How Google is getting away with making the consumer think they are getting the best result for their search. Instead the consumer is getting the highest paying websites results and this is OUTSIDE of the paid sponsors.
What I learned about organic searches (SERPS) in Google for my flower girl dress company, Pegeen.com was appalling. I conducted a study that shows how consumers are being lied to and directed to companies that have large Google advertising budgets and do not appear as sponsored ads. <Insert groans from SEO experts here>
I have been fighting an SEO war for years and please, before you criticize me for my lack of knowledge know that I am not professing to be anything more than a novice in SEO, frustrated because my once #1 ranking on Google for flower girl dresses for many, many years has plummeted to somewhere around pages 7 to 11 and we all know what that means – near death of a company. I am not an seo company, or even a web developer. I am just an ordinary entrepreneur with an eCommerce site, with over 60k photos of my company’s main product, pages devoted to flower girl dresses, posting for years (age of the site approximately 25 years old). I am a US manufacturer and making flower girl dresses is pretty much all we do.
These are strictly my observations based on having a website since 1996 (which was supposed to be an important factor for ranking in SEO). I have talked to many an SEO companies and they tell me, although they do not want to be mentioned because Google WILL penalize them, that what I have long suspected but never knew how to find the absolute truth until last week.
Let me explain. Until about a week ago, I really thought that some of the ever changing factors for ranking well were legitimate. Content, speed, back links, age of site, optimization and so forth; I truly believed what was written we should pay attention to, albeit the ever changing factors. Because I have long felt that a powerful company such as Google can toy with your livelihood, so I continued to research every time an article or someone in the SEO blogs pointed me in the right direction of completing my quest: What is wrong with my site, Pegeen.com, because it is the largest US manufacture of flower girl dresses, the largest site devoted to flower girl dresses, the first site registered about flower girl dresses, heck – when I first had my site, way back then in early 1996, we had to explain to the bank that we needed a way online to charge customers.
A year later, we found GoEMerchant.com to help us process our sales and although I moved on from them since, I still am grateful to them for getting me started taking credit card sales online, becoming the first to do so for flower girl dresses in a newly title industry called “eCommerce”. Mind you, eCommerce was very new and we started our site a full year before David’s Bridal, two years before companies like PayPal started, 10 years before Etsy and although our goals were different it still shows that Pegeen’s age should account for SOMETHING.
In it’s infancy, again several years after we were on the scene, Google was pretty fair and true to it’s mission of producing good “organic search results”. But then, complaints I made to my then-web-developer must have drove him crazy enough to believe my quest because he even wrote to SEO-BOOK. He wanted the answers too! That drop was from #1 on google for flower girl dresses since inception to dropping to #6 in 2008. (link). I wrote everyone, including Matt Cutts of Google, like the novice I was, to say “huh”? In that period Google considered age, and depth of website and everything else that was “law” as stated by the great “Google God of Search Results”, Matt Cutts. But still no answers.
An article I read in 2018 by Charles Duhigg in the NY Times called “The Case Against Google” put more fuel on my fire and in the article he writes about Foundem which made my eyes pop out of my head. Duhigg writes: “Shortly after Foundem.com went online, one executive <at Google> issued an order: Henceforth, Google’s own price-comparison results should appear at the top of many search pages, as quickly as possible, even if that meant disregarding the natural results of the company’s search algorithm.” Was this the beginning of spilling the truth to what I long suspected – that Google Search was an illegal scheme of Pay for Play which I THOUGHT almost put out the record business years ago (think for us newbees, “Dream Girls”). Now this fight really was because of work that Foundem did with vertical search results but the smashing by Goliath was only just beginning to be written about.
Fast forward to 2019, still “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore” I did a lot more investigation. First, I was pointed in the direction of checking speed etc on a new site I didn’t know about previously (remember, this is NOT what I do for a living) called GT METRIX.
I was pretty happy at first with what I saw – I got fairly decent rankings: B rating for page speed (84%) and a C (77%) for YSLow. I also did a check on our mobile performance. And while I know there are some mobile things we have to improve quickly, I wanted to see what the competition on page 1 for flower girl dresses were fairing, thinking I would find them to be near 100%. I was astonished at the results. NOT A SINGLE ONE HAD GOTTEN ANYWHERE CLOSE TO OUR SITE SPEED. The number one (David s Bridal) was a mere 38%! (Insert Eye-Opening sound effects here). I dug down some 5-6 pages – same thing. My speed in most cases were faster, a lot faster.
Further, I found that ALL of these so called SERPS ahead of my site (we do not advertise) ALL performed with failing or near failing grades for speed optimization – which is supposed to be THE highest factor for ranking high in google. I am not saying I don’t have work to do improving my website – but Bing (and others) show me dramatically higher for the keyword phrase ‘flower girl dresses’. And if things weren’t bad enough as it is, we spend a ton on money with a new launch two summers ago that I still have to revamp though monetizing the website would make it easier so yes, to all the critics out there I get what you may be about to say but that doesn’t take anything away from (for instance) the two pages of POORLY performing websites and how much between them they are spending on pay-per-click that helps improve their ranking.
So, last week, remember what I said previously, last week was a dozer for me. Another company that we decided to work with (unmentioned to protect them) gave me SPYFU.com – and I laugh about the name because that F/U represented what I think Google thinks of small businesses and consumers using Google to find organically what we want. (Language I know, sorry.) This is exactly what I felt when I started to do research on my competition from there. Although the money they are paying for clicks are estimates, I have found that all that I knew to be true concerning organic search results are now to be false. My competitions are spending tens of thousands, some even HUNDREDS of thousands of dollars in pay per click PER MONTH …. Yep, I said it, true SERPS are false, phoney, fake, slanted to Pay For Pay. And although they are not specifically targeting “flower girl dresses” for their sponsored ad, there are even some spending an estimated $600k a MONTH on click ads. What I HAD thought was, again expressed by Charles Duhigg, that Google was “effectively an advertising system that prominently features links only from companies that pay for the promotion” but they would clearly marked as sponsored results. Might I add that this should be better phrased as Google slants their pay per click revenue across all of their advertising platforms as an Organic Search Result outside of the sponsored links.
So, I pose this to congress and a few of the contacts I have in Washington DC (yes lobbyists) and a few other bloggers – even though I get how paying for clicks does raise your rank, isn’t this unfair, as in Pay Per Click? I implore you too to read an interesting blog post by Rand Fishkin, June 4th, 2019, on Rand’s Blog “Sparktoro“. I am sure he is just one of a few not afraid to speak out. His post, entitled “AS THE ANTITRUST CASE AGAINST GOOGLE KICKS OFF, HERE’S WHERE THE DOJ SHOULD START” argues some powerful points in the place for the DOJ to start. It comes from a writer I very much admire. I still add my problem with the pay-for-play argument as well.
On Monday, June 3rd, The House Judiciary Committee wrote: “The committee said it is concerned that a handful of companies wield “extraordinary power over commerce, communication, and information online,” and have claimed an unfair competitive advantage in the market.”
Again, Congress, lawyers working on the Google Anti-Trust case, et al who is out there screaming about it, I humbly ask that you give this thought. If SERPS are supposed to be clear results of a search without regard to advertising spent at Google, then is my research misguided?
Are we, small businesses, getting further sent to desert wasteland of search results by Google, and most importantly, has Congress in their hearings last quarter asked the wrong questions of CEO Pichai of Google? Well we know some of their questions were pretty dumb.
“Is the American public being cheated out of genuine search engine results in favor of Pay For Play by Google?”
Well, this article will probably cause my company to drop even further but I refuse to go quietly into that good night. If you would like to see all those pretty graphics to support my claim please contact me though our contact page.
Marg Hyland, Founder/CEO
Walking Down the Aisle Since 1982