In the past couple of years one of the things I’ve found most amazing is Google’s ability to provide better data while I do less work. For example, if you do a search for “St. Louis Cardinals” today you’ll get this result:
With the world series starting this coming Wednesday, Google smartly places information on the date, time, location and TV schedule for their game against the Red Sox. This, of course, makes it much easier for the end user to find out the basic information they’re likely looking for without having to click into the source site to learn more.
At the same time, this is a big problem for the source of this information.
Google doesn’t make anything
When you think about it, Google’s nothing more than a vessel to information. Every time you Google something all you’re doing is letting Google organize and display information that someone else made. So, in the example above, MLB.com‘s information is scraped, re-ordered and displayed on Google. MLB.com, however, has all kinds of content and products that they certainly want visitors to see, but Google is making the executive decision to use that information and now casual visitors have no reason to click through to the MLB.com site.
In a way this is highway robbery. MLB.com takes the time to put together and manage all of this data and content and Google essentially steals it. MLB.com has a shop on their website which I’m sure they’d like to make money from, but Google wants to make money on their AdWords ads, so their incentive is to make sure people never leave the Google domain. The more searches you do on Google you begin to realize that more and more of their changes are about scraping valuable data and using it to improve their retention and provide less motivation to visit the actual source of this data. For many, this is a bigger and bigger problem.
“I’ve BEEN making great content!”
For years Matt Cutts and the Google team have been screaming from the heavens that the way to win in search is to “make great content.” What good does it do when Google gives it all away without letting people be exposed to your website, your brand and everything else you have to offer? Here in Lansing there’s a local neurosurgery center that actually ranks out very well nationally for a variety of industry terminology, as they obviously put some time and effort into “making great content.” One such example is a search for “hydrocephalus symptoms.” This is a fairly common and dangerous condition which they treat, so they made a page detailing these symptoms. Unfortunately, rather than have the ability to lure in traffic from this content, Google hands it out free of charge:
Obviously, I understand the value as an end user of faster access to content, and I also realize that Google isn’t scraping 1,200 word documents and dropping the whole thing in search results. That said, Google seems to be taking on the role that file sharing did to the music industry – freely grabbing and sharing content with little regard to how it effects those who spend their time making it. The result above is scraped content from three different sites and an advertisement. To get down to any organic content you need to scroll quite a distance.
I have to admit, it’s amazing how far Google continues to go with search to squeeze money out of it. Though, as a business owner, I’m forced to wonder how long it will be sensible to create content that may eventually only drive traffic to Google.