In the same spirit of equality that led Google to back President Obama and the FCC’s new net neutrality rules earlier this year, the world’s biggest search engine shocked the world by announcing it will apply the same principles to search results.
Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin issued this statement:
Since we started Google back in 1996, we have been fighting to keep the Internet free and open to everyone. We have always believed the Internet should not be controlled by a handful of big, wealthy corporations. That is until we learned we could make a ton of money by charging for paid search listings in our search engine and became one of those big, wealthy corporations. Ha! Good for us, right?
But now we realize the inconsistency of our positions – on the one hand fighting against fees for priority bandwidth while on the other hand charging for priority placement in our own search engine. So, as of today, we’re ending all paid advertising in our search engine.
Yes, this decision will probably bankrupt the company and force it out of business, but we have already socked away billions in Swiss bank accounts, so we figured it was time to make this principled decision.
Background on Net Neutrality
On February 26, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission announced new rules making it illegal for cable companies to give priority to content providers like YouTube and Netflix (who would have to pay fees for that priority) and give slower service to everyone else who doesn’t pay.
Google has been an advocate for the new rules, motivated by the principle of a free and open internet.
(Or perhaps motivated by the fact they own YouTube, who is the 2nd largest consumer of Internet bandwidth behind Netflix and would have been pressured by cable companies to pay tens of millions of dollars of fees for priority bandwidth. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt 😉 )
Google’s Pay for Priority
However, since its inception, Google has made billions of dollars by giving advertisers priority placement of search listings in its search engine results through it’s AdWords advertising service.
Some have suggested Google’s position on net neutrality may be more based on the impact the rules would have on its own finances rather than lofty principles.
Of course, if you search Google right now, you’ll see this story is complete hogwash.
Google continues to display ads in its search results. In fact, in some cases more than 80% of what is displayed “above the fold” in search results are paid ads.
That makes it even more difficult than ever for folks like you to get your website to show up in the organic (unpaid) search results. And makes our job of helping folks like you get better search rankings through search engine optimization more challenging than ever. But its a challenge we enjoy and gladly accept. 🙂