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Do you remember AltaVista or even Yahoo? Search engines comes and go, even full fledged online empires crumble within a few years. Yes, Yahoo is still there and even has some useful products and services but there was a time when Yahoo was the dominant brand on the Web and the most used search engine.

Also the Web these days isn’t about search as much as it was some years ago when Google finally became everybody’s darling.

By now most people who look closely are at least wondering how such a seemingly friendly company like Google could have changed so fast.

Google is the top dog right now but people get increasingly annoyed with it. By people I do not only mean regular people like you and me. I am also talking about lawmakers, politicians and search specialists. Why? Let me list a few of the most common problems with Google right now.

  1. Google is a monopoly and is under scrutiny by governments in the EU, US and in numerous other countries.
  2. Google doesn’t pay taxes in countries like the US, UK, France or Germany where it makes most of its money, they do pay some tiny amounts (around 2 – 3%) but in no way the corporate tax they should.
  3. Publishers around the world rebel against the free exploitation of their content on Google News.
  4. Google replaces organic (that is non-paid) search results with ads and hidden ads called “paid inclusion”. Some Google search services like “Google shopping” only consist of ads by now. Regular Google searches for lucrative terms like “hotels” show only ads above the fold that is you have to scroll to see actual results.
  5. Search engine optimisation experts around the world advise you to become independent of Google’s mercy as the algorithms are too volatile and changing randomly. The “do not put all your eggs in one basket” metaphor comes up whenever Google SEO is the topic.

 

So just let me summarize these above points:

  • searchers
  • webmasters
  • publishers
  • government officials
  • business people

have been disenchanted with Google. Now you might think, who cares as long as Google makes money?

Well, Google shareholders have been shocked this year by lower profits too. Google in a way was expected to always grow but the potential for growth is not there anymore, they can’t cram even more ads above the few search results left and by favouring their own services over the competition they have made themselves vulnerable to regulation.

I noted above that the Web is not about searching anymore, of course it’s about socializing by now. People spend on average most of their online time on Facebook, hours a month while search takes only minutes. The social Web is not new but Google has failed repeatedly to become social.

Despite its frantic attempts to make everybody use their latest social tool Google+ they are still a small player compared to others.

Sites like Pinterest or Tumblr are still bigger than Google+ despite Google’s market power to force its current users to adapt Google+ as well. Also joining Google+ or trying it via other Google tools and services does not equal active engagement there.

Some people argue that there is no choice today, that Google is the only or the best search engine so they won’t fade anytime soon. These people are nor right though, there are new search engines out there that surpass Google when it comes to

  • usability
  • privacy
  • security
  • spam-filtering
  • and even search result quality

Just try DuckDuckGo or Blekko. I do not even have to mention Bing by good old Microsoft but they are catching up will the smaller and more versatile start-ups.

That’s why I wonder myself quite often lately: Will Google be still around 10 years from now, will it be still as important as today? Probably not. Google will still exist but like Yahoo it will just be shadow of its glorious past. It won’t disappear altogether like Altavista, rather it will embrace a different business model like AOL or MySpace did.

What does this mean for you? Build up a solid business with an independent foundation.

You don’t want to rely on a third party like Google that can not only change its algorithm but also discontinue its services like they already did with numerous of their offerings.  Make sure you cut out the middleman and get also traffic directly and from other sites, be it social media, or sites from your industry/niche. Don’t forget about your existing clients and make sure they come back without having to search for you on Google again.

Don’t panic! Google will still be there for a few years, so you have enough time to prepare, unless of course you depend already on Google traffic, then any algorithm update can kill your business.

* Creative Commons image by Steve Jurvetson

 

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