Google threatens to block its search engine in Australia.
Normally, I tend to focus on SEO stuff. But this headline right here has been making the rounds, and as it impacts SEO, I just had to touch on it and give my point of view on it.
So, Google has been in a row with the Australian government.
Australia wants big tech firms like Google to pay media outlets for the use of their news content.
This isn’t a law yet. It’s a topic that’s being discussed in Parliament.
It’s also not a new topic. The argument that tech giants should pay for displaying content on their platforms, has been going on for years.
Google’s latest response – threatening to shut down search is also not their first response.
A week or two ago, they admitted they’ve begun removing results from Australia’s biggest media outlets as an experiment in case they are forced to pay media outlets for indexing and ranking their content.
Threatening to shut down search is just their most severe response.
There are many implications here, that’ll likely get ironed out in the weeks and months to come.
And, I’m going to follow this closely as it indirectly impacts SEO. My opinion may change in the coming months.
But for now, what is the likelihood that Google Search is shut down in Australia?
I think this is very unlikely. Possible, but unlikely!
Australia, is a small market for Google. So, yes, they could in theory shut down search and still have a strong presence worldwide.
I doubt they’ll be seeking to do this because there’ll be huge global implications.
This row is being watched around the world.
It’s almost like a test-case for what may become the new norm in the near future.
If Google’s stance is to shut down search in Australia, they’re not going to want this precedence established when they have a similar row in other markets.
Oh, and believe me, this row is going to happen everywhere else where Google dominates.
They have, by far the biggest market share in Australia. They have 94% of the search market.
The search engine with the 2nd highest market share is Bing, with just 4% (rounded up).
Google are not going to fold on this territory and let Bing, or any other competitor swoop-up their dominance. Not even on a smaller territory like Australia.
Not going to happen!
These threats are just threats!
So, if they’re not going to shut down, what’s likely to happen at the end of this row?
I think Google are going to be ordered by the Australian government to negotiate with news publishers for the right to display their content.
You see, at the center of this row, are news organisations, who globally, have a seen a major dip in revenue from newspapers.
This is why they’ve all switched to a subscription-based model.
For years now, they’ve let search engines only crawl a portion of the content on their sites.
But even this hasn’t been enough to bring revenues back up to the heydays of news publication.
This row isn’t limited to Australia.
Just last year, the French government made a ruling forcing Google to negotiate a rate with news organisations.
I believe we’ll have a similar outcome in this row.
I also believe this row will quickly escalate to other markets.
It’s only a matter of time before the rest of EU has a similar ruling like France.
And if Google pays publishers in EU, and Australia, you can bet there’ll be a stipulation put onto other tech giants, like Facebook.
This row, you see, comes from a much bigger battle.
This is from a battle of governments versus big tech companies, and where the balance of power lies.
I can see this battle going on for the best part of this decade.
And I think this row with Australia, which is a Copyright one – just like the one had in France – will bring about new implications with SEO.
SEO is supposedly a free channel.
Websites are shown in the SERPs, for free, right?
Based off of several ranking factors.
Not any more!
Ranking factors may be out the window!
If Google are paying for the privilege of showing websites in their SERPs, that’s a business!
It’s now a viable revenue generator.
As in, if Company A makes content exclusively searchable on Google, and not any other search engine, we (Google) can give you a bigger revenue share.
If Company B waves the revenue Google are supposed to pay them for the privilege of showing their content in the SERPs, perhaps their content can be ranked higher…
This row between Google and governments around the world may be revolutionary.
It may revolutionize SEO, certainly the way we know it to be.
It may come down to who has the most money.
It may come down to who can negotiate the best deal.
Heck, we may end up being Search Engine Negotiators. Who knows…?!
It’s still very early days so it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.
One thing that’s clear, however, is that Google will have to share more of the revenue they generate.
At the moment, this seems to be in the form of paying news organisations for their content they display in the SERPs.
Whether they are aware of it or not, the world sees Google Search as more than a search engine. The world sees them as a media site.
This is why this row is specifically with news organisations, i.e. media organisations.
And quite, frankly, they’re all not happy with a few big tech guys having so much power and dominance in the digital space.
So, they’re doing something about it!
Keep an eye on this row, folks. It may have massive implications to the SEO industry.