Once again, there’s something new from Google. This is seen in the ‘Related Searches’ coming up just below the paid ads at the top of your search pages. They are divided into ‘Brands’ and ‘Stores’, but what is notable about them is that they are dominated by big brand names. For example, if you typed ‘designer eyeglasses’ into the Google search box, under brands would come up terms like ‘Gucci’, ‘Prada’, ‘Chanel’ and ‘Ed Hardy’. Under ‘Stores’, you would see terms like: ‘Glasses 123’, ‘Pearle Vision’ and ‘eBay’. This, obviously, is no accident, and has started a vigorous debate.
Obviously, a serious amount of money is changing hands. This is part of the reason at least one Wall Street analyst has predicted Google finally turning a profit this year (as opposed to something like a $400 million dollar loss last year). But the real question is whether these big brand corporations are getting too much power and exposure, and if they are pushing the more ‘mom and pop’ franchises out of the web and even out of business.
The ‘Related Searches’ strategy itself is clearly designed to boost both companies’ bottom line. These links to ‘Brands’ and ‘Stores’ do not even take you directly to the big brand corporation’s sites. Instead, they lead to another Google link page. This is part of Google’s basic strategy: the more time you spend on Google looking over search results, as long as you don’t feel that they are off base or taking too long, which were the complaints about other and earlier search engines, the more time, the better.
Some people have no problem with the ‘Related Searches’ links. It is the very similar to the two opinions about how web-based companies continually mine data on all users – some like the convenience of being offered things they are more likely to want, or didn’t even know they want, while others feel that this borders on or even crosses the line into an invasion of privacy. Either way, it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop or go away any time soon.
There is also the question of how much of this big brand linking is actually being done for free by Google, who have always remained focused on traffic to major web sites as part of their fundamental business strategy. But in the end there are really only two questions: is this really a bad thing that is destroying smaller brands, and is the collection of user data, particularly regarding what to link to short search terms, which can be at times inefficient and ambiguous, a good thing or a bad one? We will see the result of the first question, one way or the other, and the second really comes down to how you feel about data mining. But most of all, it is always important to know and understand the latest developments in SEO so you can take advantage of them.
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