“We need to let you know about new Government regulation,” reads the letter linked from the pop-up from Google Australia’s Managing Director Mel Silva. Google argues that a new proposed regulation will lead to a “dramatically worse Google Search and YouTube, could lead to your data being handed over to big news businesses, and would put the free services you use at risk in Australia.”
Here is the open letter to all us Aussies, in case you missed the blatantly obvious popups and message on Google's AU home page.
Google makes some enormous claims here. So lets look into whats going on, and more importantly, we will look at how any proposed changes could impact your business rankings on Google search engine results page, SEO and Google Ads.
What is the new law?
First, lets summarise the concept of what the Australian government is proposing. The proposed law would mean tech companies like Google and Facebook MUST pay large news and media companies a fee for the content which they create. Additionally, Google MUST advise media organisations about algorithm changes affecting their search engine result rankings. However, only large media organisations are guaranteed to get this information. The current information we have shows that eligible media companies must meet various requirements including having revenues exceeding $150,000 a year, and additionally, the news and media they produce must focus on the Australian market.
Is Google or the Australia government correct?
Google says that this new law could put user data at risk.
The letter from Google was met with severe push-back from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) who are the 'watchdog' behind the proposed law. In response to Google's letter to Aussies, the ACCC said that this law “will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook”. The ACCC also said “Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so”. It added that the code would not require Google to charge for its services like Google Search and YouTube.
OK. Now that we have summarised both sides of the argument, lets get back to basics.
NEWS! MEDIA! INFORMATION! We all want news and media. We all want unbiased relevant news and media to be specific.
Here's how the food-chain of information/news consumption is ordered:
1) A media agency creates an online article or content. For this example, lets say the topic of the article was "climate activists in Sydney".
2) Based on keywords and other SEO factors in that article, Google ranks that article in a certain position in Google's search engine results page(SERP).
3) Us consumers/users search Google for this topic and we are presented with the most relevant results based on Google's algorithm's.
4) When a user clicks on a search engine result, Google directs them to the result's website. This is generally how media agencies and other news sources(more on this next) receive the majority of their traffic.
Here's where this new law gets tricky. Not all the top search results will be large news/media articles. Some of the most relevant results will be from smaller organisations such as independent news sources, scientific studies, personal opinion blogs, etc. Currently, Google's algorithm generally treats all these results on a level playing field to ensure that we as consumers/users get a wide range of opinions, facts, news, articles etc.
Moving forward, if this law is passed, what in essence would occur is that large media organisations would be able to artificially increase their search engine results ranking, even if they are not the most relevant results AND companies like Google and Facebook would pay media agencies a slice of the pie. Additionally, other sources of information mentioned above like independent smaller news organisations etc would have their search engine result rankings drop as a consequence.
There is a lot of politics in this area. Remember, one man controls the majority of Australia's large media organisations. That man, as you may know is Rupert Murdoch. You may be surprised to know that the news that you read, watched or heard today, likely originated from one of Murdoch's news companies. Check out this image below to see what he controls.
So, now we're getting to the nitty gritty of things.
It's not really Google vs Australia. It's Google vs Murdoch. The winner takes the cash and the glory.
Google claims it already pays news organisations "millions of dollars" per year along with "billions of free clicks." It also says that until this proposal came along, it was negotiating paying outlets even more money to license content—talks that are now on hold, according to the Financial Times.
Keep in mind, Google doesn't have to provide us Aussies with their services. It's technically free after all. Google has withdrawn services entirely in certain countries due to new regulations. Back in 2014, it shut down its Google News service in Spain after it was asked to pay for the news snippets it displayed.
Impacts to Businesses in Australia
NOW we can get to how these changes will impact your business and what you need to do to stay ahead of the curve and on top of organic SEO search engine results and of course also make sure your Google Ads and social media ads are optimised and still relevant for these new changes.
Remember above, how we said that only larger news/media organisations would receive information about Google's algorithm to enable them to artificially increase their ranking? What this of course infers is that an increased ranking results in more traffic and more clicks. More clicks mean more bucks! However, what happens to websites that have now had their ranking reduced because of this new law? What if your business website or information is more relevant or provides a different perspective than Rupert Murdoch's news agencies or any of the other few large media organisations? You get less traffic! Less eyes on your information. Less traffic means less clicks. And yep, you guessed it, that translates into less bucks for your business. What if your information or website goes against what the large media organisations say? This could well be seen as a sneaky form of censorship.
On another note of data privacy, since this new law requires Google and Facebook to provide information on search engine algorithms to large news corporations, this would almost certainly mean specific private data about you and your business would be released. Privacy is one of the biggest issues of our modern age. We as a society are already quite distrusting of big tech conglomerates like Google and Facebook and what they do with our data. This would mean many other parties have access to your business and personal information. Can big news corporations keep this data safe? are they equipped? As much as we question Google and Facebook about their use of our personal data, the fact is that they are well equipped to secure it.
The question is, should we trust Google more than Rupert Murdoch and the Aussie government?
What do Australian businesses need to do?
As this law and its impacts become more clear, it will become critical to reassess your digital marketing strategy. Google's SEO algorithms will change. This will not be like any of their regular algorithm optimisations. There will be an artificial factor to the changes that mean that all your SEO, Google Ads and all social media advertising strategies that are working today, potentially will be useless and costing you money tomorrow.
We are staying very close to this subject to adapt and overcome. Our clients are worried they will lose their rankings and their current pay per click digital marketing campaigns will be useless. Aussies are confused about how this impacts them. It just makes it more critical than ever before to partner with a digital marketing agency that is always re-skilling and reeducating in current trends such as this. We have already commenced reassessing most of our clients SEO and pap per click campaigns in preparation for several outcomes. The key is to stay ahead of the curve so you can be positively impacted by these changes.
Let us know how this might impact your business. We are interested to see what you think.
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