And Let’s Get Back Some of the Revenue We’ve Lost
In December 2020, Attorney Generals from 38 states filed suit against Google, claiming that Google illegally maintains monopoly power over search engines and related advertising. Other legal actions have been filed against Google worldwide. Breaking up “Big Tech” monopolies is a rare bi-partisan issue in Washington, D.C., today.
But these legal maneuvers only scratch the surface of the potential harm that Google’s search monopoly poses to small and home-based businesses, particularly those dependent on their online presence — which is now just about every business.
Through its dominating search engine and website content indexing, Google underpins the entire online economy. Google can threaten the survival of any small business through content de-indexing or by downgrading its presence. (Visit Google’s support webpages to read about the threat yourself.)
With its “Big Tech” kin Facebook and Amazon, Google has also rigged the Internet
to monopolize the majorities of digital marketing revenues. It is incomprehensible
that such an all-powerful monopoly as Google can operate today, with almost no
due process nor accountability.
Yes, it’s time to break up Google, and get back some of the revenue we’ve lost.
First, let’s take a look at the online search monopoly and its impact on small business. With a share of well over 90 percent, Google has monopolized online search. As monopolies are not supposed to be legal, this simple fact alone should support breaking up Google or at least heavily regulating it like a utility.
Google can use this search dominance to threaten a business that they determine is
not complying with their vague, arbitrary, and restrictive rules for content posting.
This can damage a website’s ability to compete with Google as a content provider.
Google is itself a content provider through the content it delivers in search results. Google has the hidden power to manipulate or downgrade the ranking of a business’s website content. This allows Google to maintain a dominant position in delivering its content choices to search engine users, and in a manner that maximizes its search advertising revenue.
Google Wields Enormous Power Over All Small Businesses
No matter how arbitrary and damaging Google’s content rules might be, a business has no alternative but to try and comply, as having website content downgraded or de-indexed by Google will damage or put a company out of business. And there is no significant competitor on delivering search engine content results to replace Google. This enormous power Google exerts over small businesses is another reason why the Google monopoly should be ended.
Google has also shifted online marketing towards content posting, known as “content marketing,” with websites now focused on getting content to rank higher in Google’s search engine results — at the expense of conventional digital marketing.
Google Drives an Entire Content Marketing Industry
This has transitioned the market towards increased Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and a multi-billion-dollar “content marketing” industry, focused on getting more web content ranked higher. There are now thousands of SEO companies, “Google Sharecroppers,” that have created sophisticated business models to help well-heeled clients game Google’s complicated and secretive search engine algorithms, to get their website content more highly ranked.
Smaller, less capitalized businesses are at a competitive disadvantage in funding expensive SEO to improve their Google search results and ranking, harming their ability to compete against better SEO’d websites.
Restrictive Rules Damage Ability to Compete
Google also creates restrictive rules on content posting that harms a website’s ability to compete in the content posting arena. An example is to not allow compensation for website links, even though Google’s business model is largely focused on promoting website content and links. This enables Google to then arbitrarily penalize other websites that post content by, for example, designating the website as receiving compensation for untagged links.
If Google downgrades a website’s content, it deceases that website’s ability to compete against other content websites. Combined with its secretive search engine algorithms, this allows Google to potentially manipulate competition in their favor.
Google Picks Winners and Losers
Google clearly states that it can penalize (or even de-list) the ranking of content within its search engine, including the links within the content, if they judge something of value was exchanged for links and content. This can hurt a website’s ability to survive and compete in posting content. “Exchange of value” is an arbitrary and impossible standard to enforce, and it puts Google in control — as a search monopoly — picking website winners and losers to penalize.
As a result of Google’s dysfunctional market regulation, the search engine tail now wags the Internet dog. Search engines are no longer just about finding things online but have evolved into a dominant way that businesses must market themselves today. Google’s search dominance has perverted the online landscape to focus heavily on content posting, which Google then monetizes through its search advertising monopoly.
Enabled by this monopoly over online search, Google dominates the digital marketing arena, with a 30+ percent share totaling $41 billion of the $135 billion U.S. digital advertising market (Forbes.com). Its “duopoly” partners Facebook and Amazon corner an additional 24 and 10 percent respectfully. Other large “industrial websites” scoop up most of the rest. This leaves nothing but digital marketing table scraps for the vast majority of small and homebased business websites. This rigged monopoly deprives small and home-based businesses of billions of dollars in online revenue each year.
Google Monopolizes Search Engine Advertising
Another type of digital marketing — search engine advertising — shows in particular the dominance of Google’s advertising monopolies. Search engine advertising is the placing of ads in search engine results. Google’s rigging of online search into the huge content marketing industry has helped to drive massive growth in search engine advertising. Google’s search engine dominance enables it to corner $32 billion — over 60 percent — of the $55 billion annual search advertising market.
Other large digital companies scoop up most of the remaining search advertising dollars,
again leaving only digital ad table scraps for the majority of home-based and small businesses. Despite COVID-19 impacts, search advertising is expected to grow over 65%, to nearly $100 billion by 2024 (eMarketer).
These advertising monopolies started long before search advertising became big. Google’s rigging of online marketing began in 2003 with the creation of their third-party ad network. Embedded into websites, these networks discounted ad unit earnings that had been generated through traditional direct banner ad campaigns. These had been paid directly to website owners through competitive rates for durations of time or banner impressions.
Drives Dysfunctional Culture of “Click-Bait”
Google’s AdSense network consolidated and monopolized this entire online display ad industry; discounted the value of website impressions in an ad price race to the bottom; and have helped to drive today’s dysfunctional culture of “click bait” to monetize clicks. This has reduced over 30 million websites to being another variety of “Google sharecroppers,” struggling to generate decent ad revenue in an online system rigged in Google’s favor.
Overall, Google’s monopoly over online advertising/marketing revenue has deprived small businesses of tens of billions of dollars since the early 2000’s. Hopefully future antitrust legal actions against Google will claw some of this money back.
Has Your Business Been Harmed by Google?
Yes, the online monopoly power that Google holds over small businesses is absolute, and incomprehensible. Hopefully, it will soon end. If you feel your small business has been harmed by Google’s online monopolies, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org