The Big Switch: One SEO’s Journey Toward Ditching Google
I don’t remember exactly when the switch happened in my brain. Maybe it began when Chrome started storing and sharing my search history between my browsers on different platforms including my cell phone. Perhaps I just didn’t want one company to know that much about me. Odds are it was something that’s been building up over time and then just boiled over at one point or another. Regardless, about eight months ago I decided to cut my ties to Google as much as possible.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “As a practitioner of the dark art of Search Engine Optimization, how in the heck can you even pretend to do such a thing?” I’ll admit, it’s a difficult task to undertake if you want to do it completely. After all, The Goog owns between 80% and 90% of the search market (depending upon which statistics you believe) so just for my work I’ve got to keep on top of Google’s rankings. Not to mention that their non-search properties are ubiquitous….and free! How can a person completely get away from using Google Chrome and Maps and Docs and Picasa and G+ and everything else offered by the 800 lb. gorilla?
It’s not easy. In fact, it’s damn hard.
The Lengths to Which I Went…
Of course the first thing is to trade in Google Chrome and switch my default browser to Firefox. Easy. Then, switch the search provider within Firefox. By default, it’s set to Google (imagine that) so that gets changed over to Bing. Done. Google Docs gets traded in for a shared Dropbox account and, perhaps the most “WOW!” change, my trusty Android-based EVO 4G cell phone gets swapped for a brand new Apple iPhone 4s. What the heck, I was overdue for an upgrade anyway, right?
I still left my Gmail account open and active—I only use that for notifications from my various web servers so Google isn’t really getting any information about me through that email address. (Yup, the cheating has already started.) And, though I have accounts, I never really did use tools like Google+ or Picasa or many of the other tools Google offers. ...except Maps and Image Search... Damn!
A changeover like this is wrought with problems. Let’s ignore for a minute the myriad of plugins I use daily and how those have to be re-setup when I switched browsers. Let’s also ignore the fact that every password I know on the planet was kindly remember for me by Chrome—my previous default browser. Now, all that has to be transitioned to Firefox…along with bookmarks. OK…that’s all done.
The next thing we notice is that Firefox is a memory hog. With the number of tabs and browser windows I’m constantly opening and closing it’s not uncommon to have 1 GB of RAM (or more) used up by the browser alone after a couple of days’ use. Yeah, closing the browser and re-opening usually takes care of that but, c’mon Firefox! Can’t you be more like Chrome and just free up that memory space automatically?
Now we get to the weirdest thing…using Bing… There’s a reason Google is the King of Search. It simply works the best. Most of the time Bing’s results are okay—they’ll do for now. But, to be honest, if it’s something important or if I’m having a difficult time finding what I need using Bing, I go back to Google Search. It’s pretty astonishing, too. About 90% of the time, Google returns what I’m looking for in the top 3 or 4 results even when Bing doesn’t even show that those websites exist. …and that’s with the exact same search query… The cheating continues.
Now you want to know the really weird part about Bing? When I perform a search and click on a result in the SERP, if I click the “back” button in the browser, more often than not, the SERP is re-ordered upon my return. No joke! Take a look at the side-by-side below. I searched for “seo company” and the left set of results was returned to me. I clicked on nationalpositions.com, waited no more than 2 seconds, and clicked the “back” button in Firefox. The SERP on the right is what was displayed on my screen. Strange. (I made sure “search history” and all that personalization stuff was turned off as well.) Looks like Yahoo is my next test platform.
Now let’s talk about file sharing solutions. I migrated all of our office files from Google Docs to Dropbox and we have one account that’s shared among all of our users / computers. This actually works pretty well. It’s nice to have local copies of all my (our) files so that if I’m working somewhere that an internet connection is not available I’ve still got what I need. We do lose the ability for multiple people to work on the same file simultaneously but that hasn’t been too much of an issue in most cases. Where it’s absolutely critical to have several eyes & hands on the same file at the same time. You guessed it…back to Google Docs. The cheating has ramped up.
So What’s the End Result?
I could go on and on about other quirks and roadblocks I’ve hit in the process but you've probably run out of patience reading my ramblings at this point. What's the end of this story?
In the end, I still use Google Maps ‘cause it’s just better; I go back to Google Search regularly because it’s just better; I continue to use Google Docs ‘cause it’s got features that are convenient (and it’s kind of better); I still use Google Images ‘cause it’s just WAY better.
Could I completely cut the cord? Perhaps, but my day-to-day work wouldn’t be as smooth. Is my life made more convenient by sharing a little bit of my personal data, giving The Goog a glimpse into my life, and selling my soul to a lumbering “do no evil” corporation? Yeah…completely.
You win, Google. You win…