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Google manipulates search results: A boost for small business?
Google manipulates search results: A boost for small
As more and more businesses strive for a top ten Google
ranking, it's becoming harder and harder to achieve. This
is especially true for smaller businesses that simply
don't have the budget for a big link popularity campaign.
But hope may be just around the corner. If a top ten
ranking for your primary keywords has been eluding
you, then read on!
Google is trialing an 'enhancement' to the way it
displays its results. Instead of showing the top ten
results for the exact words you enter, in the trial Google
suggests three related results that you might want to
check out. Where does it display these suggestions? It
shunts (or replaces) results 6, 7 and 8 !!!
In this article, I refer to these results as 'intruders'.
To see some 'intruder' results in action, search for "piggy
bank". Results 6, 7 and 8 are actually 'intruder' results;
they're the top three results for the more specific, less
popular search, "piggy bank lyrics". Google assumes that
people searching for "piggy bank" will probably be
interested in results of a search for "piggy bank lyrics".
On first impressions, it's tempting to think that this
makes it harder to get into the top ten (because now it's
really the top seven, and the last two results may be
easily overlooked). But it may actually make it easier -
especially for smaller businesses. Let me explain why...
It all comes down to who can rank in the top ten for the
most popular searches - like "computers", "cars",
"doctor", "pets", etc. For anyone in these industries, a
top ten ranking for these keywords is the holy grail.
Unfortunately, these sorts of searches are presently
dominated by big corporations with hefty search
budgets. Most smaller businesses don't even try to
compete. Instead of focusing on these hotly contested
keywords, small businesses tend to focus on much more
specific keyword phrases - like "computers boston",
"second hand cars ohio", "female doctor new england",
"discount pets for children", etc.
But Google's trial may change that. Remember, it's
replacing results 6, 7 and 8 of a popular, broad search
with results 1, 2 and 3 of a less popular, more specific
search. If the trial becomes a standard feature, a search
for "computers" might well include three 'intruder'
results from a search such as "computers boston". As
discussed above, results 6, 7 and 8 are likely to belong to
big companies, whereas results 1, 2 and 3 of the more
specific search are more likely to belong to smaller
businesses. Therefore, when the switch occurs, it's out
with the big and in with the small!
In principle the enhancement appears to work in favor
of small businesses:
1. Big business dominates popular / general search
results2. Smaller businesses have a greater chance of
dominating less popular / more specific search results3.
General search results are replaced by specific search
results4. Big businesses are shunted out of the top ten
by smaller businesses
Now I hear what you're saying: "Why wouldn't the big
companies simply start optimizing for the more specific
searches?" Granted, this is a possibility; but for most big
companies, it would be a monumental task. Big
companies tend to service a large geographic region, and
they typically offer numerous products and services.
Even a hefty search budget would be stretched to the
limit if it was required to bankroll optimization for every
single product, every single service, and every single
location. And this is what would be required to
dominate all of the more specific results, thereby gaining
back their number 6, 7 or 8 position. It's far more likely
that they'll simply try harder for a
position in the top 5 of the popular/general search. This
approach would be less complex and probably more
Of course, where Google is involved, nothing is ever that
simple. I've oversimplified things above to make the trial
a little easier to understand. In reality, the situation is a
bit more complex because of the way Google chooses
which search the three 'intruder' results come from.
Take the "piggy bank" search for example. Google
assumes that most users who search for "piggy bank"
will also be interested in results from a search for "piggy
bank lyrics". This assumption is based on the fact that
thousands of other people are searching specifically for
"piggy bank lyrics" - in fact, it's one of the most popular
searches containing the original term "piggy bank". And
that's why it gets the nod.
In other words, the intruder results come from popular
searches (less popular than the original, but still
popular). This means you'd already have to rank highly
in a very popular search before you'd become an
intruder. So, in reality, the above "computer" example is
a little simplistic; the intruder results for "computer" are
more likely to be from a search for something like
"computers ibm". In reality, the top three results for
"computer peripherals boston" are more likely to appear
as intruders in a "computer peripherals" search.
The important thing to remember is that if this trial
becomes a standard feature, it will be implemented on
all searches. And the more specific the original search,
the easier it would be to become an intruder in that
search. In theory, it has great potential to help smaller
businesses reach the next rung of the search engine