Is anyone safe from Google?
By Marion Hirtzig - SEO Consultant.
It appears not.
A couple of weeks ago moneysupermarket.com, one of Britain's most famous price comparison websites, came forward telling their shareholders that Google's recent change in their algorithms had hit them in car-insurance related results, which led to a decrease in their revenue. All websites are extremely dependent on being found on the web and therefore good rankings in Google are important, but when your whole business is a website like moneysupermarket.com, then Google can jeopardise your whole existence. With a domain authority of 85/100, the website is one of the biggest references in terms of comparison websites so we’re not too worried about its survival, but still.
Insurance is a very competitive market, as you know if you’ve had a look for instance at the average Cost Per Click on Adwords for insurance related keywords. With a minimum CPC of £18 and an average of £25, the insurance world and PPC campaigns in the insurance business are not for the faint of heart or for companies with a low budget!
Is Google evil though?
Some may wonder what kind of SEO moneysupermarket was doing, seeing that Google’s latest algorithm changes mainly hit websites with poor linking practices. Also, is Google really solely responsible for companies losing visitors and market shares? In April Google took down all of Moneysupermarket’s PPC ads for over 24 hours because they weren’t in compliance with their policy demanding short-term loan vendors be transparent on fees and penalties and comply with local regulations. Moneysupermarket didn’t comply and got punished, it seems only fair doesn’t it?
I must say I really like moneysupermarket’s riposte to boost their rankings on Google: coming forward and accusing Google of basically hitting your business through their algorithms making people talk about it, is a clever way of getting backlinks and pushing yourself back on the first page. Name one person if you can who works in SEO and has never, ever complained about Google and their algorithms! As I write these words moneysupermarket appears in 6th position for the keywords “car insurance”, it’s not that bad for someone who’s been hit just a month ago, is it?
Google’s constant diversification
What I will probably remember of this whole story is not that big websites can be hit, I already knew that. The most recent example is probably world famous flower delivery company Interflora, whose UK website got temporarily banished by Google for using an aggressive advertorial campaign to boost their rankings for Valentine’s Day.
What I will remember is that once more, Google has expanded its specialties and entered the world of car insurance comparison. It was bound to happen, as Google is famous for playing with new things and diversifying their business. They close some doors (RIP Google Reader, I’m going to miss you – Google Latitude will follow on 9th August) and open others…
Google bought UK website Beat that Quote in March 2011, but it hasn’t turned to gold yet, since few know that it exists, and it doesn’t rank well for keywords such as “car insurance”. As a consequence unless you specifically include “Google” in your research you are unlikely to find it at random. For the funny story, the day after Google bought the website they realised that Beat That Quote had used dodgy SEO techniques including link farming. As a result, they punished it and demoted it for 30 days! It’s quite nice to know that Google sets the rules but plays by them too!
Even if answering to Google and depending on it most of the time in SEO feels like being part of a cyber-dictatorship, I truly think things could be worse, and Google still invents lots of apps and systems that we all like and couldn’t live without anymore. It’s part of our everyday life too and it’s brought us quite a few gems (personally I’m almost addicted to Google Maps on my phone!). If you need a hand to navigate the unchartered waters of SEO, get in touch with us and we’ll come to your rescue!