Google has announced that it is considering removing its entire search engine from Australia amid attempts by the government to introduce a law that that forces tech giants like Facebook and Google to share news royalties with publishers, writes Amy Miocevich, small business marketing expert and author of Very Good Marketing: For Small Business
Although this exact scenario has never happened before, Google has removed some of its content and features from specific countries amid local issues.
In 2014, Google removed their news feature in Spain after the government passed a copyright law forcing aggregators to pay news publishers for their content.
Only recently, in France, Google reached an agreement with French publishers after years of negotiations on the same issue.
Search and Google go hand-in-hand
In Australia, Google has 94.5 per cent of search engine market share and over 19 million Australians use Google to find information online on a regular basis. Search has become such an ingrained part of how consumers discover new businesses, make purchasing decisions, find websites, opening hours, photos, reviews. It is so heavily ingrained in how we do business in Australia that removing the ability to discover simple solutions to the many problems we face on a daily basis will have a big impact.
If you think about how we discovered and learnt about companies before the search age, we were restricted to traditional advertising mediums: television, radio, print, and the companies with the biggest budgets prospered. Google paved the way for small business to thrive in Australia by breaking down the barriers to entry and discovery so that consumers can access more purchasing options and small businesses can be found more easily.
So how can businesses prepare for the loss of Google?
Firstly, don’t panic. There are a lot more steps to go before Google makes such a large decision such as to pull the search function completely.
Removing search could strip over $4 billion in advertising revenue for the tech giant – not insignificant and Google Australia CEO Melanie Silva has said that Google is committed to achieving a “workable” News Media Bargaining Code.
It’s time to branch out
Secondly, if you are relying too much on Google for your source of leads, now it the time to diversify. A significant number of small businesses rely on Google Ads or SEO solely, putting them at significant risk if Google does, indeed, pull search from their Australian repertoire. Even if this threat never eventuates, diversification is the best possible protection against any external market movement and small businesses need to make sure they have multiple marketing methods up their sleeves, and now is the best time to start setting them up.
Consider social media advertising. Rather than running targeted ads for search terms, you could run advertising campaigns to specific target markets with certain buying behaviours. This could be on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or wherever your customers spend time.
You could also spend some time improving your referrals and repurchasing system – encouraging your past customers to buy again or tell their friends about you. This enables you to create a strong community of loyal supporters, rather than relying on the traffic from strangers.
What are your alternatives?
Lastly, consider other search engines. Yes, Google is one of the most popular places for businesses to be found in the response to someone’s search. But an alternative search engine will take its place in its absence.
Make sure your business is listed and categorised on Bing, Yahoo, Baidu as well as directory listing websites such as White Pages, Yelp, Foursquare and the Yellow Pages. Also, make sure you look at local or industry-specific directories such as local government websites or something specific to your industry like Houzz.
The time to diversify your marketing methods is right now. Even if Google’s threat never eventuates, you are only further spreading your businesses reach and you may even find it completely changes how you find customers.