for companies that market through Google AdWords. For example, if you search “blog services,” Google-owned Web site blogger.com is the first sponsored link to appear. Advertisers could end up paying more for paid search campaigns with Google competing for positioning (and hence driving up prices for everyone else for that auction-driven keyword set).
While strategies may not change immediately, SEO’ers may have to accept that Google content may rank higher than their own. Google has seemingly unending resources and direct access to the natural search algorithm. This means that their content will naturally rank higher.
For the most part, Google-owned content is user-created. Google does not exclusively publish on Knol or YouTube or Blogger.com or any other Google-owned and operated sites, but rather, Google provides a forum in which users can publish. These content sites might prove to be a good opportunity for Google partners and non-Google partners to upload their content to drive more traffic and links.
What the Future May Hold for Google
Some industry pundits believe that Google might end up stretching themselves too thin. “I think Google has overextended, like Napoleon opening up a Russian front,” said Advertising executive Rishad Tobaccowala in a New York Times article after Google acquired YouTube. Rishad may be right over the long haul, but with the benefit of hindsight we know now that — to date — Google has made YouTube a very profitable arm of its operations.
Google holds a tremendous advantage with their current business model and is gaining more and more market share in search. But, if Google strays too much from the objective of providing users with valuable content, they could jeopardize their search business if their competitors can deliver more relevant results.
Google emphasizes that their main commitment is to search and that they have no plans of solely becoming a content creation company. “Our vision still remains to be the best conduit that we can be, connecting people between whatever their search is and the answer they are looking for. For that reason, we are not interested in owning or creating content,” said Google company spokesman Gabriel Stricker.