[PMC Weekly Consulting Insight] The Google squeeze

Philip Morgan

I'm a big fan of disintermediated lead generation approaches, or ones where your access to an audience is mediated via a personal relationship with the human being who is the audience gatekeeper. Google leveraging it's monopoly position in search only amplifies my appreciation for disintermediated lead generation approaches.

This, from Seth Godin, talks about Google as a monopoly abuser: Sooner or later, the shark gets jumped https://seths.blog/2019/08/sooner-or-later-the-shark-gets-jumped/

The Seth Godin piece references this Rand Fishkin piece, which seems well-researched: Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click https://sparktoro.com/blog/less-than-half-of-google-searches-now-result-in-a-click/

I'll excerpt a few things for you that create a good-enough summary of Rand's article:

We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden. In June of 2019, for the first time, a majority of all browser-based searches on Google.com resulted in zero-clicks


Google is almost certainly even more dominant than the chart above suggests. That’s because mobile apps, which Jumpshot doesn’t currently measure, aren’t included — this is just browser-based search data. The Google Maps App, Google Search App, and YouTube are installed on almost every mobile device in the US, and likely have so much usage that, if their search statistics were included, Google’s true market share would be 97%+.


1. The percent of searches available as organic traffic from Google is steadily declining, especially on mobile.

2. Paid clicks tend to increase whenever Google makes changes to how those results are displayed, then slowly decline as searchers get more familiar with spotting and avoiding them.

3. Google’s ongoing attempts to answer more searches without a click to any results OR a click to Google’s own properties are both proving successful. As a result, zero-click searches, and clicks that bring searchers to a Google-owned site keep rising.

This is the entelechy of every super-Aggregator. As the Aggregator moves towards monopoly position in its space, the Aggregator gradually favors its own interest over its supplier's interests.

In a search engine, you (your website, really) are a supplier, and those searching the web through Google are Google's users. As Google figures out ways to make the experience better for users, it will. If these UX improvements involve things getting worse for suppliers, Google will make that tradeoff. Not every time, of course, but here we are almost 22 years later (September 15 is Google Search's birthday), with Google capturing over 50% of the clicks that might have previously been sent along to their suppliers. So Google makes this supplier-user welfare tradeoff often enough, and in an incrementally increasing fashion, and as a result suppliers get squeezed. Technically, the value Google creates is simply being re-allocated away from suppliers (towards Google itself, which arguably reduces user welfare because it makes the web less open and diverse and wonderful). But still, if you're a supplier -- especially one who is dependent on Google search traffic -- you'll feel squeezed.

My response to Google's (and other super-Aggregators) squeezing is somewhat reactionary: "Just get into a position where you don't rely on Google!" This is not easy, but we providers of valuable expertise do have it easier than, let's say, the typical SaaS or e-commerce business do. They tend to be much more reliant on organic search traffic than we need to, and much more constrained in how they can invest in connecting and building trust with prospective customers.

There are more nuanced responses, though, to the "Google squeeze". :)

This is one that's impressed me. How Long Does It Take for Content Marketing to Work? A Case Study.: https://growandconvert.com/content-marketing/how-long-does-it-take-for-content-marketing-to-work/

Grow and Convert's writing on SEO strikes me as significantly more thoughtful and grounded in experience than most.

In particular, reading some of Grow and Convert's thinking has got me 99% of the way there to embracing this admittedly dogmatic position: "If your advice isn't contextualized in where a business is in its growth/maturity, then I'm ignoring your advice." It's a dogmatic heuristic, but I'm finding it such a useful filter for identifying and ignoring crap.

A client of mine also has a thoughtful approach to content marketing: https://contentaudience.com. Jim's thinking about content and SEO is specific to relatively mature info-product businesses. For example:


The bottom line

  1. If you want to play the SEO game, know what game you're playing.
  2. SEO, and other lead generation approaches, should be evaluated in the context of what kind of business you have, where your business is now, and where you'd like it to go.
  3. The business model dynamics that have a 22 year-old Google capturing >50% of search clicks will have every other super-Aggregator doing something similar at some point. Facebook/Instagram, Youtube, and others are not far behind Google.
  4. There are people who are thinking deeply about how to respond to the "Google squeeze". If your business relies on SEO, pay attention to these people. If your business relies on SEO, you wish it didn't, and you have or can develop expertise assets, I might be able to help.


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