Why Google is not a level playing field

Google has long maintained that its search engine results pages (SERPS) are designed to display the best matches for an individual’s search. The better your site, pages and content the more likely you are going to appear in their index. On this basis it has been possible for anyone anywhere to appear in any search return in the content on their page is better than all the rest.

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We have always striven to help clients create ‘authority’ pages and sites by creating great content and looking to promote this naturally as this is exactly what Google describes as best practise in its Webmaster Guidelines.

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Google’s latest changes which we warned about in this article are fully underway and the results are disturbing to say the least.

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Domain diversity is an interesting metric as it measures the number of different domain that appear in the top ten search results for any keyword. The greater the diversity the better the choice for the end user, so in an ideal world you would expect one entry for each website that can provide a suitable result for the search term entered. Of course in reality you often find more than one result for some of the big companies like EBay and Amazon and Google are trying, so it says, to work towards reducing this.

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But its rhetoric is not being matched by its actions as the graph below, taken from Mozcast demonstrated quite clearly.

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mozcast-domain-diversity

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Over the last 90 days the diversity of the index has dropped significantly, and whilst the scale shows this only a 2% drop it is significant because it is a noticeable drop and a sustained trend. More importantly it is exactly the opposite of what we are told publicly that they are trying to achieve.

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So if the SERPS have less diversity in them, and you are seeing more repeated entries for certain sites, who are the winners from these latest changes? The graph below sheds some light on this and it paints a frightening picture.

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mozcast-big-10

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Over the past 90 days the biggest winners are the ‘big 10’ sites that are being tracked by Mozcast, which in this particular graph feature the following companies;

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  1. en.wikipedia.org
  2. www.amazon.com
  3. www.youtube.com
  4. www.facebook.com
  5. www.yelp.com
  6. popular.ebay.com
  7. www.webmd.com
  8. www.ebay.com
  9. www.walmart.com
  10. pinterest.com
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Clearly some of these sites are not featuring as heavily in the UK but these results, if checked against the UK would stack up in a similar fashion. Our own investigations have seen a marked increase in the appearance of ‘blue chip’ companies and a huge hike in the appearance of EBay and Amazon and in the keywords targeted by the SME market, massive gains for Gumtree and Yell.com. There has also been a huge increase in the number of times recruitment sites like Indeed are appearing when there is no legitimate reason for them to do so.

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Google may be trying to clean up the SERPS but in the process they are making an absolute hash of it and penalising small business whilst rewarding bigger firms. If these firms could actually fulfil the search query then that wouldn’t be a problem but they can’t. If you are looking for someone to provide the service the last thing you need is another step between you and the service you are looking for.

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As an example this is the top three return today for ‘mechanic stoke on trent’

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mechanics-stoke

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If you wanted a mechanic in Stoke on Trent then arguably the first two entries from Yell.com could find you what you are looking for, but it takes you from a search result to…another search result. Is Yell.com the new Google in this respect? Do they have the unsullied listings of all the mechanics in Stoke which Google can’t seem to find and show you in the search return? And if you need a mechanic then a jobs site is not going to answer your need.

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Google’s stated aim is to provide greater utility for end users in their searches and reward the better sites that can help end users in this respect. So as an example look at the search results when you search for a CAD designer in Stroke on Trent to help you with your design work….

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cad-stoke

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Ignoring for a second the firms in the ‘Places’ listings there is a notable absence of anyone there who actually does the work you are looking for. The top two results and the last are for people looking for jobs and Yell.com and 192 are aggregators. Where are the CAD design firms? Where is the choice?

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Whatever Google is trying to do it is failing small to medium businesses in the UK. Search results are becoming crowded with irrelevant results and this will not deliver what the end user is looking for. And when that happens, as previous search engines have found, there is no such thing as loyalty online….