Much controversy has been cropping up lately concerning Google and its stance toward competition in the marketplace. Companies like Microsoft, Yelp and Expedia are saying that the search giant is stifling other companies by ranking them lower in search results and starting competing businesses when smaller companies won’t sell. Google is currently under investigationby the FTC for antitrust violations, but what many are failing to take into account is the amount of assistance Google provides to businesses that would not otherwise have a chance of competing. By placing emphasis on local searches, Google gives small businesses the ability to compete directly with large brands. Further, the app industry that has grown up around Android, the world’s most widely used smartphone operating system, gives smaller developers a chance to compete with major firms while Google’s PPC system, whether administered through the AdWords dashboard or via demand side platform, allows small businesses to show up on search results pages where their organic growth might not allow them to compete with large businesses. Finally, with Google’s PANDA update, the company has made it clear that it values influential, worthwhile content and that sites and businesses that contribute to the Internet at large will find it easier to rise to the top of search results.
Local Search: Small Businesses vs Big Brands
With traditional advertising, small businesses often have trouble competing with big brands, making it difficult for them to make their services known to potential customers in their area. The fact that large companies can afford more signage and larger buildings means that they have greater physical prominence than small businesses. None of this matters when it comes to local search, though. When a user searches for a service in their city, the Google map result shows all locations that provide that service, regardless of the size of the company that provides it.
Android App Industry
Android is now the most used smartphone operating system in the world, eclipsing Apple’s iOS. Because of that, more and more developers are creating apps for use on Android devices. The Android app marketplace allows independent developers to sell their apps alongside major companies for similar prices. If a company provides an app that’s useful and engaging, it will likely become popular and win out over less useful apps. This means that independent developers have the chance to compete with large companies on a level playing field.
PPC: Penny Ante into Big Money Game
Many companies can’t afford massive marketing campaigns or don’t have the time or knowledge required for extensive digital ad placement. Google helps simplify the process, though, and makes pay per click (PPC) advertising accessible to even the smallest businesses. AdWords Express provides an easy-to-use interface that can help a business owner who doesn’t even have a website build an affordable PPC campaign tailored to their business and location. Additionally, AdWords Express users’ Google Maps pins will show up in blue, helping them stand out from the crowd.
With the PANDA update, Google showed that it cares more about content and what people are saying about a website or business than it does the amount of money the business has. The information available on the web, including consumer reviews, has a noticeable effect on a website’s ranking in search results pages. Those who provide valuable content and impress their customers enough to receive glowing reviews will rank higher.
Given these facts, it’s a wonder that such an investigation is even going on. The challenge of understanding the federal bodies is one can always assume that the truth is probably not the convincing argument. Furthermore, all parties (including Google) must understand that the market which spreads across the internet landscape is vast, and if any one conglomerate controls more than 50% – Google’s market share hovers around 72% – the federal eye will forever be watching. Also, the addition of cloud computing and online file storage to this vast internet landscape is creating a “one-stop-shop” for everyone, adding to the “control” of Google’s ever reaching arm. In truth, the cause for concern may be valid. It is the possible misappropriation of that concern which should cause alarm.