Monday, December 11, 2023

The end of Google as the brain of the web? The challenges he faces at 25 years old

Google just turned 25 years old. The search engine created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin has become the oracle of the web. That librarian we all turn to to find the answer to any type of question.

Any statistics surrounding its omnipresence are obscene. It is estimated that more than 40,000 searches are processed every second. On it, Alphabet has built a multi-device advertising empire that has also become an engine of the world economy, also generating an entire sector such as SEO dedicated to appearing first in the search engine.

As we said, Google’s weight in today’s world is obscene. But, at 25 years old, the search engine has come across something that perhaps no one saw coming: a possible rival. Or, rather, a possible change of model.

Generative artificial intelligence chatbots such as ChatGPT, but also Google’s own Bard make it possible to change habits through, Users get used to not searching through several resultsbut to stay and ask questions with the one who gives us.

A new approach that also completely changes the approach to how to sell and display advertising, the business on which Alphabet continues to depend for more than 90%. Its only weak point is, surely, having all its eggs in that advertising basket that is increasingly also reviewed by antitrust authorities on both sides of the pond.

Some voices are already beginning to glimpse that this may be the beginning of the end of Google as we know itand who knows if it is also the beginning of an era where the big G is not so universal.

But, if this is true, Google is also changing. This is how this crossroads appears.

AI forces Google to move: the SGE arrives

After being accused of immobility when ChatGPT and Microsoft began to move pieces, Sundar Pichai and Google began to rearrange their cards under the table.

From there Bard was bornits alternative proposal for a chatbot model, and the beta presentation of the so-called Search Generative Experience (SGE).

What is this? In essence, the biggest Google page overhaul in history.

Here is a very brief explanation of its evolution:

  • Google originally started showing 10 blue links with the results that its algorithm considered most appropriate to respond to user searches.
  • Then he inserted advertising into these results, which became less and less evident.
  • After this, it introduced different types of results: such as videos, direct results in modules such as sports live or the evolution of the weather or boxes with questions and answers that gave extracts from websites so that we did not have to enter them. I’m sure you’ve used them.
  • All this has led to the rise of so-called ‘zero click’ searches, in which users do not have to leave Google itself to obtain an answer.

All of this resulted in fewer users leaving Google, less traffic coming to the website, and more chances that we would end up clicking on an ad.

The objective is the same as on social networks: to leave us inside.

But the SGE takes this to a new level because it introduces a first response generated by artificial intelligence, which causes the possibility of a user clicking on a result to be drastically reduced.

Guillermo Gascón is an SEO consultant and explains that this trend comes from afar. AI would be one more step:

“This trend started in 2013, when in one of the updates to its algorithm Google introduced the first featured snippets and modules. Many websites have seen their traffic drop after updates of this type. But what really matters to Google is the mass of users, and not so much the companies. For this reason, every time a new results module appears, it hides behind the fact that if it manages to get users to stay in the search engine and solve their searches without leaving it, it means that it is offering a faster and more satisfactory response.

This graph of Insight Partners shows the change quite well:

However: Is this model also good for Google advertising? Is it in your best interest to launch it or are you considering these changes due to the push of OpenAI, Microsoft and the rise of AI in general?

Juan Gonzalez Villa, also an SEO consultant, explained to Hypertextual the next:

I think they are going to face the classic dilemma of disruption. Could a more conversational search engine model, which does not need to refer to third-party websites, be monetized in the same way as the current Google? Because advertising revenue depends above all on users clicking on the results a lot.

How does Google work with AI?

Available only in beta for some users, this feature combines trusted data from multiple organic search results and uses Google’s LLM to convert it into a written response to a user’s search, all without having to click on any links. the results page.

This is the logical extension of the Featured Snippets feature, and in fact, SGE relies heavily on the Featured Snippets algorithm to compose its text. Along with this, a list of links appears, which do not correspond to Google’s direct and organic ranking, according to various analyses.

The independent investigation of Insight that we mentioned has found that only 57% of links cited by SGE come from the first page of organic results.

Digging deeper, the first SGE link is the same as the first organic link only 12% of the time, and in 45% of searches, it’s not even in the top 10. If users start changing their reading habits and clicking behavior on the SGE box, this could be a big change in traffic and eyeballs.

Meanwhile, accusations of monopoly are taking hold

Although Google has not yet noticed any effect on its bottom line, the obvious monopoly it has in the search engine sectorin advertising (along with Meta to a large extent) and in mobile with Android versus Apple is really starting to be questioned by regulators.

Especially after it was discovered that Google manipulates its keyword expansion process, not only to use synonyms and entities, among others, but also to include commercial terms that trigger ads.

That is to say, If you are looking for simple recipes, for example, you could change your search to trigger an ad that has been contracted related to food delivery., a practice called “search broadening.” A practice that increases the company’s income for obvious reasons.

It is not the only aspect related to their monopolies. Rumors that Apple would be working on its own search engine are increasingly on the rise, while the magnifying glass is put on the agreements that Google has with the Cupertino company or as a financier of the Mozilla Foundation, a priori rival of its browser. Chrome with Firefox.

The end of cookies that does not come

In the background it has remained its plans to end the current cookie systema model that could strengthen its position because it would be based on a system where its overlap as a search engine (Google) and a browser (Chrome) would give it an advantage when tracking users without recurring cookies of the web.

In principle, this change was going to arrive by 2023, but the European Union pointed out the seams and Google paralyzed it.

The change in practice would be that, instead of identifying a user as interested in buying a vacuum cleaner because they have visited several websites that sell them, through cohort analysis they put this user into groups “interested in vacuum cleaners”, but also in “buying a car”, etc… From the individual to the group, in short.

Doubts about how these changes could affect the economic ecosystem of the web have been many for a year.. It could have a special impact on affiliate marketing, but also on programmatic advertising networks that, of course, are external to Google.

This is where some experts and actors involved saw a problem that could further strengthen Google’s monopoly under the umbrella of wanting to promote privacy or adapt to more restrictive regulations.

Google is beginning to show signs of wanting to divorce the open web

Ultimately, this mutation, we do not know if forced or sought by Google, also touches the very foundations of the web, that network that aspired in its motto to “order and make accessible.”

The website has been working the same for many years. It is a robust protocol that connects clients (who makes the request), servers and browsers. But Google has a plan to change it.

In Ars Technica they explained a proposal from several of their Google engineers for a new web standard called “Web Environment Integrity API.”

The goal of an API-based internet is to improve user privacy and security by verifying the integrity of the client’s environment, ensuring that it has not been modified or tampered with without authorization. This data can be useful for a variety of purposes, such as more accurately counting ad impressions, combat bots on social networksenforce intellectual property rights, prevent fraud in web games and improve the security of financial transactions.

It all sounds great, but this proposal has raised concerns about privacy and control of the browser environment by the user, where Google again, with Chrome, has a monopoly.

With all this, it is worth asking what Google and what Internet will emerge from the apparent crossroads in which the search engine company finds itself. What will Google be like in 5 years? And in another 25? Or perhaps, as happened with some early giants of the web that seemed irreplaceable, there will be no next 25 years?

Also in Hipertextual:


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