Google Take Action Campaign
Google Take Action, a campaign towards a free and open internet, was recently launched. I completely agree and believe the internet should be a free and open environment. It’s the duty of large Internet-based companies with lots of resources to do their part and fight for the Internet to be free and open. It’s great Google has organized this visually pleasing and easy to understand website. A place where people can join in and show support and I encourage you to do so. But…
Does Google live by the creed they have laid out within the Google Take Action campaign?
This campaign may have stemmed from the NSA spying programs. Maybe it stemmed from the countries that filter and censor internet content, threaten freedom of expression, and undermine the free flow of information online. Freedom of expression is a human right. The Internet is a wonderful platform for voicing your opinion and spreading knowledge and it should not be stifled by government or companies.
Google was founded on a vision of getting better search results to Internet users faster. Which they still do.
But is Google truly interested in an open and free Internet?
How Google Gets Paid
Google makes the majority of their revenue from paid advertising. Websites paying to ensure their message is available and viewed by Internet users. Google definitely does not want a free Internet. In fact, recent actions prove quite the contrary.
Yes, Google would like to ensure governments are not blocking websites and censoring information. The more unfiltered websites and Google search results the world sees the more potential Google has to make money.
Google also doesn’t want governments to continue requesting the online data of users. This looks bad for Google once the public is aware they are (legally required to) feed this information to the government. This makes the public distrust Google and could lead to the loss of users, loss of searches and loss of revenue.
Google, a Single Voice
Google states the Internet should not be controlled by a single entity, but a voice of the people. Yet their online dominance is quite the opposite. But they should want to grow as big as they can, right, that’s free enterprise? Yes. No arguments there. Any sound business would do the same. Google sites currently account for 66.7% of all U.S. internet searches. Sure it’s not 100%, but I’m sure they would like it to be. Especially given paid clicks were up 31% in the 2013 fourth quarter. Revenue from Google web sites is at $37.45 billion for 2013, up 20.0% from $31.22 billion in 2012.
This is the main reason for so many free Google products over the years. A chance for them to advertise more. Also to integrate the products you use into search, the bulk of their revenue stream.
This truly became apparent with the introduction of Google+. Then the integration of Gmail, search, and other Google products. Google+ is now so important the company requires people to sign up to use some Google services, like commenting on YouTube. The push is being done so forcefully that it has alienated some users and raised privacy and antitrust concerns, including at the Federal Trade Commission.
So how does this dominance help Internet users and the free flow of information?
When Google makes a change to their algorithm that, in effect, filters what 66.7% of U.S. users see online. What if they decided to exclude competition from search results? Or political information? Or what if a government or stockholders forced them to do so?
It’s not the benefit of the people to receive all their search results from one entity. This is similar to the dominance of the Associated Press creating much of the content for the major news sources in the U.S. If misinformation is picked up and trusted it can be spread quickly and be treated as the truth. Though it may be far from it.
Let’s say for instance your email address is a personal thing you don’t want others to see. Most people put their email address within the ‘personal’ category. Yet Google has done exactly that – allowed others to see your email address without you giving it to them. Gmail will suggest your Google+ connections as recipients when you are composing a new email.
You can control whether people reach you this way with a new setting in Gmail. Though Google leaves this option turned on by default. A majority of people with a Google+ profile (everyone that has a Gmail account) may not even hear about this feature or how to turn it off. Or possibly even know they have a Google+ profile.
Google (not provided)
Now let’s talk about where this conversation got started for a lot of digital marketers. In 2011, Google began to restrict the keyword data they sent to websites by using secure search pages. These searches would appear in Google Analytics under the label (not provided), instead of the actual search term. When Google launched secure search, they estimated it wouldn’t exceed 10%. But yet, the percentage of (not provided) traffic to websites grew dramatically in past years.
At first a searcher had to be logged into a Google account to initiate secure search. Things changed again in late September 2013. Google began rolling out encrypting all search activity. Whether the searcher is logged into a Google account or not. Now, when any user goes to Google to search they are redirected to the https:// version of Google or, an SSL encrypted search. Again, not passing keyword search data onto website analytics.
This update only affects organic search data. Paid search data from Google continues to report on keyword referrals.
This definitely raises the question of the actual intent of no longer providing keyword data to websites. Keyword data has long been the cornerstone of research and reporting for search engine optimization. Now Internet marketers are forced to other means. One of those means is focusing more on paid search data from Google. Both to gain valued keyword data and to ensure content is viewed by desired audiences. This advertising and research again adds to Google’s main revenue stream and their bottom line.
More recently, both Bing and Yahoo! have been testing secured search and chances are they are moving towards not providing keyword data as well.
Is this a case the biggest search engines making the Internet more safe for searchers?
Is it a case of the major competition following the search giant to capitalize on the value of keyword data?
Or a combination of both?
Interested to hear your thoughts and additions in the comments below.