From the words of Google Australia’s Managing Director, Mel Silva:
“We need to let you know about new Government regulation”
This statement is part of the discussion that Google argues will lead to a worse experience for its users when it comes to using Google search and YouTube network. Another part of the “conversation” could also lead to our personal data being handed over to media organisations, which when it comes to privacy, has always been a sticking point for many. What does all this actually mean?
There has been some very strong back and forth between the search giant and the Australian government, with Google making some very large claims. Let’s see how these proposed changes could potentially make an impact on your business when it comes to both Google advertising and SEO.
How is news content used by Google?
Google does not “use” the news content from publishers, they simply provide links to relevant pages that can provide the information we are looking for in their search results. Their algorithm allows them to sort through billions of available websites in a fraction of a second, with the intended outcome of providing the most relevant links, in order, from what we type in the search bar.
To assist with providing the information to help with search results, Google is continually indexing websites and their pages, applying their algorithm to help determine the relevancy of the information on those pages will be when someone searches for specific terms.
It is this process that some publishers can claim is “stealing” their news content, however, it is no different to how Google connects us to our local sporting teams, favourite recipes or any other website looking to maximise their opportunities to show results for related search queries.
To provide some financial statistical perspective, in 2018, Google Search accounted for over 3 Billion (that’s Billion with a B) visits to both large & small outlets for free. To get an understanding of that worth, a Deloitte study in 2016 compared the value of visits who access news sites directly to those that came from referral sites. It showed that there was no difference in revenue and that the average value of a visit ranged from AU$0.06 to AU$0.13, equating to over AU$210M in potential value coming from Google search a year.
On top of that, when on the media website, they also have the opportunity to derive revenue from the ads they show, as well as turn visitors into paying customers through a subscription service of their product.
What is the Australian Government proposing?
Firstly, they are directing Google, as well as Facebook, to pay Australian news & media companies remuneration for the information they scrape from the websites and use to create snippets and links. This has been a long serving practice of Google and has provided us what we have needed for so long.
The other area of debate is the request for Google to provide qualifying media organisations 14 days notice to their algorithm that would affect their rankings. Now, this “code” was originally designed to support the future of publishers, but the argument from Google is that it would force them to pay for links to those publishers, despite the value they see in free website traffic from the search results.
So why would supplying news & media outlets early notification to the changes of the algorithm be a large factor for them? It could be due to the fact that this will only apply to organisations that meet various prerequisites, including revenues exceeding $150,000 a year. This could mean that those smaller organisations who may not achieve those sort of numbers could push their rankings lower in results, even if they had the most relevant information for the search query.
From a Google perspective, this could potentially harm a level playing field when it comes to competing media outlets and now provide a large advantage to those that qualify, regardless of overall relevance.
There is also a lot of politics in this area.
Remember, one man, Rupert Murdoch, controls the majority of Australia’s large media organisations. Most of the news we engage with is likely to have originated from one of his companies. These companies include:
- News Limited
- Fox Sports Australia
- Fox Studios Australia
- Harper Collins
- Foxtel (staked)
So as you can see based on what is at stake, you could say that it is not really about Google vs Australia but more about Google vs the Murdoch empire.
Keep in mind that Google doesn’t have to provide us their services in Australia.
It was only a few years back in 2014, Google shut down its Spanish operations as they tried to usher in laws requiring them to pay for linking to their content. Google took the stance is that it does not make any money from this direction, as they do not show any advertising on the sites. When the good people of Spain went to check for the latest news articles, they were presented with “We’re incredibly sad to announce that, due to recent changes in Spanish law, we have removed Spanish publishers from Google News and closed Google News in Spain.”
You can read the full article here.
What is Google proposing?
From the outside, Google appears to be “OK” to comply with their code, which in turn will help support a strong future for the news & media industry. Their claim is they want to provide it in a way that doesn’t break how Google search works.
The argument from Google claims that they are already giving back to publishers, as well as providing the opportunity for “billions of free clicks.”
Instead of paying for links, Google have proposed that they would pay Australian news businesses through a new way of presenting and promoting news online – Google News Showcase.
This would go to paying for outlets editorial expertise to provide content for users, as opposed to the remuneration to just providing links to their content. There are already over 400 publications worldwide who have confirmed involvement, including Australian publishers who were among the first to sign up globally.
What COULD HAPPEN if this law is passed?
There are so many questions regarding this.
- What happens to websites that have their Google ranking reduced because of this new law?
- What if your website information is more relevant than the organisations that will rank higher?
- What will media organisations do with our information and how does it affect privacy?
To put it simply, your website is likely to get less traffic.
If your website is pushed down the search results because of the law that would go into place, it would mean less eyes on those well optimised links you’ve worked so hard on over time. Now that you have less eyes on those links, it will translate to less clicks. Less clicks will mean a reduction in opportunities to get your goods & services in front of the right people.
As more information of how these proposed changes will impact online businesses, there still is a lot of uncertainty surrounding it. Understandably, a lot of business owners are worried that they will lose the fruit of all their hard work that they have invested in over the years. It will most likely require them to reassess where they are at, where this could go and how can they minimise the negative effects from it.
From their early days of “Don’t be evil”, Google is continuing to work with the Australian government and the ACCC to resolve this from preventing any major financial impact. The $4Billion in revenue alone is just one part of the pie in this current stand-off. While those that stand to gain massive financial improvements through the current suggested changes, let’s hope that they don’t lose sight of those that it will also affect – The Aussie battlers.
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