Google Updates Results: Small Businesses Suffer

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In the last few Google updates, there have been some significant changes to how the search results are displayed. The media machine has covered these events extensively as these updates have unfolded. Because of the unique position I’m in, I have an inside look at the ranking trends of thousands of pages and keywords around the web for many small businesses of different industries.

SBA study for Small Business Statistics and Research has shown that 99.7% of small firms represent the US economy, and generated 44% of total US new jobs over the past 17 years. The study also states that Small Business makes up 50.7% of US GDP and the number continue to rise.

With the latest update from Google we all watched as online businesses shut down, consultants started advising customers to get a new domain name and start over, and an untold number of websites lost their rankings in the search results.  Critics have claimed that the domestic impact of recent Google Updates forcing local businesses into bankruptcy because they are unable to compete with Big Brands such like Amazon and ebay.

Winning Competitive Markets

Whether directed at these businesses or not, the updates Google made in May and June have put a lot of smaller website’s out of the first page (or out of business). What we saw when testing the websites and link factors after the fallout was Google ranking the larger, internal linking, more diverse external link portfolios.

This specifically occurred in keyword verticals that could overlap or perhaps previously “competed” with large websites. Almost across the board we see Wikipedia beating website’s that previously ranked, and in the Ecommerce space Amazon wins over niche specific web pages.

If you look closely, you’ll see Google starting to show results in favor of larger corporate businesses.

The reasons for website’s losing rankings are pretty obvious after a close look at the data on thousands of keywords. Bad page layouts without relevant information or user experience, repetitive anchor text, and sitewide backlinks all were causes for Google penalization. Even following all of the recovery plan strategies doesn’t put small businesses back in the positions they previously held.

After a few months of the analyzing the Penguin update we started to see improved rankings. This falls right in line with a later Panda update that was publicized and gives indication that Google pulled back some of the updates that shook the industry so hard. But will this algorithm stay?

Major Shifts in Google’s Business Philosophy

Google recently unveiled a major change to its shopping search engine. Starting this fall, product search results for users in the United States will be influenced by how much retailers and advertisers pay, a company executive said.

In the past, product search results were based mainly on relevance and the program was free. columnist Jeff Haden, who has written 40 non fiction books, recently wrote how Google is killing organic search by including a recent study that was put together by
According to Larry Kim, the founder and CTO at Wordstream Inc, ”click-through rate from Google paid ads outnumbered organic listing by nearly a 2:1 ratio for commercial searches in the US.”

Interestingly enough, Google’s annual Economic Impact Report was released recently and claims to have helped provide $80 billion dollars  economic activity to businesses in 2011. This is either a well placed piece of Online Reputation Management, or begs the question, “What businesses? The conglomerates?”

Is Google the Gatekeeper of Internet and Threatening Consumer Welfare?

Google was dubbed several times as the “Big Brother” over the enormous power it has on information that users find. This has made Google a monopoly gatekeeper.  Google is in position to decide who will succeed and who will fail; this has also characterized Google as the “Biggest Kingmaker” on this earth.

The overall experience of the search results should be (and I believe Google wants it to be) good for the user. Google is/should be testing whether these updates are useful by measuring click activity and ever changing.

From what I’m seeing in the rankings, there will be more rollbacks to come. For small businesses, this means continuing to update pages with relevant content, gain traction by creating a buzz around the web and in social spaces and you’ll see your organic rankings come back.

Important References, Citations and Resources –

The Small Business Share of GDP, 1998-2004 By Kathryn Kobe, Economic Consulting Services, LLC Washington, D.C. 20036.

Google Ads and the War on Free Clicks researched produced by WordStream, Inc.

As Google Tweaks Searches, Some Get Lost in the Web By SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN And EMILY MALTBY

Economic Impact – Google Economic Impact by Google

Clayton Wood
Clayton is a marketer, speaker, and author about all things digital. He'd helped build 3 start ups and coaches and trains people on how to... Read Full Bio
Clayton Wood

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  • Amir @ Blue Mile Media

    Of course we don’t know what the algorithm is and if Google actually favors the big brands, but maybe those are the companies that just have millions to pour into SEO which is why they rank high. Not becuase Google is favoring them. Most of the revenue is through Adwords but I don’t think Google favors who gets to go to the top spot.


  • Vijay

    Google is no longer a project built in garage. Google no longer is about making information accessible to users/searchers. It has a responsibility to its share holders, which has now become its primary responsibility.

    Google has to earn more. The CPCs aren’t climbing, brining fortunes. More people are getting good @ organic, getting their sites/client’s websites ranked in the top and making a living. Google is not getting anything out of it.

    They need more people spend more money in their adwords program. When small/medium businesses are getting free clicks, they aren’t going to increase their budgets/spends. The only way they can get them spend more is remove some of their pages or make it almost impossible to SEO and the updates are rolled out.

    Now, the small businesses whose life blood was the traffic from Google has nowhere to go. If they need it, they need to advertise.

    Google’s business is the only concern of Google, not the small businesses.

    • Victor Tuszing

      Exactly, the philosophy of Google is to kill all and make more money. The entire bla-bla-bla they serve out is just to fool us with their noble intentions which in reality is just pure commercialism. The fact that the U.S. government does not intervene to stop the monopoly that Google has and defend small businesses – the lifeblood of the economy – makes me think it’s possible complicity between the company and the government (or some members of government). How about this?

  • jared

    with the research I’ve been doing I’ve also noticed that it has been more of the smaller sites that have seen a decline in rankings.

  • Kristoff Rand

    So true… I’m a small business of 2 people, been on the internet selling house plans for 14 years and suddenly I’m now faced with going from 2000 uniques a day to 100 a day. I was getting that in 1999… I’m effectively out of business. While one of my competitors has around 20 of the top 100 search positions for the term “House Plans” and probably 30 sites share the top 100. Of course they all pay Google Adwords. Even small facebook pages rank above me. I’m devastated… Everything I have worked for is gone.

  • Authority Buzz

    Great article Clayton. Yeah, things are so different now. Big brands have an obvious advantage. No name brands or start ups really need to be firing on all cylinders now: engaging/effective website…great content…quality link building…active in social media. Even with all this there is no guarantee, but what other choice do we have?

  • Rosana Levesque

    “The reasons for website’s losing rankings are pretty obvious” Really? Based in what? I know for a fact that many websites with great content great layouts suffered the latest Penguin and Panda updates.

    The most frustrating result of these updates is to see websites with site-wide paid links dominating left and right and search result pages from Etsy and Alibaba ranking on first, second, third page, with more than 2 listings per site per page.

    Where did the 2 max per page, indented results go? Google results are now pretty useless, at least in some markets we have interests in.

  • Clayton

    Crazy times. I’m seeing lots of sites with obvious things wrong getting penalized, but also stuff that doesn’t make sense.

    Just got done consulting on a site that’s never had SEO, has great content and 59 links…Google just dropped him. City tours, he’s out of business.

    What’s interesting to me is to watch to see if Google auto-corrects itself…I think they will.


    • Clayton

      Penguin rollback cleverly disguised as an update

      Keep in mind, however, that for all the “losers” in any update that will scream, there will be winners — perhaps even some of the sites that lost initially.

  • Hemendra Kumar Saini

    i really dont know what is really going on with google. i have a simple and small quotes website, which have seen sudden drop of 1000 page views a day. and all my site search ranking have lowered by google.

  • David

    Is it that the small business has been affected, or the small website? I know that sometimes the two go together – as a small business can’t always afford a big website – but it would be interesting to hear from a small business with a larger website (I.e. more pages and more content). It’s not a critical remark, just wondering if it’s a major influence.

  • Mike

    Well for what it’s worth…
    I have about 60 sites which have been on the go for 5-10 years, have never ever knowingly used SEO and the Penguin April change pretty much devastated my business overnight (the stat graphs from april 23rd look like they all fell off a cliff) although I managed to keep going as almost every other search engine still shows my sites on page one. Unfortunately the more recent google change in penalising exact match domains has hammered me again and I’m now left with pretty much no option other than to pay heavily for Adwords – something which I personally find to be not very cost effective.
    Looking at all my sites it is clear that the lower quality ones were hit worst, although not always. Exact domain matches were devastated unless they were of a bit higher quality with more content, in which case they were untouched although other pages in the site were demoted. I would guess that domains on the same server may also possibly have been penalised but the main thing I have noticed is that despite all they say and all I’ve read, backlinks seem to me to be almost irrelevant now – I think this may be something that SEO guys don’t really spot because all the sites they look at each have hundreds or thousands of backlinks anyway so it may be hard to see the wheat from the chaff, but I have seen competitors go to no.1 with little or no backlinks now. In fact I’ve just recently tried an experiment with a more obscure exact domain name which amazingly went to no.1 on Google within 3 weeks, without any links whatsoever, I’m not even sure how Google found it! Funny thing is that 2 or 3 months later it’s still there at no.1 but is absolutely nowhere on any other search engine, hmmm…

    So my thinking is that it is just exactly as they say now – they are switching away from ‘search’ and moving to ‘knowledge’ where original content is king and big business with dedicated seo staff will always win. So the only chance is to forget worrying about building links etc. just get in first in your own niche market with 2 or 3 screens worth of informative text in your own words and style….

    And of course I have switched to using Yahoo search, which is nowadays absolutely fine – that is the only true long term solution, no one company should ever be allowed to be this powerful again, it’s not healthy for them or us…

  • Peter

    it is the small business owners who made google big when they were still a small company that thrived on feel good intent. Google gave small business an opportunity to rank and compete with the big boys.
    We spread the word about google as it was in our own best interest, as well as it was in google’s interest.
    27 million small business owners in the usa alone are a largly responsible for the growth of google.

    now they dont need us anymore google has declared war on small business and has been making lots of money over our backs for years now.
    Are we really going to stand by and let this happen? Im switching over to duckduckgo and im switching my clients computers over and im switching everyone over who wants to listen..

    if 27 million small business owners would do the same, where do you think google will be in a few years?